Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Wednesday prayers

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 55:1-3)

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.

Dang, that's beautiful. I think I will sing it --put it to the tunes running through my head --Advent hymns I happened upon while in church this past Sunday --delighting to see them, like old friends.

I've been singing... relentlessly, to the tune of 'Come thou long expected Jesus' any ol' thing that comes to mind --but most specifically:

Come thou long expected buyer,
This ol' house from us relieve.
Come this week, this very hour,
you will love it, I believe.

Well --we have two showings, one today, and one tomorrow. I gotta get a move on.

Please pray for my friend, AP, who cracked his head open on a tree; I will pick him up from the hospital some time today. And, do pray for the buyer of this house --that this home will bring them peace and joy. It is a good ol' house.

Peace out.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

mad magical Jesus killing a tree


At prayer this morning (Matthew 21:12-22)
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, "It is written,

'My house shall be called a house of prayer';
but you are making it a den of robbers."

The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became angry and said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read,

'Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself'?"

He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?"

Jesus answered them, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive."

I have always had trouble with the 'withering of the fig tree' stories.... It just seems mean-spirited. Killing a tree....

So, I cannot read the story literally. I read it like this: Jesus is hungry in the same way that I am hungry --wanting truth and revelation --and worship and integrity --and justice and peace --and wanting it lived from and in and with and by the people entrusted with the power --the emblems of the institution --the power brokers, the priests and theologians and keepers of the Temple.

--and when Truth, Revelation, Worship, Integrity, Justice and Peace walks in among the power brokers of the Temple and the children sing to the glory of God and the power brokers become angry --the tree has no fruit, will bear no fruit... it is already withered of life... sucked dry. Already.

This story comes from a deep recess of Christian triumphalism... but it is also a story of us. Now. The Presiding Bishop delivered a sermon to the church in Missouri gathered at their convention this past week that I have been pondering. ++She used Occupy Wall Street imagery.... I keep returning to this:
We are experiencing a slow-motion version of being occupiers ousted from their camps. You’ve heard the familiar lament about buildings being albatrosses. At this convention you’re dealing with the challenge of affording health insurance for everyone who works for pay in the church. As long as we understand our primary mission as preserving buildings, maybe we ought to welcome being tossed out. The shelters in which we gather to worship are meant to be aid stations, like those tents here in Kiener Plaza. We come together here to be fed for service in the world, to share a meal and be healed and remember the great dream of God, and then go out into the city or the countryside and do the same for others. And all across this Church we’re beginning to learn new ways of gathering and of serving.

How many of you have met somebody who’s been camping in the Plaza or talked with a young adult about his or her hopes for the future? The society around us is hungry for good news, they’re hungry for healing, and they’re hungry for a nutritious community meal. How is The Episcopal Church in Missouri going to renew our covenant to proclaim and be the kind of good news that responds to those hungers?

Yes. If we value buildings and insurance over the gospel, we are already not bearing fruit, nor will we ever bear fruit for the hungry --we are already dry as a bone... withered up.

Just like the fig tree. Jesus just speaks the truth.

The story is not about mad magical Jesus killing a tree...

The story is about us.... I love the secondary thought running through my head --that we tried once before to hide ourselves behind fig leaves.... That didn't work real well either....

It's Advent. How's your garden? The tree? The tree of life? --the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? --the fig tree... ?? Your willingness to live the gospel no matter the risks? What are you waiting for?

Peace out.
Image found here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm not going to celebrate Christmas any more....

Well --slaved away directly after the Thanksgiving feast in order to show the house twice this weekend --scrubbing the kitchen floor, cleaning the stove from all the Thanksgiving drips and drops, washing stuff, rearranging the furniture to 'stage' the house... again... We came home after the showing on Sunday, and our neighbors reported to us --it was a dad wanting to buy a house for the son --wouldn't that be nice. We all agreed, that would be nice indeed....

We get automatic feedback forms from the real estate agents answering questions about the house --fair price, maintenance of interior and exterior etc... Most responses state the house is in good shape, shows well, is priced fairly. Yesterday's response from the agent showing the house to dad and son was really sour. Stated the house was less than average, and the price didn't reflect that it didn't have a garage or off street parking.

Less than average? --whatever. She shows a little wear (but no fraying) --at near 100 years old. So be it. I think she's a grand ol' dame, but there we are.

The price didn't reflect no off street parking? Dang --the agent knew both the price and that we did not have off street parking before she scheduled the showing... Besides, we are priced $70,000 less than other houses have sold for on this street, some with garages.... And all these houses share just three floor plans --they are basically all the same --1919 track housing in what used to be the suburbs of Richmond, VA.

That this feedback happened as an isolated incident doesn't make it sting any less. I think it had more to do with the people who were looking at it than anything else.... wouldn't it be nice... buy a house for someone else....

Which brings me full circle to contemplating Advent and Black Friday weekend. Thems that love it and thems that don't --the shopping frenzy, that is.

Sigh.

And the mud slinging has already begun --those that hate the rampant consumerism and all that makes that successful, and those who love it and support it. And the derision from both camps.

Nicholas Knisely at the Episcopal Cafe posted this:
If you follow Anglican and Episcopalian blogs right now, or you have clergy Facebook friends, you're probably seeing calls for a simpler Christmas. The Advent Conspiracy is leading the charge asking people to refrain from buying too much as way of keeping Christmas. The secular media is picking up on the idea too; someone from a TV station called me last night looking for a quote decrying the latest Black Friday mayhem.

But, Diana Butler Bass points out that the luxury of conscious minimalism is really an upper class problem. Some of the people in line on Black Friday are there because they can't afford to buy what they need at full price, and these teaser sales are incredibly helpful to them. She asks us to look at just who it is standing in line on Black Friday. It's not the wealthy or the well off. It's the working class and the poor. The same people who tend to attend Church week in and week out.

The Advent Conspiracy says, Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? We’re asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one. And, if you still feel obliged, how about buying a gift of fresh water or sustainable agriculture for some one in true need....

And, Diana Butler Bass says, This Black Friday, I expect that some religion commentators will write their yearly screed on the immorality of consumerism decrying the shopping frenzy gripping the nation on the day after Thanksgiving. But I am not going to join that chorus. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t love consumerism or the outburst of materialism that accompanies American Christmas celebrations. It is, however, tediously easy for people who write columns, ministers who preach sermons, or those who are generally comfortable with their jobs or finances to look down on the rushing mobs grabbing electronics from Wal-Mart shelves.

Hmmmm.... Please, have no doubts. I, too, love a good party, and I'm willing to save and spend for a party. We do exchange nice gifts. But rarely do so at Christmas. Sometimes necessary gifts. But those are usually mutual decisions, and not truly gifts. But don't do so at Christmas. We buy things for each other that we know we wouldn't buy for ourselves. And we give of ourselves for and to others. More often than not.

But, we both find the Black Friday frenzy offensive... can't help it, we do.

I suppose most people looking in on Joel and I would assume we have the luxury of conscious minimalism and an upper class problem.... We live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. We have nice things. We both have college educations. All that presumed privilege might buy. But it is certainly not from suffering an upper class problem that we object to the consumer frenzy.

