Monday, October 31, 2011

the bitterness of the sweetness we know

At morning prayer (beginning at The Revelation to John 10:7-11)
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. Then they said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

...sometimes the ecstatic vision of the Revelation to John is just what is called for...

Yesterday I went and served as celebrant and preacher at a local church. It has been a long bit of desert since I celebrated a Sunday mass... I was filled and emptied at the same time --preached a little about costumes and dressing up for Halloween and seeing through costumes to the inner voice -the soul, and what about those persons who have donned the costume of throwing money around in the market place, dressing up in unnecessarily gaudy clothes, not doing what they themselves teach, putting heavy burdens on others and not being willing to lift a finger themselves --all the pretense... can we see through those things, that type of costume, to the inner voice --to their soul... and do as Jesus would do --be present, work for reconciliation and healing, restoration.... Offer ourselves....

Stuff like that is really sweet in the mouth, but drives the stomach crazy in a persistent bitterness. Such is a Christian life --one thinks it is supposed to be all sweetness and light, what with L.O.V.E. and all that... but it really is a walk in the valley of the shadow of death and sin --cuz that is what we are called to do --walk in love in to those crevices of the heart for the sake of the world.

Eyes wide open. Stomachs girded. Vulnerable. Willing.

And celebrating mass yesterday --the words come out so sweet, but when met with the behind-the-scenes realities of the human condition --the tears, the grief spilled over, the remembrances, the conversations in the narthex --the behind the costume life.... a holy walk.

It takes intestinal fortitude....

--and more love, --just a little scroll.... and a whole life. Girded. Vulnerable. Willing. Broken.

Hey God --it's margaret here... I pray for the widows and widowers of this world who know love lost, for all those whose love has been betrayed, for the children all dressed up --may we all listen to the desires of their hearts where no secrets are hid and walk the way through the valley of the shadow of death without pretense --naked --remembering the sweetness in the mouth as the fortitude required to digest it sets in.... as grains of wheat scattered on a hillside made one in the bread of ages --

--gratitude. And on this Day Before we give thanks for the cloud of witnesses --gratitude, sweet gratitude...

--and the sudden news that Occupy Richmond was bulldozed over night --makes my stomach bitter... S.O. V.E.R.Y. B.I.T.T.E.R.... those that refused to flee before the bulldozer were arrested... And so it goes.

...and the faithful remnant?

--the bitterness of the sweetness we know.

Lord have mercy.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


...had to run off early for an early showing this morning.... It is a cold and wet morning here in Richmond, so we left our gas coal fireplace on in the living room, with a teapot and cup out... talk about 'staging'.

I am remembering the Occupy folks in my prayers this morning -especially the folks here in Richmond, with it being so cold and wet. Joel told me he heard news from two cities in New York --that the police had refused to move on the occupiers despite orders to do so... and that someone actually articulated that one of the reasons that mainstream media can't get a solid sound bite regarding "what it's all about" from centralized Occupy "leaders" is because the way it's playing out is living in to its 99% representation --every body can hold up their own facet of the 99%, but what is so obviously wrong (grid-locked untrustworthy government purchased by the highest bidder and run for the benefit of the 1% and multi-national corporations) affects every one --the 1% and the 99% alike....

I remember, slavery corrupts the masters as well as the slaves... perhaps corrupting the masters more insidiously and absolutely....

And, it is frightening at time, to ponder the Revelation of John... 'blood of the Lamb' and all that weird prophecy stuff.... But it does speak directly to those who are suffering and oppressed --H.O.P.E. --and there is more --so much more...

At prayer this morning (Revelation 7:13)

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows."

Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

I am remembering that it was two years ago this week that we went to pick up Juan Manuel. I haven't heard from him in nearly two months.... I hope and pray he has not got caught up in the Texas borderlands struggles, or inner city gang wars.... --every tear...

--and I prepare to preach and celebrate tomorrow --I thank God for that.

Peace out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

--ὀφειλήματα-- the word is definitely DEBT

The headlines say: Tea party groups say cities favor Occupy protesters; Va. group wants $8,000 returned

RICHMOND, Va. — Tea party activists on Thursday accused officials in at least four cities of giving preferential treatment to anti-Wall Street protesters, and one group in Richmond is asking the city to repay $8,000 spent for permits and other needs.

In addition to Richmond and Charlottesville, Va., tea party groups in Washington and Atlanta said Occupy protesters have openly defied police and local officials without consequence. A national tea party coordinator echoed those claims.

“If you’re law-abiding citizens, they’re going to make you follow every bit and letter of the law,” said Mark Meckler, national coordinator and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. “What we’re talking about is selective enforcement of the law.”

At prayer this morning (beginning at Isaiah 28:9)
Whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from milk,
those taken from the breast?
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.

precept [ˈpriːsɛpt] n
1. a rule or principle for action
2. a guide or rule for morals; maxim
3. a direction, esp for a technical operation
4. (Law) Law
a. a writ or warrant
b. a written order to a sheriff to arrange an election, the empanelling of a jury, etc.
c. (in England) an order to collect money under a rate

(beginning again, at Isaiah 28:12)
Truly, with stammering lip
and with alien tongue
he will speak to this people,
to whom he has said,
"This is rest;
give rest to the weary;
and this is repose";
yet they would not hear.
Therefore the word of the LORD will be to them,
"Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little"

In Europe they are suggesting that the banks forgive the debt of Greece... --a way out of the financial crisis --make the institutions that led us there be responsible.... I think that is a good idea. But there is only a fat chance in hell that will happen here.

Jubilee, I think it is called --biblically. Jubilee --forgive. The debts.

(Matthew 6:9-13)[the Lord's Prayer]
οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς· Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομα σου
ἐλθέτω ὴ βασιλεία σου· γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημα σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον
καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν.
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ

--ὀφειλήματα-- the word is definitely DEBT.... as we forgive theirs...

Peace out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Richmond in my prayers

Photo credit: Rudolph (Rudy) Hickman Photography (804) 244-0443

We went down to Occupy Richmond yesterday afternoon. It was much larger than I had thought --far more tents than the news would have led us to believe. But it being the middle of the afternoon, the population was sparse. There was a large living room type area, signs all around --a group of young folk in a tent marked "medical" --we talked to them for a while. I wept (inside my soul) at the starry forests, tame lions and unencumbered paths of their conversation. We're all different, we're all coming from different places --but we are all committed to this... a common goal to change what's happening in this country. The Tea Party saw it too --but they want a different sort of change than what we want....

There were others there as well --some of the guys I know who live on the street, in to drugs and drink, obviously glad for the company and food and stage.... but they were a minority, a handful.

We met a neighbor there --and he was there with a friend. My neighbor was saying he was all about what the Occupy movement was about... I believe him. His friend was Peter Simon, who had his camera hung around his neck and was taking shot after shot. Mr. Simon had been to several other Occupy sites --Boston, New York and places between, and was documenting them --after all, he has been documenting this type of stuff for several decades....

