Saturday, December 31, 2011

--we will live to do this or that....

It is already the New Year in Australia... funny how that works. When we lived out west, we always celebrated New Year in New York time so that we wouldn't have to stay up so late. (We are such party animals!) It occurs to me now that we could celebrate the New Year in Australian time, and then just keep partying all day until we decided to go to bed... and then be assured that we will not have missed it! Or, something like that....

What a year! Actually, I was looking at the month of December on the calendar and thinking --OMG, how'd I do that!? I had three interviews, preaching gigs, jail chaplaincy, showed the house seven times, twice more while away on interview --and the whole mess of every day life.

--and it's all to the good. The whole year --all to the good. Even the really, really hard parts, --rampant with sin and brokenness... I see redemption on the hoof. And we are tasting the New Year with the tip of our tongues and liking it! A lot!

God is Good. This little bit o' scripture leaped off the page:

(James 4:13-15)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”

In that light, I have no New Year's resolutions except Lord, your will be done... God willing, we will live and do this or that... like move, begin work in a new and distant place and join the good people there in ministry, whatever shape and form that may be. And in the small places between those tasks, love the ol' man, pray for all y'all, and undertake to care for this ol' body which is the only way I can come to know and love and participate in life.

Which is not to forget the little dog, either! --who sleeps this morning with one paw tucked under his chin and the other leg stretched out straight enough to reach for the stars....

There we are. If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that! Happy New Year everybody!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The liturgical calendar has been unrelenting this week....

The banner headline at the Daily Office site I frequent reads: Frances J. Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer, 1934.

Prison reformer.... The week after The Feast of the Incarnation is usually festive --folks take time off from work, school, or travel to see family and friends and all the like. We still have another week to celebrate Christmas, Emmanuel, the mind-blowing and radical notion that God is not 'out there,' but is indeed With Us.

However, the liturgical calendar has been unrelenting this week: St. Stephen, Deacon & Martyr; St John the Evangelist; Holy Innocents; Thomas Becket.... --from being stoned to death, to the strange ecstasy of eagle vision, to the murder of innocents, to the betrayal of love and loyalty... and now, today, we are being asked to enter in to prayer and remember prison, prisoners and prison reform.

Unrelenting, indeed. My personal longing and desire to remember Christmas joy and the delight of Incarnate Love and Reconciliation seems drowned in blood... imprisoned in the remembering of our violent histories.

Is there not one day of just plain ordinary Christmas?

Frances J. Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer, 1934. Why? I googled the name. I half expected Frances to be a man... but she's a she --a prison reform worker and educator, was born in a log cabin in Holmesville, Mississippi of African American and Native American descent.

She has my sudden attention and respect. There are too many obstacles in her way before she even begins --in a world rampant with racism and gender bias. And yet, she persists. Pushing for help for juvenile offenders who also have the world of race and poverty built against them. Building schools. Helping prisoners of all stripes....

I have served as a volunteer chaplain at the Richmond City Jail. I enter the world of concrete and iron bars and am always humbled by the fervent prayer, the longing, the pain --the knowledge that even when one is released from the jail, the patterns of life that lead to 'the big house' are not so easily left behind. Families and neighborhoods reek with violence and poverty, and resources seem to be more liberally spent on incarceration rather than food, school, housing, job training... hope.

In this bundle of remembering the martyrs and the murdered, the coin suddenly flips. There is room here for joy, for rejoicing. Frances J. Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer, 1934. She took her own mortal and imperfect human flesh and worked to free the prisoner, to feed their souls and spirits with hope and love. Not with words, rhetoric or advocacy, but with her own life. Against all odds.

From the lectionary for the Eucharist (John 13:34-35)

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

May we all find the ways to respond to the call to love. There is no better way to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation.

I wrote this for Speaking to the Soul at the Episcopal Café.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movin' on to a boogy Christmas

We're moving on down the road... !! We are expecting a moving van company to come give us an estimate today... Yikes! Yahoo! Oh My!!! --yes, the full range! Have already received one estimate already....

So much work to do. Better do it to a little boogy music, know what I mean?

We continue to pare down our 'stuff'. It has been as liberating as it is emotionally shocking --at first. The shock only comes when we decide to let go --shock first --then grief... but ultimately, the thing that sticks is liberation.


These whole few months have been liberating... ultimately. Shock first, then real deep grief --but, ultimately liberation.

At prayer this morning (John 2:1-11)
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."

And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.

He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

I wonder if that is why Jesus tell his mother 'not now' --he's in the shock stage...

And, ultimately, this story is not about changing water to wine... it's about Jesus being revealed in his glory as the true bridegroom, --because that other bridegroom had no real clue what was going on...

--and Jesus, the true bridegroom, supplies the best wine --the very best wine.

It's not the wine, it's what the wine points to... that's just the way the 'signs' work in John.

Just the way they work.

And, because it's still Christmas --Merry Christmas!

The 'embed' was disabled --but here's a little merry Christmas music for you! A boogy Christmas to ya!

Peace out, all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My mantle of hope is a shabby little thing --stained with grief like wine on linen

It is Holy Innocents.

There is so much I remember on this day. I remember our (Joel's and mine) personal history of loss --nine pregnancies and no babies to hold. I had ectopic pregnancies (scarred fallopian tubes prevented the embryo from traveling to the uterus to settle and grow). I remember that there was very little consciousness of the pain of loss of a pregnancy thirty years ago. It was something folks just didn't talk about... Joel and I had our own liturgies to name our loss.

One thing we learned in our grief is that there is no name in any human language for parents who have lost children. If you lose your spouse, you are a widow/er. If you lose your parents, you are an orphan. Naming helps place the grief in a context --the social/cultural part of the loss is acknowledged. If you lose a child, you are un-nameable. It is so horrific, we cannot do not even name it. Without a name, there is no social recognition of the grief. That is just the way it works.

So, on Holy Innocents, I have usually had a special liturgy to acknowledge and name the grief. Others who know this grief have joined in prayer.

And for some, that kind of liturgy is important in this Christmas time during which families gather in church and for dinner and etc. --and the gaping hole in the heart and soul grows tender to the touch. Again.

Rachel is weeping for her children. There is no 'closure' for that kind of grief. The grief only changes. Changes color. Changes texture. Changes its timing....

On Holy Innocents I have also always remembered the Lakota and the Battle of Wounded Knee. The anniversary of this so-called battle (most all of the Indians were not armed) is tomorrow. I heard of the ramifications of this horror first hand from my own grandmother. The slaughter of women and children... the slaughter of a whole way of life... the slaughter of a people.... After years of relentless pursuit, purposeful insult, sickness, injury and broken treaties, the people were slaughtered --there is no better word for it... except perhaps holocaust.