We object --wait... perhaps I should say, I object, and then let Joel speak for himself --So, I object to the rampant consumerism. Needing shoes, needing jeans, needing a good sale --fine. I can lead you to places any day of the year and get better quality new stuff for way less than the lead-ons offered on Black Friday. Black Friday is not about poor and middle class people needing and buying things. Black Friday is/has become a holiday in and of itself that has been around for several decades now, and the sole purpose is to buy, buy, buy. A consumer holiday. You know, when it comes right down to it, in a capitalist, consumer oriented society, that's fine. Let's name it a national holiday and get on with it. Black Friday is a consumer holiday! Whooohooo!

--But, in truth my major objection is that it, Black Friday, has become synonymous with 'Christmas.' And I don't get, don't understand how consumer frenzy can ever be equated with the Feast of the Incarnation. How can buying jeans or a flat screen tv be related to God becoming human flesh --poor, infant, helpless, homeless, human flesh? I feel as though the meaning of Christmas is stolen away... it's significance raped... and the celebration enslaved to the wealthiest master for the lowest bid possible....

And I object. And I think the Advent Conspiracy and Rethinking Christmas are a lot closer to something --if exchanging gifts in the tradition of the Magi is the way you wish to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation.

I think that's what I'll start doing --I'll start saying I don't celebrate Christmas any more... and when pressed, I'll say I celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation... and perhaps have the opportunity to say what that means. and if we decide to exchange gifts, we can do so on the 12th day of the Feast --along with the Magi and the Epiphany and all....

Besides, all the really, really good shopping deals happen "after" Christmas.... ow --so jaded....

In the meantime --I will continue to prepare to celebrate that Feast... and look for work, and sell the house, and divest of all those things which hold me back from holy relationships with God and my neighbor....

At prayer this morning (2 Peter 1:1-10)
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

Goodness. Knowledge. Self control. Endurance. Godliness. Mutual affection. Love. Won't find those in any store. Any where. Any time. Can't be purchased. Must be practiced. Ahhhh--Advent. Making room by practicing....

Peace out.
Jeeez --what a rant.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

Isaiah 64:1-9
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down....

Well --there it is. Advent in a nutshell --heavens torn open --God with us.

G'wan go to church. Time to git ready! --and, yeah, your armor of light is always recommended this time of year....


Saturday --last day of the year (church-wise)

OMG --set aside today to clean for a showing tomorrow --just got a note from our agent asking to show the house in about an hour!!

C'mon St. Joe!!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

--like fingers pointing straight to the heart of what matters...

Buuuuurppp.... ahhhhh!

--the preparing of it, the cooking of it, the companionship, the eating of it --Wonderful!!! Thankful!!!

Yeppa. We know how to party!

And now eyes and heart shift, fixed on Advent... --a spiritual hunkering down in the spasm of commercialism and consumer performance pressure that becomes December. We have decided to focus our Advent prayer in fasting --not in penance, NO NO NO --but preparation --just as we did before we ate the grand feast yesterday. You know --save room for what is to come.

And we have a lot of discernment/preparation for the feast-that-is to do, to talk and pray through.....

This morning in the readings --it was all like fingers pointing straight to the heart of what matters-- not the past nor future tense, but in the present moment...

At morning prayer (Isaiah 24.14-23)
They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; they shout from the west over the majesty of the Lord. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea glorify the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.

But I say, I pine away, I pine away. Woe is me!

For the treacherous deal treacherously, the treacherous deal very treacherously. Terror, and the pit, and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!

Whoever flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit; and whoever climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble.

The earth is utterly broken, the earth is torn asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunkard, it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven in heaven, and on earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together like prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be abashed, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his elders he will manifest his glory.

In the midst of the gaiety --the swirl of the celebration and joy, the prophet sees what is... and it ain't pretty --it's broken and doomed... a shabby hut --no running away, no climbing out of the pit... hell even in heaven....

Is there escape from this doom? Is there hope?

No. None that we can create, fabricate, find, deliver... and goodness and righteousness do not parry suffering... look at Jesus--  who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated... (1 Peter 3:13)

I love because I was loved first --but it is not love I generate, but love I share --I am IN love... I have hope --but not my own hope, but the hope of Christ in God... I have faith --but it is not my faith....

There is no "escape" --there is only Christ every where...

--so it is good to step away from the huzz and buzz and huzzah every now and then --not as penance-- fahgeddaboutit --but as the means to stand and be still --not to run, not to try to climb out of the pit --but to be still and clear the eyes and mind to see the Incarnate One present among us....

Thassa what we gonna do. --look at Jesus.

And eat some glorious leftovers, for a few days anyway --just sayin'! --and saving room for what is to come....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

Collect of the Day

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

It's Mr. Witty's favorite day...


From Mr. President Lincoln --but, mind you, despite all the various claims, Sir Francis Drake celebrated the FIRST THANKSGIVING in California in 1579 in his voyage around the world... just sayin'!

Folks in this neck of the woods claim the first Thanksgiving in about 1619 at Berkeley Plantation --as opposed to those in the colonies in the more northern stretches... --there we are.

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

~Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, October 3, 1863

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

mental maps, foundational metaphors and OWS...

Matthew 19:23-30 (NRSV)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, "Then who can be saved?" 
 
But Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible."

Then Peter said in reply, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?"

Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

As my beloved and I share coffee, prayer, and conversation this morning --Occupy Wall Street, poverty, our lives, the words of our mouths, meditations of our hearts, our lives and living them  –and as I am contemplating the gospel reading, he reads to me “A Clouded View: How Language Shapes Moral Perception” (Kathryn Lilla Cox, Union Seminary Quarterly Review 63 (1-2; 84-96). Joel erupts with certain ahaa! exclamations, saying, “Listen! Listen! This is what I meant!”

And he reads to me
Foundational metaphors can be understood in two ways: (1) metaphors function as a structuring principle for providing an explanation and formation of reality and (2) metaphors can provide images that capture a basic, but influential understanding of those principles. These images are important since they help bridge the gap that sometimes exists between concept and action, thus helping move someone from belief to action. Furthermore, metaphorical images can supply the language to explain changed behavior. Yet we do not yet have new, broadly accepted metaphors for life in the twenty first century, with our attention to environmental concerns and the consequences of our actions on climate change. I offer that these important functions of metaphor might help explain why burgeoning concern about the environment and the recognition that the way we live must change has not resulted in widespread transformative practice or action. A disconnect remains between theory, knowledge, and practice. This partitioning indicates that new conceptual frameworks and knowledge about the earth may require new images and metaphors. If we change or develop our theoretical conceptions without changing accompanying metaphors, then transformed action and change of attitudes may not follow, since the foundation or scaffolding remains unchanged. An expansion of these ideas will proceed in three parts: examining the philosophy of metaphor, the dynamics of scientific presuppositions, and the language framing the discourse of environmental ethics using two case studies.

It's a wonderful article --beginning with a quote from Flannery O'Connor --The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying any attention to the sky.

--paying attention to the sky.... what an interesting quote to begin a discussion about foundations....