I met my neighbor again this morning --I, taking The Early Walk, and he Walking The Dog. I asked him what he thought of Occupy Richmond... He said, again, he fully supports what they are saying, supports what it's all about --but he wishes they were dressed decently (as opposed to the young man in the sun dress) so people would take them seriously --you know.... Seriously. --I said, well, prophets are almost always fringe-types, and what they say and who they hang out with are never decent.... Oh, he said... that's right... but, I want more... Like what's going on in Occupy Oakland.

You mean the violent confrontations? I asked. --No, he said, the organization and the seriousness of it.... They are serious there.

Occupy Oakland. Yeah. In the same place where anti-war and Stop the Draft movements began.... they want to shut down the city.... Prove that the 1% can't function without the 99%....

Serious. I see my neighbor in a new light now. Not some starry forest --he's serious.... thanks be to God.

On the news this morning, the local Tea Party folks are mad with our mayor that Occupy Richmond has not been kicked out of the park they occupy --illegal encampment, they say... they want action. Arrests. They want it to stop.

Sigh.... trouble's coming....

While there, I asked what was needed --at the tent marked "Food" and the tent marked "Media." Food said vegan stuff; Media said a 3G so that the college students could all log on.... I forgot to ask if Media meant receiver or router... I think he meant router.... In the meantime, I'll make some high protein beans with some flavor so that these young folk and the strange folk will have what it takes to meet what the Tea Party is gonna hatch with some protein under their belts.

I wonder if the Tea Party folks know the young folk at Occupy Richmond would be willing to share what little food they have with them.... Somehow, I doubt the reverse would be true.

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 13:18-23)
Jesus said, "Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart....

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.
The lure chokes... yeah...

A Collect For Cities
Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their glory: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth. Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate poverty, prejudice and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and women from different cultures and with differing talents may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

There we are. Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

a people of a dull heart... is that us?

I really slept in today... way late... up late thinking....

I am answering questions as part of interview processes --looking for work all over the nation.... One of the consistent categories of questions is --what are the challenges to the church and what can be done to meet them?

As best as I've been able, I've discerned external and internal challenges and we must shape and live different responses to each. External challenges in our context here in the States include changing cultural systems that no longer give primacy to Christianity (anything from scheduling sports events on a Sunday morning or open hostility etc.), nationwide economic challenges, national political ethos, no longer use of its language and metaphor to describe trends and events, no longer seeing the church as an example of authority --living what it preaches --you get the drift. Internal challenges (here in the States) include the full bore list of an aging population of believers and participants, aging buildings that are expensive to maintain, and among other things, congregations that are at odds with themselves on what church is all about --is it a refuge where we repair from the wear and tear of the week? --is it where we get fed for the journey? --is it a place of like-minded folk who put their prayer in to action?

(The Barna Group is a good source for research on trends, challenges, parsing out the statistics....)

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking about these things... and trying to articulate appropriate and locally applicable responses.... But this morning at prayer, there was this:

(Matthew 13:10-17)

Then the disciples came and asked Jesus, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He answered, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people's heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn -
and I would heal them.’

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."

This is overwhelming stuff.... Parables --the metaphor and language of the church --describing that which no words will ever satisfy... Those who have and those who have not --more and less will be given, in exactly the opposite language of the first shall be last and the last first....

But what really struck me --is that the people's heart has grown dull... ears do not hear, eyes shut, hearts that do not understand....

--have we, as a church, lost our vision, our hearing --are our hearts grown cold? --while we pick and natter and create internal strife? --have we lost the radical emphasis of the Gospel? --embracing money as a panacea, becoming more authoritarian and lawful --afraid of those wilderness places where the Spirit leads us among the wild animals and other treacheries...

I am sure there are some who would say, most certainly --and we are headed straight to hell --or not so straight and to hell because of it....

But, maybe where we are is coming face to face with the demands of the Gospel.... --and what we have, more will be given us.... and do we want more of what we already have?

--has this always been the challenge of/to the church?

Hey God --it's margaret here. The church usually responds well to the hungry, the thirsty --that sort of circumstance.... although I do remember the statements from some that we were merely supporting the system by caring for the poor --and, yes, that is so true on so many levels.... but it is mostly true when we allow the status quo to continue unchallenged. Move us to open our eyes, ears and hearts --and throw the tables over inside the Temple for the sake of the Gospel.... and restore those 'outside' the Temple --as if there really were an inside and outside.... help us to know the true longings of our heart, and may we find you there in that wilderness...

--and, now, I must run --totally unfinished, to another interview.... Send me, Father, where what I see, hear and love may be for your glory and in support of your priestly people. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

secret prayers of my ol' hag heart

It was chilly this morning on the 3+ mile walk... the leaves not doing a real outrageous color thing this year --mostly brown. So far. Lots of dry clacking around our shoes.... There are some Halloween decorations out on the lawns and porches --and the dancing scarecrows dressed oh-so-nicely didn't scare me as much as the huge black spiders with tidy orange bows around their necks.

Huge black spiders just shouldn't wear tidy orange bows. Whether it's Halloween or not.... And, can I just say it --dressing up as Justin Bieber for Halloween isn't right either.... Halloween is the celebration of the veil between the living and the dead being torn... when all hell breaks loose and heaven lets go.

It ain't sweet nor abhorrently scary/gross... it's when the dead and the living brush shoulders and see and know each other, face to face....

--oh well. And I guess my grumpy and generalized sweep of the arm statement comes from a place of great love of Halloween... I truly love celebrating first all those who have gone before us as great examples of faith, and then celebrating all those who are hid in Christ in God --the great cloud of all those who have shaped and formed us, known and unknown.... Kinda like the leaves of autumn.... So --who would want to dress up as an old dry brown leaf when there are some real colors we could imagine being?!

My favorite costume as a kid was as a witch --nasty, green, wrinkled and curled up.... roundly despised... But I loved witches. If I had only known then what I know now about views of women --and the "other" role of the hag.... (hag being the Old English for witch) --goddess of the winter months (bride being the goddess of the summer) hags being the harbor of the recipes of old wisdom, other wisdom --counter-patriarchal deep knowledge that is pushed off the roads in to the fences and hedges and chimney ways --the frightening knowledge of the powerless. Hags --the embodiment of old women self-possessed in a system that wishes to possess them.... Hags. Shaped and formed me. In so many life-giving ways.

So, yes, scarecrows and spiders and queens and fairy princesses --fine. But give me a witch and I'll be glad. Joyful. The old other knowledge will yet live.

And the old other knowledge will keep us all alive... the old other knowledge gives us the eyes and heart to want to throw the seed around, following in the shoes of the Sower --not to be the passive soil, the rocky ground... but to cast the seed and prayers for new growth liberally --every where --willing to be surprised....

(At prayer this morning, Matthew 13:1-9)
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!"

So here's to all who will adorn themselves this Hallows Eve as their inner self --may they all be seeking to follow in the shoes of the Sower...