Rachel is weeping for her children.

From the lectionary for the Eucharist on this day (Jeremiah 31:15-17)

Thus says the LORD:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.

Thus says the LORD:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the LORD:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the LORD:
your children shall come back to their own country.

Blessed are they who believe what the LORD has promised --there is hope for your future, your children shall come back to their own country.

Hey God, it's margaret... --hope is such an odd thing.... So very different from reconciliation... perhaps hope is the parent of reconciliation? --hope gives birth to faith, even? In this frontier of hope, there is the borderland of the holy --which is as un-nameable as, well, you know.... I guess this is why I like Mary, because she wept the tears of Rachel without hope and saw her life's work --her best art hung to die on a tree of shame. And still she chose love. --still she chose proximity to the risk and death. --still she witnessed. --she didn't run. To tell the truth God, she, not you --not Jesus, SHE opened the door to faithful living for me... because, she knows... Rachel's tears. --but, you know that already. Anyway, I pray for those who live without hope, who have lost hope, and I wrap the mantle of hope about my shoulders, yeah --I know, it's a shabby little thing against all the elements of grief --but it wipes away the tears of Rachel --is stained with grief like wine on linen --is worn like a stole --it's all I have --and a sign that I shall hold you to your promise --there is hope for your future, your children shall come back to their own country.... I shall hold you to your promise.

Yes. I. Shall.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ode to St. John

--things are germinating. Although it is winter, the compass of light pierces the dark, life is already at work deep underground. All that unseen that brings new life never rests --needs no rest, as All that unseen that brings new life has been restless since before time... before light and dark, earth and sea uttered their cacophony --before the sun and stars and moon gave hymn to the sky....

Joy is the mouth of the source of that restless All.
Yes it is.
And it is moving deep in my bones, new connective tissue bone to bone.
New life out of the chaos....
Not drawn and quartered by compass --but boundless, limitless

At prayer this morning (Proverbs 8:22-30)
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth -
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world's first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always.

--and what joy/rejoicing it is indeed to share in that life, in that delight --to have that life at work in me! And you! What merit is there in us to share in the foundation of all?

Hey God, it's margaret. Today you make yourself known anew again. Today we remember St. John who saw in ecstasy only the red hem of your inner garment --because who can look at you and not explode?! Today I remember the people of St. John, Eagle Butte who weave the warp and weft of hope. --and between hope and joy, there are dry bones bereft of manna --bereft of bereft of air --but dry bones stand, the rocks and stars alike sing, and earth itself erupts with bread and the fruit of the vine, and become the flesh and blood of your own body --begotten for time. Our time. Before light and dark you made time to bear the burden... because how else will we know you? Eternal every moment.


Such is my Ode to St. John.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Stuffed squirrel butt and other thoughts about our enemies on St. Stephen's Day

Okay --I have now slept with stuffed squirrel butt in my face... himself just won't let go of it.

And that's about as close as any of us can come to touching this marvelous squirrel, except when he wants me to throw it for him --so that he can chase it kill it... --and, it has been killed more times in the last 24 hours than I know how to count --if you know what I mean. Terrible growls and pitiful squeaks. Thank you M for such a wonderful toy!

And after a wonderful midnite mass at historic Fork Church, we slept in and had the laziest Christmas Day evah! It was great --first Christmas in about 25 years that one or the other or both of us didn't call Christmas a working day, or didn't have a death we needed to tend, or a hospital to visit --we just talked and ate and talked and napped. Mr. Witty killing his squirrel between us. It was and in so many ways has been a wonderful sabbatical --but I am remembering, and I am so ready to get back to work.

Today is the day we remember St. Stephen --a servant of the people, stoned to death --approved by the one who would become St. Paul.... Funny how that works.

At prayer this morning (Acts 7:59-8:8)
While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.

And Saul approved of their killing him.

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

I am remembering this morning a sermon I heard at St. Gregory's of Nyssa --shortly after 9/11 and it was a question in the sermon that stunned me --the preacher said that many comfortable liberals were having a hard time with 9/11 because they couldn't believe that somebody could hate them so much and want them dead --or want them "to pay".... or many comfortable liberals were stunned because they were lumped together with the Demon West, despite the fact that they themselves did not cop to the motives nor the events that have been perpetrated in our name for the past --oh, century or more.

But the preacher said, 'Do you know your enemies? --have no doubt --you are hated, and there are people who want to kill you simply for being an American. You have enemies.'

I do not remember how the preacher resolved it, but this morning I am remembering the witness of St. Stephen. He did what we are all called to do --incarnate love and reconciliation. Even with those who hate us. Even with those who wish to kill us.

So not easy. And just because one loves, one should not expect love in return. That is not the way it seems to work...

But, St. Stephen's witness to love and reconciliation may have been the first chink out of Saul's deadly armor....

--we need to lay aside our own self-defence and pick up love. Unabashed love. Love for the whole world. Love even for our enemies.

Hey God, --it's margaret. I suppose that becomes easier? And does that mean that a sign of the Kingdom is that even Mr. Witty won't pretend to kill squirrels?
Oh, alright.... Amen.

Merry Christmas every body!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

How to rescue da bebe Jesus from T-Rex!

Merry Christmas everybody!

G'wan. Go to church!

Merry Christmas!!!!

This is why Jesus, God incarnate, was born in a manger among the animals --because they set the example for us about God --knowing what we know, feeling what we feel:

I tried to find the medieval hymn that tells of God among the animals first, but I couldn't find it....

Oh well!!!

God with us!
God has moved in to the neighborhood and pitched a tent among us!
God knows what we know. All of it.
The whole creation and the divine are One.
There is no God "out there" --God is with us! --among us!
(so freakin' radical, God is)
Not the cosmos poured in to a human vessel like oil and water --but made One!
God's wish when God spoke the Word in the very beginning,
perfected --the eighth day of Creation,
God's hope and dream for us made manifest....

(Matthew 1:18-25)
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call him Emmanuel,"

which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Mary said yes. Joseph said yes.
God is with us!
Amen! Alleluia!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I am so ready

Met with the real estate guy this morning... taking a hit and bringing the price of the house down by almost 10%... trying to get it to move before we do. And then got a surprise showing this morning, so we had to hide our still unpacked suitcases, pile the dirty clothes in to the car and take off... --forgot to start the dishwasher. Oh well....

And we're going through the house, deciding what things to sell... we're gonna sell some big things that we bought for the big house --our first and probably only grown up house... evah.

But my mind and heart and soul are already in the wide open plains of South Dakota --where pianos and cabinets and all those unnecessary big things were dumped by so many on the their trek west --a wasteland of things which littered the spare but grand shoulders and foreheads of the hills... the eye of God blighted. And the signs of that old life of those who trekked west ruptured under the weight of the sun, broken under the mantle of snow, and piece by piece succumbed to the grass and wind.