We launch in to a discussion of foundational metaphor, cultural scaffolding, building community, norms, history, presuppositions, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Why not? It is a continued if not continuous discussion in our home at present… and we don’t entirely agree. It is not the OWS movement in general and at large about which we disagree in our discussions –on the contrary, it has given us hope. It is not that there is no formal party line, no obvious leadership, no universal method.... To us, these circumstances are fresh air. What my beloved objects to is that there is not a common foundation. “On what are they basing it all?” he says. “If it is based on morals or ethics –what is the source of these morals and ethics? If it is based in economic theory –what is this theory? I want to know what the thought –the presuppositions --the foundations are based upon.”

I understand. Truly. It is very helpful to be able to place things in an intellectual context, on a mental map, build relationships, have the genome of the movement named –name the parents and grandparents of this Movement. Of this thought turned into action.

For me, the mental map is not necessary. At. All. For me, it is like the so-called proof offered in the Scriptures themselves about Jesus --proof texting of the Hebrew scriptures in order to give Jesus authority. Or, it is like proof texting in our own time --to illustrate, defend, convince.... Such tactics, then and now, have always given me the weebie-jeebies --makes my skin crawl.... I prefer mystery --unknown territory....

Unknown territory is the borderland, the edge, the glory of God. --for God all things are possible.  If God wants to do a new thing... all the mental maps, context, proof texting ever created won't help a bit.

--and mental maps without the willingness to journey across them --proof texting without action --are empty broken vessels bereft of function or beauty.... just sayin'.

I don't know if OWS is a new thing --but I do believe it is an attempt at renewal --because the list of what is broken is long and diverse... we all know it, we all know we are broken --and the OWS list is about those things that go to the core of every system --money, things, family....

Jesus rips up the map on these things --all those things that we think form our relationships, our context, our place in society --he smashes the idols of culture... turns over every domestic table... subverts economic presuppositions.

Well... I suppose that's one of my foundational metaphors, anyway.... Call me a willing lover of mystery.

Now, off I go to boil and bubble some cranberries, knead some rolls.... --preparing to give thanks... in a feast.

And I remember the paths of my ancestors, all of whom headed west, ever west --without a map.... --I hope they watched the sky as their foundation changed, moved, disappeared....

Blessed are you O Lord our God, Creator of the universe; you bring forth food from the earth, food to make glad the heart of your people, the heart of your people to be the Body of your Son. Give us grateful hearts for all the mysteries of creation, and in your mercy help us turn our eyes away from the maps we create --to walk away from those possessions that consume us (oh and the folly of thinking we are 'consumers' --how awfully true, but only like the snake that swallowed its own tail --oops, tangent) --and all those other idols we construct, and seek you in the borderlands of our unknowing. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday.

Got a call yesterday while I was buying chard for a chard/rice/mushroom pie (OMG it was good) --gonna show the house early today. So, I am getting up to clean the bathroom and a couple of other details as we hightail it outa here.

We buried St. Joseph in the yard while we prayed our intercessions last night.

And now, in hope, we will go have breakfast out.

At prayer this morning (beginning in Matthew 19)

Then someone came to him [Jesus] and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?"

And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."

--does this imply that Jesus is not interested in us doing or being 'good' per se --as in morality type good? --are the commandments the starting place but not the finish line?

He said to him, "Which ones?"

And Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

The young man said to him, "I have kept all these; what do I still lack?"

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Working on that Jesus --working on selling what we have.... working on serving the poor....

Pray for us.

Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A little Mina for Byrd, Merbecke and Tallis, just because

Boomerang --from freezing cold sleet last week bottabing to warm showery thunderstorms this week... --turn the heat on, turn around, turn the heat off... put the quilt on and sleep with socks on the ol' feet --kick the quilt off, lose the socks....

Yes. It's November.

I love the smokey patterns of the leaves left like shadows on the cement walk and stairs to our front porch. Ghosts. An imprint of what was, once. And leaves clustered like remnant tea in the nooks and crannies of the hedge, the ragged grass, the stair well, steeping out the last bit of summer. Mr. Witty's tail has caught up every bit of the offered color and shape, and dragged it in the house --a new carpet.

The color --I am remembering the cluster of cabins in the Santa Cruz mountains --built by my grand father, great grand father and great great grand father --cabins built of redwood felled and finished on site, originally one room cabins scattered on the sand stone cliff over the San Lorenzo, other cabins and rooms added in each generation, walls one board thick with batten nailed over the joint; chimneys of river stone, grandfathers' initials "A.S.H." set in rock across the top of the chimney and generations giggling at the pun. Cousins all around, too many to count, my family usually the only one to brave the elements at Thanksgiving, cooking on the old green enamel 1920s range --the ice box pan spilled rotten water across the unfinished wood floor as it was emptied in to the small-bath-tub-sized sink --all viewed from the open loft perched a ladder's length above the kitchen.

My sisters were the lucky ones. Their bed was a double bed on wheels that folded vertical to the rafters, the mattress held in place by the iron rods of the head and foot of the bed. During the summer, they wheeled it out and slept under olive green wool army blankets on the open porch under the stars, in the soft summer mountain fog; in the winter, they slept by the huge edifice of rock that was the fireplace --mountains of glowing coals, staying up as late as the adults, kept warm by the secret pipes worked in to the stone fireplace that drew cold air in from the floor, circulated behind the iron plate in the back of the fireplace and shot out hot knee-high --all with no moving parts... just drafts.

Thanksgiving in such a place was a work of art. It took days. And food was kept cool and prepared in the "cabinet" in the kitchen --built like a chimney itself, heavy wire mesh instead of floor, drawing in the cool air from under the house to keep the stored food cool --even in the summer, shelves of narrow boards to allow continued circulation behind the closed doors shut with an iron latch to keep the bright and overwhelming light and heat and smells from the kitchen away from what was or waiting to be....

Sometimes, it is almost bittersweet to remember... But, we need not mourn for what is past and passed --we have a new day before us, a new creation --another chance to remember and live in to our calling --another time to keep our eyes open for the revelation of God's Kingdom among us. A new time of thanksgiving. Always.

--we start our Thanksgiving preparations today. We hope to work some art in to it --cooking a chard and wild rice pie today to keep us fed while we cook all else... family coming.

I think our ancestors had it right --some times we need to party for days and days --sit and chat and cook and chat and eat and sit and chat and eat --and dance... cut the rug. We don't allow ourselves that kind of holy time much....

(At prayer this morning, from 1 Peter 1)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith - being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Although you have not seen him, you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him and rejoice
with an indescribable and glorious joy,
for you are receiving the outcome of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory.

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things into which angels long to look!

And, today at prayer is the day we give thanks for the lives and work of three musicians, Byrd, Merbecke and Tallis. In their honor and to the glory of God --something they might not have ever imagined, just because:











See what I mean?!! a new thanksgiving, unimagined, a joy that transforms all that has passed --I looked to see if our glorious Mina sang any of those three guys --but could find none recorded.

She loves in such a sultry way... gives thanks from the center... her whole being.

I aspire to such this week. Preparing to give thanks from my center, preparing for Advent --to see and know 1in new and unexpected ways.
Amen

Saturday, November 19, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.


'nuf said. Now, get on with it!!! G'wan ...for the least of 'em....

--what does it "mean" to be "used" by God?