--and, all those other secret prayers of my ol' hag heart.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Utopia looks like death to me....


(At prayer this morning, Isaiah 65:17-25)
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD -and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent - its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain,
says the LORD.

Or, The Kingdom?
Is there a difference between Utopia and The Kingdom?

I have thought about this for a couple of days... having been in contact with someone who seems to be caught up in a cultish-type thing or a cosmogony. And I have been wondering what it is we seek --if there is a difference in what sells a cult and in the faith Tradition of Christianity...

To be honest, I have always thought that it is not a specific future we struggle to attain, but a manner of living in the present in which we seek to practice and encourage each other, a way of living we keep in mind.... And, that manner of living in the present is informed, shaped, held in being in, by, with, through Christ.

--it is not a determination to change society, change people --it is hard enough to pick the logs out of one's own eye --but a way to live in love, giving all and each dignity and respect....

But I went and looked up Utopia just for fun... and was blown away.
The word comes from the Greek: οὐ ("not") and τόπος ("place") and means "no place". The English homophone eutopia, derived from the Greek εὖ ("good" or "well") and τόπος ("place"), means "good place". This, due to the identical pronunciation of "utopia" and "eutopia", gives rise to a double meaning.

And, in English, we use the form 'no-place' --utopia.... --huh! That seems rather cynical.... But, I can't help it --it seems rather true....

No place. Good place.... the so-called good place is no place....

And my mind went to the church --where it seems some are trying to form a community of people striving to be perfect... and whether or not that is possible, and all the typologies of people --good, fallen and in between.... --and others in the church have something else in mind.

And, my mind went to politics --where it seems some are trying to form a perfect society through law which imposes a certain vision of how we are to be... --and others have something else in mind.

The first category of each would seem to fall in to employing rigid and rigorous means to form perfection --beliefs, ideals-- and consequences, terrible consequences if one falls short....

--it's the 'something else' that captivates me. Not beliefs. Not ideals. Not consequences.

The description and history of Utopian thought --fascinating... cataloged as ecological, economic, political policies, scientific, gender specific, religious... (from wikipedia)
In many cultures, societies, religions, and cosmogonies, there is some myth or memory of a distant past when humankind lived in a primitive and simple state, but at the same time one of perfect happiness and fulfillment. In those days, the various myths tell us, there was an instinctive harmony between man and nature. Men's needs were few and their desires limited. Both were easily satisfied by the abundance provided by nature. Accordingly, there were no motives whatsoever for war or oppression. Nor was there any need for hard and painful work. Humans were simple and pious, and felt themselves close to the gods. ....

These mythical or religious archetypes are inscribed in all the cultures and resurge with special vitality when people are in difficult and critical times. However, the projection of the myth does not take place towards the remote past, but either towards the future or towards distant and fictional places, imagining that at some time of the future, at some point of the space or beyond the death must exist the possibility of living happily.

--emphasis in bold is mine... sifting through the gender-specific language.... knowing we are living in difficult and critical times and wondering at the archetypes being employed.....

Even if one of the gods themselves came, it would be impossible to make this world a perfect place --to make us peoples live in that perfect place and way.... the perfect life...

I would rather trust the One who created volcanoes and earthquakes, horrific winds and rains, wild hungry beasts... and not make an idol of life itself --grasping and holding to it, trying to perfect it... I would rather trust the One who did not oppress us with conformity to law and will... I would rather trust the One who chooses love over success, love over failure, love over power and force, love over weakness and vulnerability, love even through anarchy and chaos and violence and death....

--to hold all lightly....

Such is grace.

The artist of the work above can be found here. Imminent Utopia... looks like death to me....


Saturday, October 22, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?"  They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, `The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet"'? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?"

Oh --well that's easy! For the same reason that when Prince Philip, The Queen's Consort --if he survives his wife, he will have to bow and pledge fealty to his own son, and call his own son 'King.'


But, then again, leave it to the Gospel to point out how sometimes everything gets turned on it's head... especially technical questions that don't need asking in the first place!

G'wan. Go to church. And remember that Jesus calls us 'Friend' --and that through adoption in the Spirit we are children of God --and I guess as God calls Jesus, Son, so then we are his sisters and brothers...

So, how can we call Jesus, our Brother, Lord? Or is it even a question worth asking?!! And how many times do we get trapped in to a corner of our own making (just like the Pharisees) by asking questions that aren't worth asking! --or answering!

--where is the beginning of our presuppositions!

--just sayin'.
Last night, a couple of shootings in Richmond....

And the President announced the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.... leaving a remnant at the place which will function as the U.S. embassy there.... I remember the feelings as I heard of the similar news in the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam --the overwhelming joy and grief at the same time --the faces of my dead friends swimming before me. Knowing it was truly over. With this news about Iraq, I feel no such joy --just a rancid pit in my stomach --a shameful war of reactive aggression and cowboy tactics spurred on by old men with dreams of dominion and revenge... their version of so-called democracy where the masses submit to their rapacious delivery of the veneer of minority rule... --and the open brain cavities and empty eyes of the young men at the veteran's hospital... the girls and mothers pulling at any hope. This war is not over. It's not over. Not any time soon.

Would that it were over --give us a sign, O Lord, --help us know what to do... --finding myself in that prayer again....

(From Matthew 12 at prayer this morning)
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Jonah --swallowed whole in to the dark belly of the beast, coughed up to preach God's dream for the people... And the sign of Jonah --a man buried whole in the dark belly of the earth, taken through the gates of death to unexpected life on the other side.... God's dream for the people.

How shall we best tell of God's dream for the people in the face of rampant death without end wrapped in such violent and dark mystery?

It is as though the whole nation is gripped in a dance of limbo --a state of mind, yes --neither here nor there --uncertain in its way... --and the good news, remembering that limbo is also a dance requiring strength and agility --never danced alone. A groove.

Some of the people will always remember. And there is our hope. Off I go --to clean, to clean! An unexpected Open House tomorrow!

Friday, October 21, 2011

prayer on a chilly Friday morning with the man and dog at my side

Flowers on Joel's bedside table.... I think they are rather beautiful. Survivors of the blessing of a civil marriage I presided over last Saturday... C&E in my prayers.

Today is the end of the world. Again. Pastor Howard Camping says so... I cringe that this is so-called Christianity. It is perverse. I pray.

The Arab Spring continues... Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi is dead. Dragged from a drainage pipe and killed according to the law of the streets in war. A vulgar death, at best. And none of it could have happened without NATO support and bombing raids from the air. I pray.

The American Fall continues... Occupy Wall Street is both condemned as unorganized, unspecific and without focus, and likewise glorified as a natal grassroots economic civil rights movement. I fear it will be abducted and dismissed. Or freeze out. So, I pray.

Most every day for the last thirty years, I have had coffee delivered to my bedside as a wake up call. Since our 30th Anniversary in early September, the absolute reverse has happened. I now deliver coffee to his bedside every morning as a wake up call. And I am content/ecstatic with that. Joel can't wait to deliver coffee again --his routine. I kinda like it with me serving.... We vie in serving. It is the day when no coffee is served at all that will be living hell.... I pray.