It will be so for us. Leaving what we thought we valued, and finding what we truly need. Unmade. Remade.

And I am so ready. So. Ready.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 96)

Sing to the LORD a new song; *
sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.
Sing to the LORD and bless his Name; *
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations *
and his wonders among all peoples.

For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; *
he is more to be feared than all gods.
As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *
but it is the LORD who made the heavens.

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *
Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!
Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples; *
ascribe to the LORD honor and power.
Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name; *
bring offerings and come into his courts.
Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations: "The LORD is King! *
he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity."
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the LORD when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness *
and the peoples with his truth.

The day of judgment is upon us --and that judgment is love. Incarnate love. God's self. Like us. Always love.

And I am so ready! Alleluia!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

redeemed from the curse by becoming a curse....

At morning prayer (Galatians 3:10-14)
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law."

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them."

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" - in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Lord have mercy --unpack that!

The law is maintained/obeyed only by threat of curse? --therefor, faith is all the more righteous? --Jesus is a curse for us, an incarnate curse is a new take on things, heh? --and by taking on the curse (of the law?), the promise to Abraham is fulfilled? --and we are redeemed by faith... ??

I mean, wow... .

Striving to live by faith... frankly, is there anything else? We live in a sacramental way --sacraments being the tangible/physical/real of that to which they sign/point --real things which break through/bridge the veil that separates the bodily from all else... in faith.

Enough of curses... which are only announcing aloud that which is already true --pronouncing reality.... The law itself is not a curse; it is a first gift of a way to live. But, we in response to this first gift have drawn the lines and pronounced the curse, announced the threat --this way or die. So there is no way through except to take on the curse --having faith that all shall be redeemed... our own Passover... which has now already been accomplished for us. In faith.

Can't hold on to faith. Can't grasp it. Harder to 'do' than the law... which is immutable for all time.... But faith --a living faith is ever changing.

Which is why He stood at the mouth of the womb of the earth, the ruptured cave of rock, and said, don't hold on to me... stand up...

It is His faith we are called to live --His faith we are called follow --His faith we are called to sign, embody, be living sacraments of... joining him in becoming the living bearers of the curse, to free others from the crucible of curse because we know in faith that we are already free.

Hey God, it's margaret. You have already thrown our sin as far away as east is from west. Why is that so hard to believe? We have only made new curses to outline faith in the sign of the cross --instead of it being a sign of our own Passover. So. Thank you. Give me courage to walk in faith. Amen.

And a Chanukkah Sameakh to our older brothers and sisters in Abraham... --a revolution against assimilation...

Keeping the good people of Cheyenne River in my prayers. We are coming soon!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So much to learn....

When we left for South Dakota, Mr. Witty stayed at Uncle B's house --"Camp B" !! I think a good time was had by all (and we are so very grateful to Uncle B!) --but all day yesterday my mama's-boy dog slept with one eye open on me, and if I moved, he moved --if I went in to the kitchen, he did too --when I went upstairs, he did too --poor Mr. Witty.... I don't think he understands yet that we are moving to a place where he would be nothing more than lunch for those big birds that fly around up there... I've tried to tell him about alley cats too --but he never paid any attention to me. Guess it will be on me to protect my silly little dog from the eagles and other birds of prey. And the Rez Dogs.... And the wind.... And the snow banks!!!

We have so much to learn.

Like, on Sunday, the hymns were sung in Dakota, because that it the language some of the hymns from the 1940 Hymnal were translated into. But the people I will serve speak Lakota (different dialect), so some of the folks were singing in Lakota although it was written in Dakota....

Thank goodness I knew the music. At least I could hum along!

The familiar undone and remade totally new again. And then some.

On Friday we travelled all day --in the car, going around to most of the churches on the east side of the Reservation. We turned off the highway that cuts through the center of the Reservation (highway --mind you, we passed maybe a dozen other vehicles in a hundred miles), and to my surprise, even though it was marked as major thoroughfare on the map, it was a gravel road. And we went further and further and further and further out on these gravel roads. D, who was with us (Full-of-Grace-D I say in my head), knew who else was out traveling because he knows all the cars. We met the missioner for the Reservation just to the north (Standing Rock) --we shared a meal and were taught how to shake hands Lakota way. Yes. Even that is different --not the broad, present yourself strong shake we are taught. Humility is the key --so a 'shake' is a soft touching of the fingers... or something close to that.

So much to learn....

I remember when we moved to the desert, the desert imagery in the Scriptures took on a whole new meaning. While there just this weekend, the imagery of wilderness, family, tribe and nation had a sudden depth hidden from us....

At morning prayer (Job 42:1-6)
Then Job answered the LORD:

I know that thou can do all things
and that no purpose is beyond thee.
But I have spoken of great things which I have not understood,
things too wonderful for me to know.
I knew of thee then only by report,
but now I see thee with my own eyes.
Therefore I melt away;
I repent in dust and ashes.

Yeah --what Job said. --great things which I have not understood... I repent --I do a 1-80... turn all the way around. But this I do know --this little collect for the Beauty of the Earth needs morphing --it reads:

For the Beauty of the Earth
We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea; for the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers. We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for our posterity. Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and for ever. Amen.

Perhaps it could read: We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth, sky and sea; for the gift of mountains, plains, and rivers; for the vision of the eagle and the power of the wind and snow and sun; for all our Relatives. We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard and honor them with all our life. Grant that we may continue to grow in our gratitude of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and for ever.


Yeppa. Peace out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A BIG Announcement!!!

At morning prayer (A Canticle: A Song of Faith) 1 Peter 1:3-4,18-21
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, *
by divine mercy we have a new birth into a living hope;
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, *
we have an inheritance that is imperishable in heaven.
The ransom that was paid to free us *
was not paid in silver or gold,
But in the precious blood of Christ, *
the Lamb without spot or stain.
God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory *
so that we might have faith and hope in God.

In this house, I pronounce --Advent is over, our waiting is accomplished. We have a new birth, a living hope --an inheritance imperishable --not in silver or gold --by no means... but a holy invitation to join a people in ministry --a new life, a new way...

--in a landscape as fierce as it is holy

--not at all barren nor plain to those who know how to move about in fierce landscapes, who know how to seek and see Their Relatives all around.... Yes, that is one of the images --a winter image of my new parish above... but only one. There are more--especially the faces of the people and the images I carry now in my heart. Later --because right now we are still rejoicing in awe --trembling in anticipation to join those who are already at work in this holy place.

As soon as we are able, we will move, and I will begin the work of Priest for the Episcopal Mission on the Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota, home to Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, bands of Mnicoujou, Siha Sapa, Oohenumpa, and Itazipco peoples. There are six churches and more "stations" in an area approximately the size of Connecticut.