Collect of the Day: Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1231
Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

As my niece and friend, D, taught me to say --you better be careful what you pray for! LOL! --recognizing and honoring Jesus in the poor of this world --be careful as you pray that! You might get what you pray for!

A Prayer of Self-Dedication
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

See what I mean?!

Are any of us ever truly ready and willing to be "used" as God wills, to God's glory and for the welfare of the people?!!! --what does it "mean" to be "used" by God?

More questions than reflections today....

Some days (and today is one of 'em) I dream of being consumed in such a prayer as that. --totally consumed. So that the people of God
--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
(from Isaiah 65 at morning prayer)

It's cold this morning. I pray for those who are homeless or whose homes are not adequate shelter from the winter. I pray for those who labor but have little or no share in the fruit of their labor. I pray for those who lack adequate access to those things that shall sustain their lives --food, friends and family, health care, education, right relationships.... I pray that the people of our nation shall continue to wake up to the fact that we are not embarked upon a sustainable path --we need to change, for the sake of all the people.

Because we are one.

Just simple prayer today. Tonight I witness the blessing of R & M --and the blessings they share --signs of incarnate love.
Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

--searching....

At morning prayer (beginning Matthew 18:10)
Jesus said, "Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

After my journey to Guatemala, discernment regarding my calling kicked in to high gear --in so many ways --after visits to the dump and graveyard and all, discernment regarding economic and ecological justice --tidal waves. What would it mean, I thought, to go among the poorest of the poor, giving up all I had, and be among and with them --be their priest.

Guatemala. I just went back and re-read some of my June 2011 posts I wrote from that place.... That deep stirring from the depth of the empty tomb is stirring again --awakening me. I wrote:

I have been blessed in the past two days to meet two women who are not here to give handouts or dig a well or help folks move away from their lives… they are here to reveal the kingdom in the midst --alongside --already present in and amongst the livelihoods and relationships… they are here to foster transformation --not betterment…..

…and they both do so with determination. courage. against all odds.

You know --there is an obvious order in this world --the big and strong or those intimately connected with big and strong, these prosper. Dogs chase cats. Wolves eat dogs. People hunt wolves. Men hunt women --or other creatures --usually men are the top of the pecking order, unless of course, they exhibit weakness, powerlessness of some sort… and then they are treated as women or children. It's the natural way.

But there is nothing natural about what Jesus said and did. He said the poor have it --the poor, the sick, the infirm, the weak, those who mourn, those who suffer, those who are persecuted… they are already first in line --the sinners too, first in line.

There are those who will never understand the un-natural order Jesus calls us to --totally contrary to the natural order of the world….

…so much for so-called 'natural law theology' ….it's the glorious gospel reversal once again….

We should all act from that unnatural cave --tomb, --womb, --space within us… that broken space…. that on fire or empty place --whatever… you know, that place of which you are most ashamed… that place where we think we hold our secrets… those two women whom I have been privileged to dine with --that is the place from which the move and have their being....

That place is the gate… the eye of the needle…

hmmmmmm…. now it is time to return to gerunds, present and past participles… imperfect, pluperfect… conditional… and all those action items past and present --terms of affirmation and negation…. in this place… where heaven and hell are lovers, and where the woman who slept with a bear loves her children as numerous as the stars… and are so very different from herself --and her husband... In the center of the earth the kingdom is revealed… in this place --I heard it called the second poorest place in the western hemisphere… It is that, and so much more…. amen.

Today, I am pondering the eye of the needle... pondering transformation, not betterment... seeking presence.

The sun is out --it's cold... I'm sitting with my hood up --inside... embracing the cold.

...we'll see... much prayer.
amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

in what ways did Jesus behave that fulfills his charge to us to be as 'a child' ??

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 18:1)
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

This one always sticks in my craw... just sayin'. Why? --it's a multi-pronged... the infantilization of the faithful, and at the same time the portrayal of children as unknowing or simple (when every child I have ever met "gets" a lot more than most adults give them credit for)....

I have become more convinced that the humbleness that Jesus is addressing has less to do with intellect, access to knowledge--information and the nuance of such, and more to do with power... The ability to create 'stumbling blocks' --trip somebody up, prevent, bar, lead on or even mislead or otherwise control some one else is far more damning than right or wrong faith --patterns of belief... because children are fairly powerless --and I'm not talking about ways to get something --pitting adult against adult, temper tantrum or other such behavior... I am talking about being subject. You name the rest --subject to authority, decision, circumstance --physical powerlessness as well.

And I'm not thinking about a powerlessness that leads to victimhood. To the contrary--

I'm talking about what mystics might call 'surrender' --in AA it's 'letting go' to your higher power...

--not seeking to be right nor the 'greatest' in the kingdom.

Big questions remain in that --what does that mean in relationship to 'leadership' ???

As far as I can see, Jesus did not exhibit any of the hallmarks of what we might call 'leadership' --taking folks places without the forethought of food or other preparations --responding to questions with riddles or parables --confronting the powers that be --no obvious long term plan of action, goals, mission or vision statements....

Brings the question to my mind --in what ways did Jesus behave that fulfills his charge to us to be as 'a child' ??

Yeppa. Food for thought.

I have a very busy day ahead --I ask for your prayers as I prepare for two phone interviews today, and another in-person interview in the weeks to come. (whoooohoooo!)

--all while I think about power, authority, --and living in to my calling to be child of God.
Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rum Diary, birthdays, lobsters and coins in the mouths of fish

We saw The Rum Diary yesterday. We saw it because Johnny Depp was in it --we'll see anything with Johnny Depp, and anything with Meryl Streep --needless to say, loved it. It is wild, gross, frightening, drug-wracked hopeless --and at times a ride on the razor's edge straight on in to depravity. It is also an exasperating expose of brutal capitalism.  --loved it.

I am not a true-blue nor outright fan of Hunter S. Thompson --but was required to read his work in high school and college. I have always admired the startling wounds of his words --the clarity with which he rips open the belly of the beast and seems to enjoy the manner in which the entrails spill out --no froth, unless it is like the putrid scum of a sewage treatment facility... But yesterday I came away with another and new appreciation of Thompson...

On of my favorite parts was the near autobiographic character, Kemp, speaking to the lobster... The lobster sez, "Human beings are the only creatures on earth that claim a God and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one." Yeah... so true. Another quote, but I cannot find it verbatim --is as he finds his 'voice' after speaking with the lobster --and he declares that he now sees the connection between the starving, suffering children living in poverty on the dirt streets and garbage dumps of Puerto Rico and the shiny brass medallions on the doors to the banks in NYC....

WHAM!!!! Modern. Postmodern. Desire. Greed. Drugs. Despair. Rape. Hope. Death.
[there were] good mornings, when the sun was hot and the air was quick and promising, when the Real Business seemed right on the verge of happening and I felt that if I went just a little faster I might overtake that bright and fleeting thing that was always just ahead.

Then came noon and morning withered like a lost dream. The sweat was torture and rest of the day was littered with the dead remains of all those things that might have happened, but couldn’t stand the heat. When the sun got hot enough it burned away all the illusions and I saw the place as it was--cheap, sullen, and garish--nothing good was going to happen here.