Besides, I put three cookies on the tray for Mr. Witty... I think he prefers my servitude. I pray. And give thanks that I am as thrilled about cookies as he.

And, then, there are the secrets of my heart... my unsaid prayers that are revealed in color and image, that make word clouds and escape out the top of my head, the chimney of my soul. I pray....

(Matthew 12:30-32)
[Jesus says,] Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

...and, I think, I have never heard 'speaking against the Spirit' defined.... except saying NO when you have been called, and know it.... and in a Christian context, such a call always discerned and affirmed in community. And even so.... in what ways have I been called and said no? And what does it mean for the Spirit to not forgive? Ever?

...and how does one know? For sure? And what does it mean for God to be unable/unwilling to forgive? Sheesh.

Community... communities. Howard Camping has a community convinced.... Gaddafi convinced enough people long enough... (may he finally find peace). The Occupiers supported world-wide.... (And our Nation steeped in rampant individualism....) And what does it mean when a community that says, All Are Welcome and celebrates diversity, says instead, you never fit in... talk about a sin against the Spirit....

Such is my prayer today. Turned on the heat in the back room. It's cold this morning. Even with hot coffee. In bed. With the man and dog at my side.... More question marks.... and Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

righteousness and justice will, at last, be planted in the great sword furrow

At prayer this morning (Psalm 37:15-18)
The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow
to strike down the poor and needy, 
to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
Their sword shall go through their own heart, 
and their bow shall be broken.
The little that the righteous has 
is better than the great riches of the wicked.
For the power of the wicked shall be broken, 
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

The poor and needy... in the last couple of weeks or so, two sheriff deputies that work at our Richmond City Jail were fired when the accusations that they were having 'sexual contact' with women inmates proved true. This is on the heels of a former sheriff being arrested for child porn and last May a sheriff was arrested for dealing drugs in the jail. All these former deputies will not have an easy time in jail.

--so, I ask, just who are the poor and needy? Once these guys are busted and thrown in jail, are they the prisoners for whom we work to liberate? --to set free? --the very ones that wielded the sword of power, law, justice, judgment, and imprisonment that has now pierced their own hearts? Them?

--it is a difficult and complex and probably not a popular answer at best --but, yes. Indeed.

--and sometimes the work is only fruitful when the sword has been withdrawn and they are truly dead.... because for the one who offers eternal life, death is nothing at all but a fallow land, a wilderness. And that is true for both the spiritually dead as well as the physically dead.

I saw a quote at Adventus yesterday --"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you." (Terry Eagleton)

If we do not love, we are dead... and the love of Christ crosses all boundaries, all constructions, all walls --so that even those who betray the opportunity to do what's right and just will find that the sword has pierced their hearts and righteousness and justice will, at last, be planted in the great sword furrow.

It is just so much easier to condemn... not to love... or at least that is the way it appears, but not the way God works... just sayin'.

--and, St. Paul was a murderer, right? --and even so....

We are all the poor and needy. All of us. Peace out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

dreams really do come true

I watched the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell last night... women --Christian and Muslim, decided they had had enough, and sat and prayed together, and brought the war to an end that had ravaged their country and children and their own bodies.

--they went up against power, guns and brute strength with prayer. There was one part in the movie, where they had finally shamed the war lords (local leaders) and the government into peace talks --and the men couldn't come to a resolution after weeks of discussion, so the women who had been gathering and praying outside pushed their way in to the building and occupied the halls, trapping the men in the room together... when the men tried climbing out the windows, groups of women moved outside and prevented their running away... when the women were threatened with arrest, their 'leader' started to strip naked and dared them to touch her and arrest her....

I love that. L.O.V.E. it.

And, I don't know where I was that I missed all this in the news... more likely, it didn't make the news... women, Africa, prayer for peace... just sayin'. But now I understand the Nobel Peace Prize winners for 2011. Now I get it....

Still in awe... the threats against them --they risked death itself, telling their children, if I die, remember that I fought for peace.... which, when I read this this morning:

(beginning at 1 Corinthians 15:51)

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

In a twinkling of an eye, because of a dream they had, they were changed --death was swallowed up before them....

I guess I am on a bender --an Incarnation bender... hoping and praying that the Hope I have and know in my bones does indeed break through the veil and become living flesh and blood every now and then.

And last night, I witnessed that Hope. Alive and well. I know we are supposed to be thankful for some ol' English guys that went to Armenia and India to spread the Gospel, and I am sure they were great and wonderful and all that... but last night I heard and saw the Women of Liberia --and I am filled with great Hope.

Dreams really do come true.


(Ha! --spell check doesn't like 'imperishability.' There we are.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the living Temple always and everywhere present....

It is St. Luke's day today...

--the great story teller that should inspire our dreams and visions....

Collect of the Day: Luke the Evangelist
Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

--of all the Gospels, Luke is the ultimate story-teller... --beginning and ending in the Temple. Great narratives --intimate. One can almost imagine Jesus, the child, Mary the tender mother.... But, things are popping up in my mind as I ponder what I know and feel of the Gospel of Luke --and remembering that physicians were not necessarily held in good esteem --it was not a prestigious job... dealing with the sick, infirm --the unclean... and the stories of Luke --he was probably not a Jew, as were the other evangelists...

--but it's the Temple I keep coming back to... the beginning and the end...  because of the stories of the physician, the emphasis in Luke on the most vulnerable... and this little bit o' scripture leapt out at me in prayer this morning:

Canticle: A Song of the Heavenly City
Revelation 21:22-26, 22:1-4
I saw no temple in the city,
for its temple is the God of surpassing strength and the Lamb.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to light it,
for the glory of God shines on it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
By its light the nations shall walk,
and the rulers of the world lay their honor and glory there.
Its gates shall never be shut by day, nor shall there be any night;
into it they will bring the honor and glory of nations.
I saw the clean river of the water of life, bright as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
The tree of life spanned the river, giving fruit every month,
and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
All curses cease where the throne of God and the Lamb stands,
and all servants give worship there;
there they will see God's face, whose Name shall be on their foreheads.

The Temple. The Lamb. The Light. The Water. The City of God. Images of the Church, the Body, our dwelling place, the mansion of many rooms... that's some story.... some vision....

And I am struck in re-visioning --re-thinking what it means when we call ourselves 'community' --struck this morning, because the image of community so often is imagined as the gathered people in relationship with each other.... But in the Canticle above, the dream is of the City with no Temple --which led me to think then that the community that prepares to dwell in the City-With-No-Temple necessarily forms with the Temple at the center... that what is remarkably absent in The City is centrally present in otherwise...

--and thinking to myself, it is a paradigm shift that a community with the Temple as central to its life --the Temple (as in worship and offering to God our lives and our work) as its reason to be, is a very different community from that which focuses on other things as the center of its life...