We will live in Eagle Butte, on the Reservation, in the rectory of St. John's --this is the church

--and I will be a circuit rider to the other worship places, sometimes doing up to three or maybe more services on a Sunday --gathering with the people of Emmanuel in White Horse, --Ascension, Blackfoot and St. Peter's Thunder Butte --to give thanks to God and share bread and wine

These are images already published in the Diocesan pages --Later, and with their permission, I will introduce you to the people who welcomed us so warmly and made us feel at home.

I cannot express well enough in words the profound joy I feel. --and yes, there will be challenges. But I heard over and again the people say that they were poor, but not in any of the ways that matter.

With the welcome we received, I believe that --with all my heart. Depending upon what and where you read it, Cheyenne River Reservation is either the third or fourth poorest place (in $$) in the U.S., has limited access to medical care, devastating high school graduation rates, suicide rates through the roof, and bear the burden of our national history... ---so many challenges...

--and they open the doors of the church in Eagle Butte and feed people --bless, baptize and bury people, open the doors in White Horse and give children a warm place to play and receive bags of peanuts and candy...

--and have asked me to be their priest, live in their midst, and share in their ministry.
And I said, Yes.


WOPILA!! Pilamaye!!!! Wopila heca ksto!!!!
(Thanks!) (Thank you!) (Thanks, all of you!)

In this house, I pronounce --Advent is over, our waiting is accomplished. We have a new birth, a living hope --an inheritance imperishable --not in silver or gold --by no means... but a holy invitation to join a people in ministry --a new life, a new way!!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday, Monday

At morning prayer (Titus 1:15-16)

To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Bingo. Ain't that the truth. Read that while listening to the corn and soy bean profit forecasts... imagine purposefully NOT planting something to make it more scarce and drive the cost up so that you can then sell your warehouse full...

That's just wrong.

I will be thinking on this as we begin the 15 hour journey back to where our stuff is....

Traveling mercies.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

Despite great harm, being thrown out, abandonment --even death...

...she said YES.

So should we all.
G'wan. Go to church. Practice saying yes. Despite the risks.

Image found here.

the far horizon and words in this space are like insects in the grass

Yesterday, we drove twelve hours around a country with God so present, there was no place to hide.

Seriously. And I was reminded at prayer this morning (Psalm 139:1-17)

LORD, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O LORD, know it altogether.
You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,"
Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.

For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
My body was not hidden from you, *
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book; *
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.

How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *
how great is the sum of them!
If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; *
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Ohhhhh --the collects offered in prayer today are quite good:

Collect of the Day: William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart, Prophetic Witnesses, 1879

God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom: We thank you for your prophets William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart, who testified that we are made not by the color of our skin but by the principle formed in our soul. Fill us, like them, with the hope and determination to break every chain of enslavement, that bondage and ignorance may melt like wax before flames, and we may build that community of justice and love which is founded on Jesus Christ our cornerstone; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Collect of Ember Day: For All Christians in their vocation

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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.

For Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Sometimes grace is so overwhelming.

Hey God --it's margaret. --it's love, it's all love. And when the horizon is unimaginably far, and you are so present, words become like a movement in the grass, a small insect... it's still amazing that we are brash enough to think you care. But it is the far horizon and the words like an insect in the grass which become so closely intertwined that only love is possible. Thank you. Alleluia! Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dear prayer companions of the Way --embarked yesterday on seventeen hours of travel of which I will not yet speak (but I will soon), and it is only later today that I will reach the destination. My Grandmother is from this place... it shaped and formed her in ways that I am only now beginning to comprehend. I no longer think she was joking when she talked about being from strong stock --being hooked up herself to the plow when the horses couldn't/wouldn't pull any more.

And --oh the stars last night... my long lost friends.

At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 40)
I waited patiently upon the LORD; *
he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; *
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God...

--the high cliffs where people seek visions of the holy stand guard here...

--and this morning... dawn pink like the sunset... you know what they say about that...

--a hymn my sisters taught me:

Day is a-breaking in my soul. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In transit

Collect of the Day: John Horden, Missionary Bishop in Canada, 1893

Creator God, whose hands hold the storehouses of the snow and the gates of the sea, and from whose Word springs forth all that is: We bless your holy Name for the intrepid witness of your missionary John Horden, who followed your call to serve the Cree and Inuit nations of the North. In all the places we travel, may we, like him, proclaim your Good News and draw all into communion with you through your Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Collect of the Day: Robert McDonald, Priest, 1913

God of ice, sea and sky, you called your servant Robert McDonald and made him strong to endure all hardships for the sake of serving you in the Arctic: Send us forth as laborers into your harvest, that by patience in our duties and compassion in our dealings, many may be gathered to your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Hmmmmmm..... interesting.

Traveling mercies --

Canticle: The Song of Mary
Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Patron Saint of All Guilt Trips at the table with John of the Cross

"Do you want some more coffee," I asked.

"No, thanks," he said.

I turned and spoke to the dog. "See, he doesn't like my coffee. If he liked me and liked my coffee, he would want more. I counted out each ground special, just for him."

He begins to giggle and then laugh, and the coffee remaining in his cup threatened to jump out and run down his shirt. "Hello Mama," he said, --Mama being the name of our Patron Saint of All Guilt Trips. "I suppose you counted and dried each ground for re-use."

"Oh, no," I said. "I only use the fresh grounds for your coffee." Oh, how we laughed! Spilled breakfast....

That shouldn't be funny because we both know it so intimately, but it is --great heel-kicking in the air funny. Our fond offering to the Patron Saint of All Guilt Trips, knowing full well that my own Mama be in heaven looking down chiming in, saying her favorite line --"Don't worry about me. Turn the lights down low. I can see to sew 'til dawn...." And Joel's own Mama, introduced to the joke, would be tickled pink as well --laughing and slapping her knee. Because they both knew and appreciated and offered prayers through the Patron Saint of All Guilt Trips too... B.I.G. prayers.

--or perhaps in this case, an offering through the Patron Saint of All Snark Who Shall Remain Nameless....

We do try to make good offerings --yes we do --right from the soul offerings.

Poor Mr. Witty --he has never understood what to offer, when to genuflect or burn incense --which order of Patron Saints is greater than the other. I try to explain.... What I do know is that he is protestant enough that he never offers his cookies nor his toys!

Poor Mr. Witty.... --and his only hymn sung with the Sirens that pass by the house on occasion, wailing....

However, Mr. Witty says he fully understands.... It's we humans who don't get the dance....