Sometimes at dusk, when you were trying to relax and not think about the general stagnation, the Garbage God would gather a handful of those choked off morning hopes and dangle them somewhere just out of reach; they would hang in the breeze and make a sound like delicate glass bells, reminding you of something you never quite got hold of, and never would. (Thompson 1998: 190-191)

There is a fascinating article on anthropoetics and The Rum Diary here....

What do any of us do when faced with the circumstances of greed, the deadly pursuit to possess and the pornographic twisting of all that is good...

Matthew 17:22-27 (NRSV)
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised." And they were greatly distressed.


When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes, he does."


And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?"


When Peter said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me."

Tainted with the Rum Diary ringing in my ears and blasting my sight, this gospel exchange, at first, seems just as weird and drug-induced as talking with lobsters about God... but the stark reality that the kings of the earth do not tax themselves or their children, but constantly take from others rises like the stench of the gutter. Can't miss it.... And, as far as pulling a coin from the mouth of a fish --are we called to such a fantastical faith? --first that we could even catch a fish; second that it would have enough to satisfy a toll or tribute in its mouth!

I can't wash it or wax it poetical. --but, there it is: Jesus has connected the poverty of the masses with the medallions on the bank/temple doors.... --and where do we who pay the tolls and tributes ever gain the dimes we are then forced to deliver? --yes, from our toil and labor... --yes, from the random luck of the draw... --yes, from the unexplainable gifts that fall out of the mouths of the fish we are lucky enough to catch.

--and it's not like fish don't have dangerous teeth...

We know the source of our treasure, given in unexpected packages in ways that are not predictable or even rational... always. Just the way it is.  --is it any wonder The Fish was a constant icon in early Christian imagery... for so many reasons....

Oh... and hey --I forgot that yesterday was the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.... Joel reminded me last night, over a bowl black beans... and we awake today to Joel's birthday --and my namesake day. Yes, he has a doctor's appointment, and I have my women's clergy group that I. Will. Not. Miss... but, we will party. Perhaps for a week!

He always sez that I am the pearl of great value for which he sold all else to purchase... I always respond saying I am not that little bit of grit that forms something so mysterious and valuable that it connects the ocean floor with the ballerina's dance --I am that simple wildflower on the roadside --emphasis on wild... he sez --same difference. I wonder what Hunter Thompson would say to that...

Happy birthday to my beloved --my inspiration --my love, my breath. I am so utterly grateful for our life together, to know you.

I am sure our mamas are sharing a glass of bubbly today... --at the feast... --loving the job of stuffing coins in the mouths of fish... just for fun.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

--manna hope...

heheheheh.... Madonna... I had quite forgotten or didn't know it, but this is as good an interpretation of the Revelation to John as any other:





At prayer this morning (beginning at Revelation 21:1)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away."

--the torment, oppression, abuse, persecution, love lost --the nearby ecstasy, things hoped for... this morning it makes sense as Madonna presents it --in the voice of a woman... which, if the feminist scholars are correct and the whole Johannine school is the voice of women in the early church, this video gives the work of John's Revelation a new voice....

I seek to find expression --to join that voice in a lament at the purging of Occupy Wall Street --a middle of the night move in the name of public health and safety... --to join that voice in outrage at the continued denials of Cain and Sandusky... --to join that voice in disgust at the sight of corrupted power --the whore of Babylon who takes all life-giving potential and seduces it --twists it --the ultimate perversion and pornography... --to join that voice in hope... that as we suffer and weep, God is with us and all shall be well, and all shall be well... a new heaven and a new earth --a new city, a true love for us.

There is a violent hope expressed ... a very violent hope in John's Revelation. A very human hope, that our enemies and those who caused us to suffer will themselves suffer. Terribly. Utter destruction. And the gentle hope that mourning and crying and pain shall be no more.

This morning, I strive to hope for those things unseen --the wild, untamed, unexpected hope --not my own hope, not a restoration and perfection of what I think I know... I will lift my voice in lament, in outrage, in disgust --and hope ---wilderness hope, manna hope --bread showered from heaven don't collect more than you can eat today hope...

bread from heaven hope. yes. the new Jerusalem hope... in my body.

Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

--all those things I do not fully comprehend....

At prayer this morning (Matthew 17:10-14)
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." And the disciples asked him, "Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He replied, "Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

Now --that's a strange little bit o' scripture... so many verb tenses --future, present participle (progressive), past --all woven together.... it's hard to follow.

And that bit about Elijah and John the Baptist all related and wrapped up in the Son of Man.

Was this just another bit where the disciples 'understood' -but didn't really get it --that they were mistaken that he was talking to them about himself, not John the Baptist...? --like all the talk about bread, and they never really understood.... I mean, this bit begins with Jesus telling them not to talk about the Revelation on the mountain top....

--and Elijah... he will restore all things....

There is so much, so much in our Christian triumphalism that we forget or never know of the grand mythos and mysteries of our older sisters and brothers of Abraham --the Jews...

The bit about Elijah, for example. Dang --google it and you come up with the weirdest stuff.... Milleniumisms out the ying yang...

Literalism... prophecy... a Very. Dangerous. Mix.

I guess it is a difficult calling to live in to non-definition --mystery.

--back to the morning.... We had an open house yesterday. Because I had been under the weather, it took me two days to catch up on the house keeping and the yard. Got a phone call at one minute after eight this morning --showing the house this afternoon.... Is this a sign?

But, this morning, I am off to a downtown church --a wonderful young couple went to Vermont last week to get married --on their seventh anniversary... Vermont, because Virginia doesn't allow same-sex marriage. And this young couple will stand before their friends and family and confess their love and in their presence and the presence of God, and promise to do all they can to be a living sign of Christ's love in our midst. They have already been tried and tested in so many ways --not the least of which ---because I lost my congregational status this summer, and the Bishop's recent permission to bless same-sex couples is based in a congregational context, the Bishop told me this couldn't happen --and I had to tell the young couple it couldn't happen....

I scrambled... contacting another congregation that had permission to bless....

Through a couple weeks of agony... and we jumped through so many hoops --and we're going to celebrate their marriage and God's blessings they share --pronounce a blessing and commission them to be a sign for us...

I do not know of many couples who would continue to seek the blessing of the church after what they've been put through.... Talk about a living sign.... I do not have permission to preside --I had to give that away as one of the many hoops we jumped through, but hell yeah I'm gonna be present and witness this miracle.

So, off I go. Through all those things I do not fully comprehend. In faith. Keeping this young couple front and center in my prayers of thanksgiving --hoping this wonderful ol' house sells this afternoon --continuing vocational discernment and prayer --loving Joel in his continued courageous healing --astounded at Mr. Witty's devotion to us as he faces what he knows is a confusing time --with all the packing and cleaning and long car rides when we show the house.... Yesterday, we drove to a furniture store and had Joel sit in a recliner for the duration of the open house.... heheheheh --as Mr. Witty sez --more than one way to catch a squirrel....

Blessed be God, creator of the Universe, who brings forth all things from the earth, gives us all we need and more; who shows us the way in prophets, visions and signs by any and every name imaginable; who feeds us with the Very Self of God... always and all ways. Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Penn State at morning prayer

The whole melt-down at Penn State is in my prayers, most especially for McQueary --the whistle blower caught in the middle of it all. He saw an event and reported it --no, he didn't stop it, he didn't call the police.... That was wrong --very wrong. But those to whom he reported --those in positions of power and responsibility didn't either. The onus was on them. But that's how 'systems' maintain themselves --getting those on the low end of the totem pole to hold and keep the secrets of those in power --because if you don't, you will be kicked to the curb and ruined in as many ways as possible.