--and then imagining that radical notion that the 'absent' Temple is not 'absent' but embodied throughout --so enfleshed that the identity of God is on their foreheads... and when we make the sign of the cross on the forehead, we are not 'making' it present, we are outlining what is already present....

--and what a revolutionary act of proclamation --that Incarnation news that is brought in the flesh and blood of Jesus, and we made alive in the Living Christ --that mortal and eternal Temple... the Lamb. the Light.

I am not at all sure any of this makes sense --it is seen out of the corner of my eye... barely. And I have fewer words to try to describe what I see than the ecstasy of the Revelation....

And Joel and I speaking of myth and metaphor this morning over coffee --trying to describe or name that which is The Un-Nameable --trying to see the Face Of The One which if one does see, one will surely die ...when, in fact, the Un-Nameable Name is written across our foreheads and the Temple has been rock from rock destroyed and remade in flesh and blood... washed in the river that flows from the throne... gathering 'round that tree and eating the fruit that was once forbidden..... God's very own fruit... God's very own flesh....

And, have we lost the ability to think in such metaphor? --to dream the Name of God...? --to taste the Un-Name on our tongues? To see the Name of God on each other's forehead?

To dwell in The City with the idol of the Temple abolished and the living Temple always and everywhere present...

Oh. I dream a dream for the Church....

Hey God --it's margaret here... what a funny people we are. Calling you Almighty and All Powerful when you have revealed yourself to us as a helpless baby, taught us to sing the songs of the underdog, and you died lifted up on the cross of shame that is your throne of glory --subverting the tools and methods of our worst work to your good... you write your Name upon our foreheads, hoping that when we look at each other face to face we might know you... Thank you for the narratives of Luke, stories told to sustain us until we are prepared to venture from the confines of the temples we build and enter in to true worship.... I dream a dream for the Church that can only be told as dreams can be told.... I pray for C,M,S,J,J,K,B, for those who keep the stories alive in our midst... --and the persons coming to look at the house today.... Amen.

Peace out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

not a hope that is the opposite of despair --That is true stalemate --true woe

Hope is such a strange thing. The house was shown again yesterday, and we left with hope --but received the "feedback" email from the realtor that showed the house (it's amazing now what realtors do) and the realtor said the house showed really well and they liked the house very much, but the clincher was we do not have enough back yard and we do not have a garage....

Duh... Did they not read the description of the house? I scream.... and, then, I settle in, knowing we are one day closer to selling the house.... And that is both hope and reality.

Yesterday, while the house showed, we went to an outdoor art show and walked up and down the aisle. Mr. Witty went too --and he let everybody love on him, without fear.... I cannot tell you how amazing that is.... It is my constant hope for him --that he can one day overcome whatever it was that happened to him in his first year of life... and allow folks to admire him... great hope. --for his sake....

But anyway, the art show was the typical small-scale artists with their wares for sale in the plastic shelters in rows on school grounds on a Sunday morning. But at the end of one of the rows was a longer shelter, and it displayed the art work of local high-schoolers --and it was so very different from the typical small-scale artist work in the rest of the show --honest, different and fresh... it gave me great hope (--despite, or perhaps because of the teen-age angst so evident in the work --the very stuff that we bury as adults instead of continuing to be formed by that raw edge).

And Paul, this morning, said (beginning at 1 Corinthians 15:30)
And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you - a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it?

I can hear Paul muttering to himself between the lines the scribe recorded --and why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? [Wake up! Get real!] I die every day! [We're gonna die --we're all gonna die --get over it --get used to it!] That is as certain, brothers and sisters as boasting of you...

--it is not with ordinary, every day small scale artist hope that I am filled.... It is that raw-edge hope, fresh and stronger than wild animals... beyond the fear of death kinda hope.

Yeah. I understand that hope. And I see evidence of it every day...

It is that hope that helps me read the woes (at prayer this morning, Matthew 11:16-24)
Jesus said, "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.'

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you."

The taunts of children -na na na-na-na.... drunkenness, dancing --who cares... they are merely different sides of the same coin --the woes are not future calamities, a future curse... the end oppression --the woe is self-made and is today.

--and the woes are kinda like Mr. Witty's conundrum... a very present and sometimes necessary and learned inner viciousness of self-protection that is unbecoming in the face of that uncommon raw-edge of uncomfortable and unreasonable hope...

Not a hope that is the opposite of despair --that is true woe... that is the catcalls of children on the street --that is the essence of stalemate --but a hope which is a generative engine of its own...

Because, the day of judgment has happened. Already. Happened. A.L.R.E.A.D.Y.  It looks like the cross. And God's judgment is the empty tomb and unexpected life.

--the raw edge that builds the courage to face those wild beasts... --not for self-gain...

--but for the sake of the shock of empty tombs and unexpected life --things unseen, unknown....

Woe to us if we strive for anything else.
Just sayin'.

--a good psalm...
The clincher is at the end --so far away from you... thinking of you... if I don't come back remember that I'll always love you....

There it is.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

The Gospel for Proper 24 (Matthew 22:15-22)

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

G'wan. Go to church... and see what the preacher does with this Gospel as related to the pledge drive!!! Heeeeheeee!

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.... Whom God possesses in nothing is wanting

Teresa of Avila, Nun, 1582, whom we remember today....
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

I remember sitting in class, listening to Sr. Sandra Schneiders --and I was stunned... stunned as she spoke of the resurrected Body. 'Put your pens and pencils down --close your computers --Listen to me,' she said. 'I do not have the same body I had when I was two months old; I do not have the same body I had when I was two years old; I do not have the same body I had when I was twelve, nor again at twenty-two or even forty. When we speak of the body, we must see a process, sometimes non-linear but quantum-like. I will certainly not have the same body when I am 100 years old, nor when I can count myself to be 200. We must allow ourselves to think differently when we speak of the resurrected Body --think differently but without definition because we do not know that of which we speak, anymore than a twelve year old fully comprehends what it means to be eighty. Christ-- a real Body --he was not a spirit or ghost --a real Body, with open wounds that could be touched --and he ate with them in the upper room --and locked doors were not an obstacle, nor distance...'

I swear the presence of the Risen Christ came right up out of the floor and entered our midst as she spoke --not as something we could see or touch --but certainly something we could know and feel... and not separate from us... and not us... but filling every thing, every fiber, every cell, every one as one....

Yeah --I think Teresa came close in describing it.... the mystery of the Resurrection....

At prayer this morning (1 Corinthians 15:12-28)
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ - whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "All things are put in subjection," it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

Not a bad rant, Paul... and, yeah --you and I have gone head to head with that subjection stuff --and I know what you mean --just like we are subject to gravity, time and all that kinda mess --not as a matter of power and authority which are man-made elements and therefor subject to our brokenness and sin --but as in being subject to Christ we find absolute freedom... koan --like the sound of one hand clapping, like a fish seeing water... by losing our life we find our life... that in being subject to death, Christ leads the way to eternal life....