At prayer this morning (Psalm 49)
Hear this, all you peoples;
hearken, all you who dwell in the world, *
you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.
My mouth shall speak of wisdom, *
and my heart shall meditate on understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb *
and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

Why should I be afraid in evil days, *
when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,
The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods, *
and boast of their great riches?
We can never ransom ourselves, *
or deliver to God the price of our life;
For the ransom of our life is so great, *
that we should never have enough to pay it,
In order to live for ever and ever, *
and never see the grave.

For we see that the wise die also;
like the dull and stupid they perish *
and leave their wealth to those who come after them.
Their graves shall be their homes for ever,
their dwelling places from generation to generation, *
though they call the lands after their own names.
Even though honored, they cannot live for ever; *
they are like the beasts that perish.

Such is the way of those who foolishly trust in themselves, *
and the end of those who delight in their own words.
Like a flock of sheep they are destined to die;
Death is their shepherd; *
they go down straightway to the grave.
Their form shall waste away, *
and the land of the dead shall be their home.

But God will ransom my life; *
he will snatch me from the grasp of death.

Do not be envious when some become rich, *
or when the grandeur of their house increases;
For they will carry nothing away at their death, *
nor will their grandeur follow them.
Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived, *
and were praised for their success,
They shall join the company of their forebears, *
who will never see the light again.

Those who are honored, but have no understanding, *
are like the beasts that perish.

Mr. Witty says, 'Nope --beasts understand. Don't insult my type --my order of being with a human condition. Do your hope thing,' he says... 'You are better at hope than understanding.'

I hope --I hope... I hope in this third week of Advent... I hope....

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

(From East Coker, T.S. Eliot --From the second of the Quartets.)

Oh dear.... crash bang.

Full circle.

(Shakes my head I do) --Yes, we can and will laugh and kick our heels and make our best offering to the Patron Saints of Guilt and Snark and have all the other guests at the table --like the Patron Saints of Death and Birth --and Hope and Love --and Stillness and Dancing --not binary at all, because at The Feast the Light and the Darkness once again united as it was in the beginning before the naming began, before God even spoke... All One. A spinning stillness. A light dark.

There. My little offering for John of the Cross, and the dark night of the soul.


Oh, and hey --I am preparing to wear these while I preach and preside this weekend:

Good to -25 degrees... yeah --that's below zero. Please keep me in your prayers!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The parable of Goldilocks and Three Bears

At morning prayer (Revelation 3:14-22)
"And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation:

"I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
" are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot....

--the dangerous art of the pew-sitter, couch potato, the one who knows but does nothing with the nudges and pushes of the call from God... lukewarm.... Kinda like Goldilocks... we shouldn't want it "just right" because otherwise we will find ourselves unawares in the house of the Three Bears. Huh --there we go again... the Gospel in a parable --the parable of the Three Bears....

Don't be caught unawares --as it said in the gospel in morning prayer --the time will come --don't be caught unaware....

If you are stuck in bed, unable to rise, you can still answer the nudges and pushes --pray --especially for others, write, call folks, share what you have.

If you love your job (or not), and/or you are gainfully employed (or not), create your list of prayers (especially for others) and on that morning break pray them, or pray them over lunch quietly without fuss, or put your prayers on your iPod/Pad and before you do what ever with it, pray them quietly without fuss --write a quick note to someone or ten minutes on that book you want to write, instead of going to the gym stop at the local shelter or food pantry and do what they ask you to do --once a week, once a month --make it a family event, share what you have --serve together.

If you are free to respond. Do it.

And, yes, these words knocked me out of my comfort zone this morning... right up the back side of the head. They are not romantic. They are not 'just right.' They are H.O.T.

Hey God --it's margaret here. You know the matters of the heart. Help us all discern those nudges and pushes and be not lukewarm and Goldilockish in our response. Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe --Mother of All

At morning prayer (the first line of Psalm 41)

Happy are they who consider the poor and needy!

It is Our Lady of Guadalupe today! No wonder the roses were blooming all around town... 'splains everything.

Here is a taste, in English...

--and introduction...

And here's one to dance to process around the block...

or --ya gotta love the angel and her harp!

Blessed be the Mother of All, who intercedes for us, who knows us only as a mother can know us; whose heart was broken with love for love, pierced first by the Spirit in fear and grace; who risked rejection and even death for the sake of incomprehensible life; who toppled thrones and powers and even death with her simple YES. Blessed be the Mother of All.

Canticle: The Song of Mary
Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

Do you know how to live the good news?!

In all seriousness --G'wan, go to church –it is the third Sunday of Advent –
Do you know the name of this Sunday?
In the real olden times –it was called Gaudate Sunday.
In English, that translates to 'Rejoice ye',
or in these parts, Rejoice all y’all! Rejoice!
The church in her wisdom has given us the chance
to light a pink candle, for heaven’s sake
–and the chance to practice joy! Today! All Week!

If we are going to be able to tell the good news to the oppressed,
we must believe the good news with all our heart,
all our mind, all our soul, all our life! –our whole being!
In order to face the headlines of the news reports,
to face the poor—to be poor, to be with those who mourn,
we must already know that the one who is already among us,
is coming again
and again, and again and again –so many times in our lives!
And we must be ready to tell of that joy to those seeking truth,
seeking faith, seeking the answer,
and tell it again and again and again!

So, live the good news and practice joy this week!
And know that the one who is coming,
Is already among us!
Again. And again. And again!

Find your Joy to the Weird here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

the wilderness blooms

At morning prayer, a Canticle: A Song of the Wilderness (Isaiah 35:1-7,10)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, *
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
It shall blossom abundantly, *
and rejoice with joy and singing.
They shall see the glory of the Lord, *
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weary hands, *
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to the anxious, "Be strong, do not fear! *
Here is your God, coming with judgment to save you."
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, *
and the ears of the deaf be unstopped.
Then shall the lame leap like a deer, *
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness *
and streams in the desert;
The burning sand shall become a pool *
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
The ransomed of God shall return with singing, *
with everlasting joy upon their heads.
Joy and gladness shall be theirs, *
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

If you have never seen the desert bloom, you should --one day. A wilderness of dry sand and brittle rocks turns in to a fragile fragrant carpet --and the thorny dessicated scabbard-like remains of life that pierce the sand and break the rocks, put forth blooms that shame the gaudy domesticated wanna-be's.

The wilderness does that.

Off I go --busy today. Remembering Karl Barth and Thomas Merton in my thanksgivings.

The wilderness. Blooms.
There's hope for ya.

Friday, December 9, 2011

On Hope --Advent Hope --Swiss Cheese Hope

I have resisted hope.

I have refused to dream dreams or see visions of a better world.

I am no longer sure if all things will work together for good, especially for those that love the Lord.