And McQueary was a graduate student assistant... he was very, very brave to report it. He risked all. And now lives with threats from those who are upset that he didn't play the party line --damaged reputations, and exposed the dark under-belly of the beast.
For some — including Penn State fans who blame McQueary for costing legendary coach Joe Paterno his job and damaging the football program's reputation — an indefinite administrative leave is not good enough. They want him fired — now. "How is it Mike McQueary, who saw the incident, [is] still employed and JoePa, who never saw anything [is] out of the job?" asked one commenter on Twitter.

--because JoePa was part of the cover up and one of the gatekeepers to the system.

JoePa and the University President will suffer shame from this, for a while and only in some circles --but they will sit happy with their houses and pension funds and security and suffer no further consequences.

McQueary? It's gonna be rough for him. Really. Rough. --either seen as a coward for not acting, or in an unspoken covenant, be seen as one who is not a team player in a business that requires it --and I would put money on it that the sexual abuse of children is part of a larger system of life and soul threatening institutionalized dysfunction....

And the children...? They have a longer haul than the second mile....

There are questions now arising as to why Sandusky "retired" unexpectedly and at the age of 55 --perhaps it had something to do with the police investigation and allegations at the time... --Sandusky retired in 1999.... McQueary reported what he saw in 2002.... Scared, he asked his father to go with him to report it to "JoePa."

That link above is a CNN report and history --and it has a link to the Grand Jury Report. Evidence of a systematic coverup and code of silence. A high school coach had the courage to do what JoePa would not --call the police. Hell yes JoePa and all the rest have lost their jobs. The kids who suffered should be given all fruits of the labor of those involved in the cover up.

Why, you might ask, am I going on and on about this?

Because. Because institutions always seek their own survival --and the church is an institution, and what we have seen played out at Penn State has been played out in the church and every other institution on earth. And what McQueary did --as feeble and as incomplete as it was, was an act of bravery --speaking truth --as best as one is ever able to do in a system in which one sees one's own livelihood threatened with survival.

 --not playing the party game is so very costly.

I just keep wondering at the hundreds, if not thousands of football players who walked through the locker room at Penn State for all these decades --what did they really learn at college? How to keep The. Secret? How the 'cover up' game is played?

...sigh....

At morning prayer (beginning at Matthew 16:21)
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

Jesus suffered and died at the hands of the elders because he spoke the truth to their secrets. He didn't play the game.

--and his judgment was mercy, love, forgiveness.... We are called to share that hope and faith. The wounds he bore from the nails and the sword and the cross become those places where we can stick our fingers and believe --sin itself can and is redeemed --and in the Gospel Way --those gory wounds aren't healed --don't cover up with slick, hard scar tissue --the wounds become open portals to the heart of God.

We who follow him have much work to do in this broken world and all the institutions we build and all the secrets we keep trying to cover up --not by covering up the wounds with scar tissue, but by entering the portals to the heart of God --right through the bloody mess.

It's the only way.

Lord have mercy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

we should have eaten baklava



This popped up on my google home page. So I watched it. I am not a surfing fan or anything like that --but I remain mesmerized by this video... off the coast of Portugal, an Hawaiian named McNamara rides a 90 foot wave. Beyond that bit of geographic and cultural fiber, it's the size of the wave --how does he survive it crashing down on him? --how does he stay vertical on his board in that mountain of crashing water?

Mesmerized. (By all rights, he just shouldn't have survived... and yet, he did.)

I've watched it at least a dozen times... silly me.

As I watch the video --I am remembering it is Veteran's Day today. I have deeply mixed feelings about this day --wishing to honor those willing to give their lives, and at the same time despising the military machine, the wars, that grind up lives and spew them out like waste. My feelings are heightened by these recent disgusting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... and the lack of care that is given to the returning veterans... and the 'epidemic' of bad care or non-existent care, homelessness... and the 'epidemic' of suicides of returning veterans... an average of 18 veterans kill themselves on a daily basis.

The latest attack on the VA came two weeks ago from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which ordered a major overhaul of the agency. The court said that with an average of 18 veterans killing themselves each day, “the VA’s unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough; no more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations.”

Yeah. I agree. We have obligations to our veterans, and if we are not willing to keep those obligations in the very best way and to the highest degree, we should not make war. End of story.

That is my most realistic prayer I can conjure, because, honestly, I do not think we should make war at all.... just sayin'.

And, we remember St. Martin today --who like St. Francis of Assisi returned from war convinced of peace and determined to follow the Prince of Peace. Martin was not a fan of church politics either --the conniving deals and betrayals... this biographer states that as a bishop, Martin avoided assemblies of bishops as a result of such conniving.

--ahhhhhh, the Church. At prayer this morning (Matthew 16:19)
--whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

I wonder if such a bishop as Martin could survive in the church today, convinced of peace, willing to risk his life for the sake of the Gospel, willing to defend heretics for the sake of mercy --willing to stand in the crevice between church and state, law and mercy --are there such bishops today, or has it always been difficult if not damned near impossible.... ?

--what are we binding, approving, condoning... .

sigh.... back to the wave. Sometimes it is possible to do the impossible.

And hey --I had the privilege of lunching with dear sister Elizabeth yesterday. There were no earthquakes --but Richmond will never be the same! --we solved all the problems of the church and the world --our hope in the coming generations of Christians to face the challenges of reinventing the church in the years to come --we rode the wave --set loose joy on earth as in heaven...

--and we should have eaten baklava. We just shoulda.

Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Today, just west of the seats of power....

At morning prayer (a portion of Psalm 27)
Therefore I will offer in his dwelling
an oblation with sounds of great gladness; *
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call; *
have mercy on me and answer me.
You speak in my heart and say, "Seek my face." *
Your face, LORD, will I seek.

As per usual --my time in jail yesterday was humbling and awesome. I finally found the main entrance to the women's side of the jail --hidden away off a different road. The entrance is open glass as opposed to the fortress of the men's side. There was no one at the "main" desk which sits open in the middle of the room instead of behind bullet proof glass, and I buzzed my own way in. I was not patted down. My BCP was briefly opened and my alb briefly looked at... I was given directions to the room and found my own way there instead of being escorted there... watched, but not escorted.

Of course, the minute I entered the jail, there were iron benches with women ankle-cuffed to the benches --waiting --for transport, processing, release... I don't know... but to see people, chained....



I greeted each woman as she entered the room --shook her hand. Introductions all around. We began with a song of praise, eyes closed, faces to heaven --with the voices bursting all the barriers --permeating the cement block walls in to all the rooms of the jail. I am always surprised and happy at the parts of spontaneous participation. I asked for their participation in responding to each reading --What did you hear? --and the Spirit moving us all....