--and in baptism, we who are many are made one --like wheat in the meadow becoming one in bread (after being subjected to fire) and on and on...

--it's a mystery...

--in the dark we see the light... in the individual reality of baptism we are made One and share in the eternal priesthood of Christ....

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me....

There we are!

(Just for fun, I invite you to listen to Teresa d'Avila's Let Nothing Disturb You (Nada te turbe) found on the sidebar --it is her day --g'wan, subject yourself to it! And I hope it 'sends' you out to do all that work you have been given to do!)

Time to get this Body up and moving to the glory of God.
And, I am almost ready to get one of these --another showing tomorrow....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupiers, landowners, tax breaks, patriarchy and sin --redeemed

Well... the owner of the park in NYC has put off the official cleaning scheduled for early this morning --you know, the park where Occupy Wall Street was born. Tomorrow is a solidarity occupation here in Richmond.

I keep wondering --the Zuccotti Park, privately owned in the financial district of Manhattan... required to keep it clean, has a list of rules to follow... wow. I keep wondering, what benefit does someone get for keeping open space in the midst of the City? --because they must pay taxes on it, yes? --and they are required to keep it clean... upkeep, insurance.... There must be HUGE kickbacks somewhere somehow to maintain open space instead of building on it and creating revenue....

At least, that is how my brain connects the dots...

And the private owner asked the mayor not to do the scheduled cleaning... afraid of the consequences.... reprieve for those who are currently occupying the park...

And in the corner of my brain, I am listening to the news from just west of here --tornadoes. One historic plantation, Sylvania, lost its chimneys in the earthquake, and then suffered damage in the hurricane... and then yesterday, as the 18th C (1746) building was being restored, the tornado came through and took its roof off. Or something like that.... Epic.

And, yes, there are fairly generous tax breaks for someone to restore historic buildings....

--and back to the park and the occupiers.... the realist in me is confident that the City and the owner have been tracking the ebb and flow of the occupation, and have already begun to target a frame time --say, like a Monday morning at 3am when there are typically the fewest number of people in the park and they will go in and clean it up... and then the fight will become about the occupation instead of the national crisis at hand... which will serve Wall Street just fine....

--and the church... at odds with herself on how to recognize and name the sin in our midst, and how to proclaim the Good News without offering condemnation and judgment... as complex an endeavor as the combined mix of landowner, tax breaks, open space, city, greed, corruption, profit, computerized betting with a people's wealth, police force, and an illegal occupation by an odd mix of folk striving to address being shut out and running the risk of being shut down --as complex as an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, a history of patriarchy and slavery ignored yet embedded in a structure which becomes the sign of a noble past that runs proud yet blind in the blood of the people....

And, yet.... the vision of a hope we cannot see....

(beginning at Matthew 11:1)
Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities. When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Are you the one who is to come? Where do we see the blind receiving their sight? --or the lame walking? --or the poor having good news brought to them? --and who takes offense at Jesus? --Well, that last one is surely a joke... because if Anyone is paying attention, surely at some point there would be offense.... if for no other reason than saying the miracle does reside in our presence --were you not deaf and blind once? --were you not unmoving once? --were you not shunned? --were you not dead? --were you not poor?

--but that little "who takes no offense" bit... that takes more work.... the realization that the world is not made in our image.... Because I must confess, I am offended that God would love those perpetrators of lawful crime and greed as much as God loves me...

--do you know what I mean?

So, today I will go downtown --to a bastion of posh privilege and patriarchy seated at the right hand of the government that none-the-less is the house of God from which all the poor are fed and all are welcomed --and a small group will gather around in a basement, face to face and offer prayers for the whole world in Christ's name... and I will drive my car so that I can carry the proper clothes and not offend... my car which contributes to global warming and trade deficits and oppression....

Forgive us all --miserable sinners...

(a portion of Psalm 17)
Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, *
O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand
from those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; *
hide me under the shadow of your wings...

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.... --we are a broken, sinful people --and even so, redeemed and loved beyond measure --the apple of God's eye, hid under the shadow of protective wings...

Redeemed. For love.

There we are. Off I go.
This I know: The blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit ARE upon us and abide with us, now and always --grace is not earned but is the will/joy of the One who made us. Amen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the gospel isn't for wimps --it's hard, dangerous, divisive work

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 10:34-42)
Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

"For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's foes will be members of one's own household.

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Once the local peace coalition approached a church I served and asked to use the parish hall for a meeting. I took it to the vestry.... The vestry entered into a heated conversation.... When one would say, of course we should open our doors to a peace coalition --another would say, it's political... we shouldn't take a stand like this.... And the scripture used to defend each opinion was Jesus telling Peter to put his sword away in the garden of betrayal --and this little bit o' scripture --Jesus saying he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword....

I mean, wow....

But this bit o' scripture is not about whether we should make peace or war --this bit o' scripture is precisely about the conversation above --discernment, prayer, action... --putting God first --being willing to bear the cross and all that entails --being willing to give one's life away....

The conversation above did not end well... some left the church because of it... the peace coalition did not meet at the church... and because of the resulting discernment, I and another priest walked from Richmond to the National Cathedral in a pilgrimage of prayer --praying for peace while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at their very worst....

The gospel does this --pits family against family, sisters against brothers, vestry members against one another.... but it is sin that wins if we let it divide us. It is okay to fight; it is not okay to walk away from each other.... The gospel is not a bed of peace and light, a bed of fragrant roses; the gospel will always lead us to the open display of rampant sin --the revelation of gross sin... and, God willing, will form our response to said gross sin....

--which, God willing, will look something like Jesus's response to sin... which is not a casting out, nor condemnation --but reconciliation, mercy, charity, health, restoration, love... the cross, because the cross is the cost the world demands of that which God gives freely....

...sigh.... Yeah. the cross is the cost the world demands... God give freely.

God didn't invent the cross... the Romans did... we did... we do.

And so, Jesus tells us. The gospel isn't for wimps. It's hard, dangerous, divisive work.

And, there we are. And, I pray to God I am not a wimp. And, I pray to God I don't walk out when the going gets tough. And, I pray to know that peace which passes all understanding.

Collect of the Day: Proper 23

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Collect for the Presence of Christ (morphed)

Lord Jesus, stay with us; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Putting down the map, and going cross country--or something like that

Spirit maps... not a direct, efficient line from here to there.... the signs... convoluted... textured...

The Republican map (as made evident in their current so-called debates) is no longer scaring me... it makes me somewhere between indelibly sad and outrageously angry... neither of which is helpful. I am exhausted and frustrated in my quest to be informed about their "issues" and the way they are approaching "fixes" to our nation... I am still scratching my head in some disbelief and saying --Really? That way?

I remember in seminary --I was quite vocal about the growing biblical literalism in the Episcopal church. My classmates were frustrated with me --saying I didn't realize the nuanced manner with which the bible was read --it wasn't literalism, they would say... I would like to check in with many of them --now a decade removed from those classroom discussions, and see what they are saying now to those arguments that have been so very detrimental and divisive in the church --and the arguments continue... and continue to condemn homosexuality and the authority of women in leadership roles in the church... based upon a one-way reading of scripture...