Oh man... this was speaking right to my center, in the crazy news of the slaughter on Virginia Tech yesterday --and another police shooting on the freeway... on the heels of more local deaths and disasters... all so tragic. In a tragic world overcome with division, greed and sadness.... So, I continued reading:

I resisted. I was a conscientious objector to the notion that God came to the aid of those searching for keys to the car but remained absent in the face of tragedy. To do otherwise, I thought, would be to affirm a God with either a pathologically skewed moral compass or a palliative God fabricated by uncritical minds who believe that all things happen to the glory of God, including the fatal brain tumor of a small child, including the drowning of a teenager in a marshy slough, including the loss of a home, including crippling poverty and hunger.

Slam dunk in my swiss-cheese field of hope. He continues:

I resisted hope because I did not know that for Christians hope is not intended to be some facile disposition of optimistic belief in the future but a self-emptying spiritual practice to develop. And I had no know idea how to develop this practice of hope.

Oh yes... I had almost forgotten. I feel that perhaps I have become superficial in my practice of hope --that in the pain and uproar of my own life, I have only been scratching about on the surface, and have almost forgotten how to turn inside out...

Ultimately, if we aim to continue in the ways of Christ, we must develop the discipline of hope.

But hope is a volatile business and a difficult practice in our world. When we resist hope, we resist the second comings of Christ, the returns of God, toward which Advent calls us. But that is not all. When we resist hope, we also resist being disappointed with God. And we will be disappointed, make no mistake. Our hope in God, if not God, will fail.

To truly develop the practice of hope, we must confront and embrace this disillusionment with God, the failures of God, the long delay of God, the absence of God. Unless we do, we are condemning ourselves to delusional saccharine spirituality, a false hope that will wither in times of anguish, turmoil, and loss. But a hope that also can mourn the loss of hope is a beginning of a deeply centered Christian practice.

And if we can manage to endure and mourn the loss of hope in God and in ourselves, perhaps then we can begin the process, like Abraham and Sarah, of hoping against all hope.

Find it all here. Today, I will practice putting that deep business of hope first --being willing to sit with the disillusionment, the longing, no God that I can grasp and hold --that deep business of pouring out and mourning hope and God so that I may begin to remember to hope against all hope, to move beyond the business of mere hope...

Thank you for that Mr. Henson.

At morning prayer (Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10, 13)
Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for evermore.

--O Lamb that was slain... Oh yes, we must cure and temper our hope in Christ's hope...

There we are. Amen.
Showing the house today --off I go.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We have let flowers become a burden

Flowers as a near overwhelming burden.... Thank you Diego Rivera (and happy birthday to you!)

We lost power last night in the Great Storm that passed through. Lost the power during dinner (which wasn't much --tried to make a fake pesto with spinach --yuck!), so we lit the candles, held and comforted poor Mr. Witty who was terrified at the sound of the wind which was shaking windows, doors and chimney tops trying to find a way in. And we went to bed, still without power. Quite the storm.

It was fun just to sit and talk --no distractions... Joel kept saying, "Poor Abe Lincoln --had to spend every night by candlelight... poor ol' Abe."

Silly Joel.

There are some around town who are still without power.

(That shouldn't be a big deal... Some in the world live without power all the time... I think quietly to myself in prayer. Sigh...)

I have been thinking about solidarity. A lot. Because we celebrate God in human flesh in a few weeks from now... Talk about solidarity --in the flesh --even solidarity in death.

So, solidarity... I have been thinking about solidarity with the Cross. Solidarity with the Resurrection. I mean wow --a priestly people indeed. But where do we usually fall short? --Solidarity with the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the bullied.... Living one night without power is not solidarity --it is not even a taste... it is only and merely living one night without power. So, is mission work solidarity? --No, it is visiting with hands full of grace and gifts, but it is not solidarity. Solidarity is moving in to the 'hood, and truly living there. As life is lived there.

And, God did not choose solidarity with privilege, wealth, prestige, power.... No, he said this:

(offered at prayer this morning, Matthew 23:13-26)
[Jesus said] "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

"Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.' You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, 'Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.' How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean."

Yowza. Quite a rant... and he's not done there. He goes on for a while --calling them like a grave, clean and pretty on the outside and full of death and rotting bones on the inside. No wonder they wanted to shut him up.

How does one truly, truly, really live in solidarity with the Gospel --especially these 'woe' bits? Or, are they directed at us --all. ? Like a soap box preacher yelling at the street corner... hard to avoid....

Me thinks (and Joel confirms) there is another way to hear these woes, other than the soap box preacher yelling --other than condemnation. It is a lament --the wail of grief from the mouth of God Incarnate --a parent telling their kids to look twice before they cross the street, not to drive drunk or while texting --knowing that some will anyway.... It is the ken of paradise alongside us... and our refusal to step out of our ruts in to solidarity with God.

God is howling at the moon --lamenting --grieving ---aiyyyeeee --o woe, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.... o woe...

We have let flowers become an overwhelming burden... been stingy with the gifts given us... tried to sell them for profit.

Lord have mercy....

Solidarity. In the flesh. God howling at the moon on our behalf.... it's a blessed Advent. Yes. It is.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

(Shakes her head in dismay...) Let's just get on with it already

Remembering the anniversary of Pearl Harbor in my prayers --known to me through my mother who spoke of the day with somber dread. She mostly remembered to me the days that followed --the utter fear --and the disappearance of classmates--friends as they were then shipped off to concentration camps, their only crime --being Japanese and living in California.

I am remembering our present day and all those who are automatically suspect --their only crime --'being brown while driving' is the line that keeps ringing in my ears. (And for whatever it's worth, we've seen it played out in front of our eyes --not as an endorsement --O God NO, but look at Cain --run out of presidential contention for his sexual exploitation of women.... Hello?! And Gingrich? How is he better? --with his serial marriages --extramarital affairs, and resignation from Congress because of ethics violations --and he's given a hoopla fest?! He wouldn't be driving if he were brown.... What hypocrisy....)

(Shakes her head in dismay...)

Remembering M & Juan Manuel. And A. The poor and broken of this world.

Remembering what is to come in the months ahead. Praying for awareness, eyes wide open and honest grace-filled discernment.

Remembering the future buyer of this house. Hurry home.

Remembering those at the parish I served.

Remembering how I read Psalm 38 most every day for the nine months I did chemotherapy --lines like
My loins are filled with searing pain; *
there is no health in my body.
I am utterly numb and crushed; *
I wail, because of the groaning of my heart.
O Lord, you know all my desires, *
and my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me, *
and the brightness of my eyes is gone from me.
My friends and companions draw back from my affliction; *
my neighbors stand afar off.