In response to the gospel of the Ten Virgins --some running out of oil and missing the party, some not, we sang:



During the Eucharist, all joined in the prayer --spontaneously. And, I would usually do this before the Eucharist at the prayers of the people --but after the sharing of the bread and before the final prayer of thanks, I asked if there were anyone desiring healing prayers, please come forward for the laying on of hands.... Forty-five women lined up --whispered their petitions. I made the sign of the cross on their foreheads, held their heads in my hands... and prayed my guts out. Families. Violence. Love. Daughters. Sons. Sickness. AIDS. Addiction. Death. Court date.

Ended our worship with a song of praise.... I don't even remember --something about praising God in good times and bad, no matter what...

I was drained --exhausted --God willing, well used.

I had to sit in my car for a few before leaving....

Today, I will go a few blocks west of the jail, just west of the seats of power and legislation, and pray the Eucharist with a group as broken and as healed -conforming to a different set of chains and rules and power, who seek God and wish to be fed as desperately... boomerang.

Hey God, it's margaret here. Hear our prayer. Give us courage and strength --to do all those good things you have given us to do. Open our eyes to see you along the way. Help us help one another to know your love. All ways. Always. Amen.

I added the words of Mark Harris in my sidebar. Really good words. I was filled with reassurance and hope as I read them --not that I didn't know it already, but they were the very words I needed yesterday. Thank you and bless you Mark.

And, I will have lunch --an unexpected lunch! If there is another earthquake in the mid-Atlantic, blame it on us --more on that later!

Peace out.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

--how long are we going to tolerate the God-awful conditions of racism and gender-based discrimination?

Civil War era bread riots in Richmond, VA

Bad girls, bad girls... whacha gonna do when they come for you?

Actually --we should be asking --how long are we going to tolerate the God-awful conditions, systematically maintained, that allow the most vulnerable to become so very desperate? --conditions maintained in large part through racial and gender-based barriers....

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 82)
God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:

"How long will you judge unjustly, *
and show favor to the wicked?
Save the weak and the orphan; *
defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor; *
deliver them from the power of the wicked.

I am headed off to the women's portion of the Richmond Jail today --to celebrate the Eucharist, to listen, to be present, to offer prayer and the laying on of hands in healing. To give myself away.

Richmond Jail has been rocked by scandal --again. In May, a drug smuggling ring was exposed. In September, two guards caught having sex with female inmates were exposed. I have always reported to the main gates of the jail, been escorted through the male side, down the stairs and in to the female side of the jail. Today I have to find the gate to the women's jail... I suppose the less frequent communication between the two sides of the jail is supposed to curtail this kind of thing.... Right.

But, most importantly, I am remembering... In a conversation yesterday, we were talking about sexual misconduct/harassment training and race relations trainings --both an imperative. My friend, who is a trained group leader said she found a particular resistance in a group of younger folk --particularly when it came to the race relations training. She said the young folk basically said --these aren't our issues --we don't see that way. --to which I responded saying, on the one hand --EXCELLENT! --that means we have done our job! --and on the other hand, BULL!!! My friend said, yeah --just get 'em to talk to someone their age from the east end... ask 'em if racism is not an issue.

--and I add to that --gender-based discrimination... don't get me started on the Herman Cain thang again....

Yeah. Sadly. And when I face the crowd of women in the jail, there will only be, maybe, two other white faces in the crowd.... if the law were applied equally in all things --if judgment were applied equally in all things, surely it would not be so.... How long will you judge unjustly, and show favor....

--and banning male guards from the female side of the jail will not prevent sexual abuse or misconduct....

So, today I will enter a little bit of hell on earth... and witness the blatant wounds of our society --poverty, racism, sexism being the most obvious-- that we so desperately strive to hide away.... and I will not emerge unscathed.... but I shall emerge changed, and, God willing, the Kingdom will be known a-knew.

Off I go. Please pray for the women of Richmond's City Jail.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

--lost sheep, crumby dogs and persistent women

At this moment --Mr. Witty is pressed up close to me in bed sound asleep, and his little feet are running and he's barking at something I can't see... or hear, or touch... or even know.


Maybe when we move, Mr. Witty. Maybe --House is still on the market. Thankfully --we haven't had to show it while I've been under the weather. Because each time we show, I have to clean.

And I haven't wanted to clean... I've been stumbling through an upset stomach, massive headaches, fever, chills, muscle aches, --even my eyeballs hurt, then a spat of feeling okay, then getting worse again for a few day now... thinking maybe I've had the flu but the flu shot I got has kept me from getting really sick.... instead I'm just miserable. But it was the headaches that sent me to the doctor.... Nothing wrong with me. Feeling a bit better today although I can tell "it" is still lurking. Hoping it will go away. Putting off cleaning the house for another couple of days... hey, why not.

Joel has been feeling better, what with his broken back and all --so much better that he forgot, bent over and picked Mr. Witty up... so, he's been spending more time horizontal-way.

And I've got twelve active job applications out there. Waiting. Praying. Thinking about three more.

And today is the day to vote. --now, there's a dream or two....

Matthew 15:21-28 (NRSV)
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

I'd rather be a dog eating up crumbs than a lost sheep. Just sayin'. Even so, I will continue my petitions, for those dreams unseen, unknown --confident that the Lord of all loves lost sheep, crumby dogs and persistent women.

Amen.

Image here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

--for the sake of your tradition?

Herman Cain tells the reporter to be quiet--don't ask those questions, somebody get him the code of ethics for reporters, and that he is going to keep on track -on message --or something to that effect.... --that the allegations of sexual harassment are fabrications.

Blame the media for asking the questions. And then say, when we have all these other problems, why are we focused on sex?

Well... I would say that the issue is not sex. Nor is it about the media. The issue is about a certain type of powerful, wealthy elite who behave any way they want to without consequences and then want to eliminate any questions about their behavior...

In an interesting article, The Reasons Why Herman Cain Has Not Been Able to Talk His Way Out of His Exploding Sexual Harassment Scandal, the author, Joanna Grossman says: And no matter how unwelcome sexual harassment is, study after study has shown that victims rarely file formal complaints after being harassed. Empirically, doing so is in fact the least likely response of a woman to an incident of sexual harassment at work. So the idea that women are filing sexual harassment lawsuits at the drop of a hat, as a way to make money, is simply false on the facts. The overwhelming majority of women just want the harassment to stop.

Yeppa.

This same article linked to above says that the knowledge of and the legislation regarding sexual harassment was already substantive in federal and state laws --it's not as though Cain was working in a vacuum or at an early transition point in the discussion of sexual harassment. Grossman states, By the late 1990s, when the alleged harassment by Cain is claimed to have occurred, sexual harassment had made its way into the public eye, into federal and state anti-discrimination law, and into employment policies across the country. And employers are liable for on-the-job harassment... the Court held that employers are automatically liable for harassment.... Individuals cannot be sued directly under Title VII, however, regardless of their position in a business entity. Thus, Cain himself, as an individual, would not have faced a Title VII suit. This explains why he does not seem to have been a party to the two settlement agreements.

Wow.

Power. Power of law. Power of money. Power of force. Power of sex. These are our Traditions. These are the fundamental elements of our culture, and our society is based upon them. --as is Power of the People.... Idols, all of 'em.