--because those argument are no more nor less 'nuanced' than before... they are... they are... well... and this is where I stop --unable to name it... perhaps linear, one-way, narrow lined map... constant suburbia....

And I am finding the Republican map to be based in that same unable-to-name-it place, formed in a self-selecting road-way. I cannot imagine a single one of them willing to walk with me for even a week and become sensitive to and informed about the map from which I draw direction... without already having an intact opinion which they are not willing to alter or question... based in an external, unchanging authority...

Which means... I guess... I MUST continue to strive to understand the 'issues' and the 'fixes' that drive and define the Republican way.... But I am not one who has a political imagination per se... I have a pastoral imagination... which sees the woundedness and self-serving impetus --the spiritual challenges that drive and inspire....

--and mostly... what I see are those who draw lines of definition --inside/outside, them/us, my hard work which deserves/your work, my just reward/what you deserve... those who draw lines of protectionism, one-way streets... maps that must be followed without deviation....

Right--like we all have/are born with a universal GPS system... (snark) a small screen with red and green lines, arrows and a voice telling us when we have gone the wrong way or says "recalculating" to get us back to the 'right' way and pre-determined destination.... efficient....

--and, frankly, I quite prefer the old maps... more global perspective, less efficient, worn and torn, old notes from previous journeys, inefficient backroads in sparse lines.... --no voice directing, correcting, amending... can go what might be determined as 'off-course' any ol' time....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 10:24-33)

Jesus said, "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

...have no fear of them... all will be known... proclaim what we have been told from the housetops --we are beloved...

So, continue to walk in love --because we are loved... and often, there is no map for that...

--and the master of the house will be called Beelzebul because love, compassion, mercy and grace are always threatening to those who draw one-way lines....

Just sayin'.... and sometimes one must just put the map down, and look to what is directly before you.... and go cross-country.... Or something like that. Amen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday --a sheep among the wolves

At prayer this morning (Matthew 10:16-23)

It is time for the wolves to come clean....

Jesus said, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."

Wuuups --there it is! A sheep among the wolves. M has the greatest puppet --a wolf in sheep's clothing... --I'm off --running to two appointments and showing the house. Gotta get busy. Maybe I'll post a reflection this afternoon....

Collect of the Day: Philip, Deacon and Evangelist

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love; and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Peace out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Does the Episcopal Church Socialist League still exist?

A church in Richmond was vandalized this weekend --spray painted with some awful, hateful stuff. It's so very sad... and, I think, part of our future that we in church must/should face...

I couldn't get anyone, much less the police, to pay attention when the church I served was vandalized --hateful stuff scratched in to the front doors --but this was much more obvious... (I swallow the thought that it's because this time it was a Baptist church --and we were known as the "gay" church... oh well....)

One of the church members of the recently vandalized church said: "A church building is a sacred place," Bullock said. "A place where you should not have to deal with that kind of a thing. You can come and be safe there and not feel like somebody might have hate."

Have they never read nor heard the gospel?! Have they never paid attention to the Passion?!!!!

Church is exactly where we must bring the story of hate --ummm, let me use the religious word --SIN... --Church is exactly where we must bring the story of sin, expose it, confess it on behalf of all those present and all those absent --and offer it to God. --And then figure out how to embody what God does with sin...

--cuz that's the Good News....

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 10:6)
As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

I wonder.... never mind... I'll work on that thought.

I am remembering in my prayers today, PB who is Occupying Wall Street in San Diego --in a tent; for L who is Rector at a local historical church that made the short list of places to occupy by the Occupiers in Richmond --that would be a difficult --a very difficult balancing act, for sure; for the church members of the vandalized church --that the Passion be brought home to them; and for all of us who feel called to embody the Good News and all that that means.... For R&A, M,S,R&M, C&E, D&M, J,EC... for L in the stress of packing and moving and leaving... thanksgiving for Vida Dutton Scudder --would that we could all be so moved.... So, does the Episcopal Church Socialist League still exist? Hmmmmm..... Amen.

I Googled Episcopal Church Socialist League.... interesting stuff... Should be more than history --just sayin'.... off I go.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

I've decided to go ol' fashioned....

Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet..."

"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?'"

G'wan. Go to church. Ummmmmmmm..... however, do wear your best! (You're worth it!)
(PS: you will still be naked under all those clothes... but there's nothing God hates worse than a lie except covering up with shabby stuff... G'wan. Put on the good duds. Just for fun!)

colors... rooting about... harvest time... Jesus Christ the apple tree

I didn't forget --I just didn't have room in my head to think aloud about St. Francis and Matthew Shepard this week... --probably because of the depths to which they have affected me and formed me. --and yet, I am in a place and time when I have been having that opportunity to root about in my own foundations.

And, it's October.... color... harvest time....

I've been remembering my mother, while she still had wit and wisdom to speak for herself --and she said that when she could no longer do her art --which was most always based in the texture and color of fabrics, but when she could no longer do her art or remember the names of her children, that we were to put her at the foot of a tree in the middle of the forest and leave her --or put a pillow over her face... neither of which a mother should say to her children. But she did....

And there did come a time when she forgot the names of her children... she knew it was coming, and tried to prepare us.... But on the way into the place of no landmarks or place marks, mom might have forgotten my name, but she didn't forget me --for a while she called me "Red." Oh, hello Red, she would say....

Red. I wonder if my brothers and sisters had colors too --I mean, it was a perfect translation --her children as colors.... She gave birth to the rainbow itself. Seriously.

And I think of St. Francis --his color to me... and he is definitely that October brown of fresh loam --and Matthew Shepard is that heavy autumnal yellow-green-pink that hangs low at first light on the horizon....

My beloved has been a colonial blue much of our life --but has been showing a blush of dark pink lately...

And, I think what is fascinating is that this discussion of color is mixed in with foundation thoughts --because the word foundation itself calls to mind the deep, dark basement, the dusky root...

Hey... it's October... time to root about.

But, as I was speaking with P the other day, and he asked how I was doing in my current circumstances --and I spoke of things like naming.... Naming and acknowledging the range of emotions... but that is not enough --rooting about in the emotions is only surface work... there is much more work... --until I can name the source --like naming anger but not being satisfied with that --rooting about until I have discovered that injustice or even betrayal is the root of the anger... the emotion is merely --well like the fleshy fruit of the apple, and to get to the heart of the matter, one must go all the way to the core...

And that is the color of my foundations --the core of an apple... bright, crisp, and dark red seeds.... hidden.

--and thinking how wonderful it is that my mother was right all along.... R.E.D.

At prayer this morning, a Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood
by Julian of Norwich
God chose to be our mother in all things *
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin's womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother's care.
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.
And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.