--helped me speak aloud the truth of the social isolation of illness, of the bodily pain and raw truth one knows standing at the edge of death... Psalm 38 taught me grace because it is so unrelenting, never turning the corner to thank or praise God. Psalm 38 is utter despair. So, I read it daily. From the belly of the beast. Thankful for the ancient voice that did not deny nor denigrate my pain. And, as I was able, added my own words of gloria patri....

Remembering my beloved. Having known him for forty years now. How'd that happen?


At prayer this morning (Revelation 22:12-17)
"Behold, I am coming soon," says the Lord,
"and bringing my reward with me, *
to give to everyone according to their deeds.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, *
the beginning and the end."
Blessed are those who do God's commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life, *
and may enter the city through the gates.
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you, *
with this testimony for all the churches.
"I am the root and the offspring of David, *
I am the bright morning star."
"Come!" say the Spirit and the Bride; *
"Come!" let each hearer reply!
Come forward, you who are thirsty, *
let those who desire take the water of life as a gift.

Hey God, it's margaret. I'm holding you to your word --that part, you know --behold, I am coming soon bit, because these readings of doom and end times for morning prayer are likely to drive me quite nuts. I am ready to dance. O. So. Ready. To. Dance. So, getting ready. To. Dance. Amen.

PS --I was going to the jail today, to feed and be fed, to make thanksgiving from the pit, but got a call --the multi-purpose room where I pray with the women (the men have a chapel, the women don't) has been re-booked so that the architects and planners can meet with staff regarding the plan for the new jail... I said I would be glad to meet with them too... but my offer was graciously declined. So, I am remembering the women of the jail today. And all the architects of their imprisonment. Amen.

(Shakes her head in dismay...) Let's just get on with it already. Oh. Wait. It's Advent.... Dang.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

we can only pray that our brokenness will become like...

Occupy Richmond is still camped out in the front yard (it's a big front yard) of the publisher, Raymond H. Boone, of Richmond's historic black newspaper, the Richmond Free Press. (Go to p6A) The mayor, Dwight C. Jones, is up in arms --with round the clock police protection, stirring up the neighbors to press charges of unlawful use etc... which has brought attention to the chief of police, Bryan T. Norwood --and discussion of whether he has overstepped his bounds and is abusing his authority.... The mayor of Richmond is black; the publisher Boone is black; Chief Norwood is black....

A city --a community at odds with itself. Word is that all Occupy movements in Virginia will converge on the Capitol this weekend... Wonder how that will dovetail with the filming of Lincoln which is making a mish-mash of downtown right now.... The background noise to all that is the deal struck to make the film happen here --taxes forgiven and all that kind of thing.

--just the very kind of capital privilege at the Capitol that OWS-Virginia is all about.

And, hey there was this news about an Episcopal Bishop --retired Bishop of the Armed Forces and is facilitating conversation between Trinity Wall Street and the Occupy Wall Street groups:
[Retired Armed Forces Episcopal Bishop and former US Marine officer] Packer’s first contact with OWS was periodically providing jugs of water from Costco for protesters. Late one night, he was wearing his clerical collar and dropping off water for the kitchen “working group” at Zuccotti Park when a police officer detained and nearly arrested him. In that moment, he said, “I was converted from a casual observer to a committed supporter of this movement. I think these young people are onto something. I think there is an anger in all of this for justice, that aches for some justice.”

“Something clicked in me” that night, he said. “These kids aren’t being heard. … This is no unemployed bunch of deadbeats. These are folks who are focused about the lack of fairness and equity and the ache for justice.”

Packer subsequently became involved with the movement’s direct action working group and began fostering negotiations between protesters and Trinity about the Duarte Square property. He also agreed to speak at the Dec. 3 event, scheduled as an Advent service.

--a Church at odds with itself... and perhaps with the Gospel itself... in so many ways. I mean, we pray today:

Collect of the Day: Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342
Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

--emphasis mine... --and yes, that would be St. Nick. Good. Ol. Saint. Nick. Your list of things the church ought do may be different (I think mine would be cultivating Joy in children instead of happiness...) --but it's a fine place to start. As fine as any --especially the relief of the poor and the help of those tossed about.

I feel like riding the back of Trinity Wall Street --begging them to do more (yes, they have been some help) to the Occupiers of Wall Street. It is almost too bad that more light has not been focused on the church --it's good and poor moves, with the OWS movement. Perhaps it is just one bishop at a time... one soul at a time....

Oh God... I ache... with the Gospel...
--and the words of my friend at lunch yesterday ring in my ears --No one's motives are ever pure; and then I said to myself, we can only pray that our brokenness will become like the strength of broken bread... or wine poured out....

Okay. I've said my prayers --time to get to work.
Peace out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gold rush and the Sadducees romp

At prayer this morning (Matthew 22:23-33)
The same day some Sadducees came to Jesus, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.' Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her."

Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God not of the dead, but of the living."

And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.

I know it's a funny thing to remember... but it does work.... Today is the anniversary of the day President Polk triggered the Gold Rush to California... by announcing (in 1848) gold had been found in a stream bed in northern California... by the spring of 1849 tens of thousands of men from all over the world rushed in to dig what they could out of the earth by any means --wreaking havoc.

My own people were among that rush. One returned for his wife and family, dragged them west to California from Wisconsin where they had settled for mining after several decades in Brazil and other places around the globe... a child died from snake bite on the way west... They settled in a deep valley high in the mountains. She made money cooking food for the miners --probably made more money than her miner husband. She was one of three or four women in the mountains --among thousands of men.... Including her brother and his family...

She died, suddenly, as did her brother.... So, her husband (my father's father's father's father) married his dead wife's dead brother's wife --blended the family --ten kids or something... in a small cabin on a south-facing slope in a ravine in the Sierra Nevada --near what became Quincy, California.

Yeah --so, who was married to whom in the resurrection? Whose children were they?

Knowing that marriage had as much to do with possession and possessions --consolidation of wealth, family covenants, heirs and bloodlines and all the like --this morning I am hearing a new thing in the words of Jesus --not about marriage or resurrection... --but that we are indeed the Lord's possession --like the angels --we don't belong to one another....

In all things, in all ways, at all times our life does not belong to husbands, wives, children, the government, or any other power....

We belong to the Lord of the living. The Lord of life.
And in that --we are free. An exodus from the slavery of must do, should do, conformity, expectations--- At liberty from all that the world calls sin... and death.

So, how shall we live?

I have major life decisions ahead in the next few weeks --responding to 'how shall we live' --all of it good. And in so many ways, the responses are so very clear... I ask for your prayers.

My prayers exult with love for MP,A,AP,B,J,K,B,J,M,K,R,S,J,D --for those alive in the Lord K,J,A,S,B,A,R --for the women in the jail....

--how shall we live?


Saturday, December 3, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

From 2 Peter 3, to be read this Lord's Day:
--the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?