Idols... An interesting reflection on power and the "Occupy" movement can be found here... Paul Munn says, My main critique is that the "power of the people" fighting against corporations does not really fight against this lie, but only proposes a different form of the same lie. "The corporation is not God... 'We, the People' is God!" I think this is seen especially in the fact that uprisings and revolutions almost always soon result in a consolidation of power and domination just like that of the oppressors they threw off.

So, if we throw off the power of the power-elite that gives us the likes of Cain who believe they can say and do just about anything and we are all just to be quiet or get in line, we will, in time, only build another system of power and another order of elites....

What are we to do? --or are we only stuck in a system of power and abuse?

At prayer this morning (beginning at Matthew 15:1)
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat."

He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"

Jesus does and always points us to another way. But how, when, where and why to discern what's right and what's not --God's wish for us... But that leads some right back to the system of law, authority and commandments, and a particular interpretation of the holy scriptures to which we are all supposed to conform... another tradition which merely supplants another --and round and round we go....

There is no easy way.... And speaking truth to power is a very, very hard way --a weary way, and often does not result in a change nor a new way. Just look at John the Baptist --calling all to repent from what they are doing --speaking truth to power --get your head on a platter free of charge....

What I do trust is that we are called to struggle to form the way together. It's messy. It changes and morphs to circumstance and context. And, what I do trust is that we are called to be response-able to continually call out to those who hold on to our existing forms of power and authority... challenging it all, asking the questions, pressing in to the discomfort, not pushing for change merely for the sake of change, nor just to overthrow the powers that be... changing one idol for another, but seeking to uphold the least among us, the outsider, the most vulnerable, the poor, the sick, the weak, and thus seeking God's hope/wish/will for us all.

That's all... Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

So are you celebrating All Saints?

Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Dang --there's a koan for ya --we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.... That makes perfect sense....

Or, perhaps you are doing Proper 27.... (Amos 5:18-24)

Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:
Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD!
Why do you want the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, not light;
as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

Whooo hooooo! --watch out!!!! --it ain't gonna be what we expect!!! ---it ain't our solemn assemblies, our offerings, our songs and harps ---IT'S JUSTICE ROLLING DOWN LIKE WATER, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS LIKE AN EVERFLOWING STREAM!

G'wan. Go to church. Forget all your other fine offerings and prayers for the dead --offer God your works of justice and righteousness.

G'wan.

My rant and missing the boat on a Saturday morning

Andy Rooney is dead.

Joel's comment was, 'Poor God.'

The tv station then ran a clip about Rooney, talking about how Rooney was sometimes wrong, but he always admitted it. And then Rooney's voice could be heard saying, 'I've been wrong. But I've been right more often than I've been wrong.'

Lordy. Have mercy.

That set us off over coffee --talking about right/wrong, good/bad and all that... black/white and gray areas. Boundaries....

--and none of us is 'clean.' None of us lives free of the caacaa --or, in Greek κακός We're all in it together.... --which is as close as I can come to St. Augustine and original sin --it's not that we are inherently wicked and born that way --just is, we all swim in it --it's in our eyes and ear and stuck in our teeth...

As Jesus said, only God is G.O.O.D. --in Greek, agathos ἀγαθός. --which is not the same 'good' that God calls us --as we are more a heartfelt 'delightful' or 'beautiful' or even truly 'precious--of great value'... kalos καλὸς --which is more than 'moral good' or 'lawful' good --personal conduct stuff, but that is certainly, for the Greeks, mixed up in there somewhere...

Earlier this week, I posted about the dog "Parrot" killed by a police officer in the streets of D.C. --a year or so ago.... a story that was posted on the Occupy Richmond site, and reposted on the OR FB site as though it were new and relevant news. And, yes, I scratched the surface and could find nothing more --so, in good faith, posted it here as though it were new news. When a faithful reader brought the real story to my attention, I was grateful --and posted the correction. But I was still horrified at the police brutality. I was still moved to prayer. And I felt angry at being 'used' --duped --I was neck deep in someone else's seemingly purposeful agenda.... caacaa.

And yesterday, I posted portions of the excellent speech by Moyers and his reflections on the lucid and brilliant work of Lewis Powell and his use of the Chamber of Commerce to 'educate' and then motivate business owners to lobby for the sole interests of business owners --against the interests of the common good --such as environmental protections, health care and the like.

And as lucid and brilliant as the work of Lewis Powell and using the avenue of the Chamber of Commerce structures may be --it is and remains in my mind slightly twisted --or to use the Greek --pornographic --something good which misses the mark... sinful.

But late last night, I received an email that stated that our local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is not a part of the THE Chamber of Commerce, so I was misinformed. I am grateful to know that. And I post that correction here and now.

Pushing further --if you wish to know more about the Chamber of Commerce movement --google it and see where it takes you. Some stories will tell us that the first Chamber of Commerce in the United States was founded in 1912 to lobby and advocate for business owners in response to the organization of unions and the labor movement. And all Chambers are truly local networks and follow several different structural models. Interesting. In any event, a concise definition may include this statement:

In the United States, chambers do not operate in the same manner as the Better Business Bureau in that, while the BBB has the authority to bind its members under a formal operations doctrine (and, thus, can remove them if complaints arise regarding their services), the local chamber membership is strictly voluntary. In addition, Chambers represent the interests of businesses, while the BBB represents the interests of the general public.

--the interests of businesses... I stand opposed to the interests of businesses when those interests purchase our political process and block and lobby for the rich and wealthy and business owners over the common good. I. Am. Opposed.

Here is the link to our local Hispanic Chamber. And their sponsor page.... click on the large sponsors if you don't know them... and we'll come around full circle locally, to the beginnings of the work of Lewis Powell....

--we're all in it together.... Don't care where you land --business owner, poor worker, church goer, atheist -- But, some do have the vocation to voice what's ailing us. And in the church --we are more than neck deep in it all. The church is not agathos or the community of particularly 'good' people. Nor is it entirely wicked and sinful. Nor can I separate the church in the world from the eternal church or even and ultimately from Christ's Body. The Church, the Body of Christ is incarnate, heals and does wonders in feeding the hungry world in so many ways --and she is whipped, lacerated, bleeding, nailed to the cross for the sin of the world at the same time. She is all things at once. Beautiful. Rife with sin. And we are neck deep.

At prayer this morning (from Ezra 9)
At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the LORD my God, and said,

"O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case.

But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.

"And now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land that you are entering to possess is a land unclean with the pollutions of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations. They have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.' After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you destroy us without remnant or survivor? O LORD, God of Israel, you are just, but we have escaped as a remnant, as is now the case. Here we are before you in our guilt, though no one can face you because of this."

--and Jesus says, (from Matthew 14)

Matthew 14:22-36 (NRSV)
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.

When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."

He said, "Come."

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

We are all neck deep... no matter who, where, what, why. And I shall certainly be caught up in my own sin and the sin of others... and I will sink. Like a stone. Faster, sooner and quicker than Peter (who denied Jesus --a betrayal as deep as that of Judas). And I will be wrong. More often than I am right.

--but I will do what I know as best as I am able --and I will say again and again that the organized machinations of business owners and corporations, no matter how many cultural events, no matter how many 'good' things they do --if they are not after the common good then I have a job to do.... and more than likely, I will be wrong more often than I am right.

And Andy Rooney is dead.

Poor God.
Amen.