--our mother --the foundation --an inglorious hard little stick-in-the-teeth seed --which becomes the tree of joy --our root is love, our foundation love and hope....

And St. Francis... knew that joy. Matthew Shepard... courage to be who he was.

And sometimes it takes joy and courage. To walk in the way of our true mother, Jesus. To find our passion. His passion.

It all meets at the horizon. The foundation. The seed.
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.

It's October, rooting about... --harvest time....

At prayer (beginning at Matthew 9:35)
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."


Friday, October 7, 2011

--don't play "Operator" with the Good News...

At prayer this morning (from Matthew 9 after verse 27)
Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be done to you." And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, "See that no one knows of this." But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

Every time we show the house, I have to clean, dust, move the stuff we use between showings back to the 'staging' scenario... And I scrub the tub and wipe the bathroom floor, and the kitchen and all that kind of thing.... And because I can see well (I only use reading glasses, really) it is a blessing not to have to clean with glasses on....

Well, last night I went down to the kitchen with my reading glasses on... I think I am going to have to start cleaning with my glasses on... dammit.... not that anything was DIRTY --it was just little jots and tittles everywhere... It didn't help any that I had baked a pie, either!

Yeah --a sugarless blackberry pie for my beloved.... It didn't set well (perhaps because of the lack of sugar--takes a different hand cooking without sugar...), so, maybe I didn't use enough flour...maybe I should try tapioca next time... some say cornstarch...  --but OMG it's a good pie.

--but what a mess.... my eyes have been opened.... and now, I'm talking about it....

--and I am reminded frequently these day of the glory and gift of sight --Joel is still gasping at the sound of light --at the shout of color --at the drink of shadows and contrast --because he had his vision restored just two weeks ago by cataract surgery --and he's still looking at a glass of water and weeping at its beauty. --and he's talking about it....

So, maybe we will drive around and look at the glory of trees changing their garb, while the house-cleaned-with-my-glasses-on shows today....

And, God willing, we will tell of it all.... Remember that game --was it called Operator? --and someone thought up something to say, and you whispered it quickly from one ear to the next, and at the end, someone spoke what they thought they heard --and it was always way off, and laughter rocked the room.... Maybe Jesus just didn't want us playing operator with the Good News...

Autumn peace out....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

it's hands all the way back....

Been on the move this morning... early morning walk, appointment at 9:30 --and then I thought I would come home and whisk Joel off because the house was scheduled to show at noon --and I would post my morning prayer from a Starbucks or some other hotspot....

On the way home from the 9:30 appointment (thank you P --you are such a blessing) the realtor called and said he had to reschedule --so, whew.... I am taking a minute to breathe, sitting in my sunny upstairs library-type room with the floral carpet and Mr. Witty kissing me and Mr. Watson resting with his feet up and his head back....

Got really good news from his doctor yesterday --his broke-back will mend, and he can move around without fear. Blessings abound!

--and I read Paul today, on this day we remember Tyndale and Coverdale --translators of Holy Scripture in to English --and Paul has written about spiritual gifts --and how there are many gifts, but only one Spirit --and many varieties of service, but the same Lord... and how so much of the time we get caught up in "our" ministry and "our" gifts and "our" calling... --and that just ain't it.... We are One.

But Rick+ commented, last week? week before? on something I had written about how jarring it is to pray to Jesus if we are Christ's Body, and got me to thinking about boundaries of self --I was leaning toward the explosion of self into the great ONE, and he to the unique identification of self --always....

And, how, at some point, there is no right nor wrong to that exploration --many gifts, one Spirit --varieties of service but the same Lord... and the explosion of self into the great ONE is not the denuding nor undoing of unique self --but an identification of self with the whole... --from where I sit, anyway....

--and then the gospel at prayer this morning --a dead daughter and a bleeding woman in the presence of Jesus --both taboo... dead and blood... one no longer able to act, one acting beyond appropriate boundaries --reaching for a man in public... --she suffered such that she might as well be dead --unable to cook or clean or keep in company....

And then mix in the street scene, a synagogue leader, the laughing, mocking mourners...

At prayer (Matthew 9:18-26)
While Jesus was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.

When Jesus came to the leader's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.

Did Jesus have boundaries? --I mean, yes, he had flesh and was bound in flesh --but when he walked down the street what was his sensory experience --he who was/is/will be the WORD that holds all things in being.... The other story of the woman touching his robe, it states he felt the power flow out of him and he turned, demanding to know who touched him.... this story in Matthew far more aloof....

--but they were both healed by touching --such a taboo in our world --every clergy person and all the laity who have taken The Class know one must not touch another --and yet, here is Jesus touching and being touched --and it is what we do at the altar --touching the bread and wine --a Christian gesture --and we anoint and touch and lay hands on all sorts of things....

--breaking down the boundaries by touch and word... reconciling the world to itself with our hands... from hand to hand to hand all the way back.... Some may try to invent a genealogy of hands, and claim their hands are better, are purer... but there is only one Hand.

--and now, back to the getting the move on --hands out.... amen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Second Coming --FEH! God is with us, all the time. Always has been.

At prayer this morning (beginning with Matthew 9:4)

Then the disciples of John [The Baptist] came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."

This reminds me that there seems to be two types (at least) of Christians... those that look to the return of Jesus, and those others who know that God is with us.

I trust that God is with us. He was taken away in the flesh --murdered by the state and religious authorities, but has resumed the holy habitation --in us, among us, through us, with us... alongside us.

The idea of the so-called "Second Coming" was painted in those words in the late 19th Century... otherwise, it was understood in the present participle that it was written in --He is coming (now and forever). God is with us, all the time. Always has been.

Perhaps a literal rendering of the 'second' coming could be the birth of Jesus... the first coming being the WORD spoken by God in creation....

But, on the other hand, if Jesus is coming, where is he now? --someplace else? That flies in the face of --if not deny entirely-- the best and most orthodox theologies regarding the Incarnation and Resurrection....

We should be ready at every and any moment to meet the one coming in glory... well, because we do --if we have eyes to see, ears to hear....

Parousia ---Par as in parallel --alongside of, on track with... Ousia --as in 'stuff' --matter, creation...

--and while the Bridegroom was taken away --he went to the farthest reaches of the creation and was made manifest anew --even breaking open the gates of hell... there is no place that is not The Realm of God.

No place.

So, when we decide to fast --perhaps it is practice for those times when we feel bereft... practicing the knowledge that God is with us even there, and that the fast does end... more gloriously than we can imagine --because there is no place that is not The Realm of God.

And now --off I go --to celebrate the Eucharist today --first time to celebrate in two months... and carrying the memory with me that there will be a day when all sacraments will cease --and we will no longer need the outward and visible signs that our fast is over.... We will truly know it.

Happy Birthday to Ms. Dolly, recovery from surgery for Andy, for Joel --for all those who will gather at an altar today to give thanks to God and remember that God is as close to us as bread and wine --and even when we fast and have no bread nor wine --God is with us. All the time. Amen. Alleluia!