Oh.... I can think of all sorts of person I ought to be....

G'wan. Go to church. And remember that God kinda thought he oughta check out this person stuff... and he chose poor, born among the animals, marginalized, homeless and took on religion and politics and power without any of the above... --and ain't that amazing!?

That's an awful lotta oughta... Time to get ready!
Oh, and it's John the Baptizer's Sunday -whooohooo!!!

--there are things worse than running from a lion and meeting a bear --and being the walking dead is high among them

I couldn't decide which part --I kept wandering around in the words saying to myself, this part, no this part, no this part... and decided to post the whole thing:

At prayer this morning (Amos 5:18-27)
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.

Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You shall take up Sakkuth your king, and Kaiwan your star-god, your images, which you made for yourselves; therefore I will take you into exile beyond Damascus, says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.

The Day of the Lord is utterly and completely horrific --like running from a lion and meeting a bear. Even our best worship and offerings are nothing but trash if there is not justice. We make our offerings while in trouble --and then lust after the old idols anyway, fall back in to the same ol' habits....

The prophet Amos.... Animal herder. 'Fig' farmer --in other words, got along any way he could, in season. Didn't go to prophet school. He didn't speak what the people wanted to hear. In a time of prosperity, wealth and peace... and the rich got richer and the poor got poorer... the legal system could be bought, so there was no justice... religion was an external posture and act, elaborate....

--an outsider. He denied the 'title' of prophet.

We kill prophets/truth-tellers like that. Whistle blowers. Kill 'em in so many ways....

We would rather have them die than change our ways. --Not realizing that not grappling with changing our ways will lead us to the wilderness any way --if not to our destruction.

Advent. Hopeful. Waiting. Active. Listening. Preparation. Time to pay attention to the nudges as well as the blatant trumpets of the whistle blowers.

Choose your passion.

I pray for MP and his family; for AP still in the hospital and B who is taking care of AP; for those without shelter and adequate food; for the kids in the inner city schools in Richmond; for those who travel; for whistle blowers and the prophets in our midst; for those caught up in the pursuit of nothingness or worse; for the rich --there are things worse than running from a lion and meeting a bear --and being the walking dead is high among them, because they don't even know to run....


Friday, December 2, 2011

Hollywood and mission in the first week of Advent

Downtown Richmond, Virginia is gridlocked all this week. Spielberg is here filming for his upcoming movie, Lincoln, due to be released in late 2012. The hub bub of this Hollywood presence even makes the evening news….

And today is the day to remember Channing Moore Williams, born in Richmond Virginia in 1829, ordained a deacon in 1855, and left Virginia as a missionary to China and Japan in the midst of the growing fever pitch that finally culminated in the American Civil War. It is an interesting thought to ponder --that while this nation was wracked in increasing political gridlock and friction and the threat to the Union regarding the boundaries of States' rights and equality-liberty-and-justice for all, Williams chose to look beyond the horizons of his nativity and set his sight on Asia.

Hollywood and missionary zeal come full circle in the first week of Advent.

Some claim that the 19th Century missionary efforts of the Episcopal Church (and other churches as well) are part and parcel of the expansionist and imperialistic policies of the secular state. Others might claim that Williams is a wonderful and godly embodiment of The Great Commission given to all Christians --carrying the Good News to the furthest ends of the earth.

How and for what reasons do we carry the Good News of God in Christ? This juxtaposition of mission impetus highlights certain elements of the readings today. The prophet, Amos, laments and admonishes, saying,
Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live. (Amos 5:11-14)

And-- Jude writes, Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great Day. (Jude 5-6)

And-- Jesus tells us the story of the wedding feast, those invited walking away, ignoring or too busy to respond, so the king sends out the invitation to the streets of the realms, to the good and bad alike, and the wedding hall is filled --but one guy didn't wear a party suit, and the king said, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?" And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen.' (Matthew 22:12-14)

There is an unmistakable thread of condemnation --beyond judgement, I'm hearing outright condemnation for those who don't care for the poor, who hear and know and don't respond to the call of God --to be ready, prepared for the unexpected invitation and feast. There are several possible responses a Christian might make to these calls to care, to respond, to prepare. Included among them are penance --participating in the Way of the Cross and engaging in bearing the sins of the world. Another way is to actively prepare in hope --prepare for the unexpected inbreaking and revelation of what awaits us all on the other side of judgement.

It is Advent --a time of active preparation and hope. With Channing Moore Williams in mind, it is the perfect time to lift our eyes from our local context, pressures, and conflicts --time to look beyond the horizons of our own nativity to the nativity announced in the skyline of the star --following its light, leaving our habitations and comfort zones, and do all those things necessary to prepare for the great Kingdom feast --not in fear of judgment (there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God which we have in Christ Jesus), but in hope and for the joy that is in us.

I was asked to write this morning's reflection for Speaking to the Soul, the morning prayer blog at the Episcopal Cafe.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent -hopeful waiting is not passive, like waiting for a bus or something...

A Collect for Guidance
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I keep hearing references to Advent in terms of hopeful waiting.... And, I agree that it is. Hopeful and Waiting.

This morning, in reflection, I am coming to terms with the reckoning that hopeful waiting is NOT a passive activity. Advent is not like waiting for a bus --not like waiting in line...

Hopeful waiting is like trying to sell a house in this market --First, there is all the work that must be done that one chooses to live with but must be done to sell the house... like fixing the gate, painting the ceiling --you know.... --Second is getting rid of the stuff you really don't need, and packing all the stuff that doesn't need to be around.... --Third is the really really hard core deep cleaning and touch up painting that must be done --and done again and every time the phone rings --the drips on the stove, the refrigerator vent at the front base, the constant finger prints on the glass of the storm door, the leaves off the porch.... --Fourth is continuing to pack... like, now it's the summer clothes....

Active waiting for the one for whom you've prayed, who will arrive at an unexpected time --and for whom one must be ready at any moment... Very. Active. Waiting.

So very Not Passive.

At prayer this morning (2 Peter 3:11-13)
Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

--waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God when all shall be changed, all made new, --righteousness is at home....

--this is so very different from penance --which is more of staking a claim of/with --solidarity with the Way of the Cross... taking on the sin....

Today, I actively pray for MP and his family; for AP in the hospital; for those in CA blasted from high winds; for those I love and miss --especially at the parish I formerly served, our right relationships ruptured, ripped, severed; for Joel my beloved --from whom I have learned more about incarnational godly love than any other; for those who suffer from a lack of consciousness and cause others to suffer accordingly; for M,K,S,P,R,S,A,L and C...

For Nicholas Ferrar and Charles de Foucauld whom we remember in the church calendar....

We have another showing today --I actively pray for the Buyer of this ol' house.