Sunday, August 30, 2009
Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be swift to love, make haste to be kind, and may God's blessing be on us always. Amen.
(original: Henri Frederic Amiel)
Opening Prayer from Tides & Season by David Adam
Love, Joy, Compassion, Hope, Pity
When we think of our hearts, the seat of our emotions, we think about love, joy…even sadness or anger. We think of those feelings that are part of our lives. We even say that some wear their hearts on their sleeves and we know what they are feeling. We think of our heart and our feelings in positive ways. And we would certainly agree with William Blake’s poem “The Divine Image” where Blake writes:
For Mercy has a human heart,This poem from his Songs of Innocence, fits our understanding of our hearts, full of mercy along with pity, love and peace. But Blake also knew that what comes out of our hearts is not always so wonderful. From his other poem “A Divine Image” from his Songs of Experience:
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
Cruelty has a human heart,Blake describes the human heart as a “hungry gorge.” We describe people as having a heart of stone (think of Pharaoh). Such a description of our heart connects with what Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of Mark. That the heart isn’t just those emotions we like to think about.
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And Secrecy the human dress.
Jesus said, “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”When confronted by some about the disciple’s actions, Jesus does not look to the outward rituals of purity, nor the boundaries of community, Jesus pointed to the heart as the seat of our morality, the seat of our purity, the seat that if not right with God can defile us. He takes the argument and confrontation over a ritual tradition to the next level: defilement is not about what goes into the body or even how we wash it, it is what comes out of our body, it is our actions in word and deed that come from our hearts.
The list he utters includes obvious things life theft, murder, adultery. All in the 10 Commandments. But Jesus includes other less obvious things like deceit, envy, slander, pride and folly. Jesus calls all these actions evil, these are what defile us. They not only corrupt us but they also destroy the love we have for God and our neighbor. These actions are self-centered, self-absorbed, self-focused with no connection to the harm of the social fabric of our lives. Jesus moved the question away from changing traditions, to get at the heart of the matter, for when it comes to purity or defilement, it is all about our heart, and Jesus wants us to have a change of heart, a heart that is with him.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out: “We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.” (Letters & Papers from Prison)It is what comes out of hearts, into the words and actions we do, that define us as Christians. As Pastor Jenn put it last week, “Our fight is not against flesh and blood; rather it is in living up to our calling. It is balancing to stand in Christ's shoes, reaching out to people not to strike them or push them away, but to bring them the fullness of God's goodness.”
And when we stand in Christ’s shoes, when we live out our baptismal calling, then we live into Christ’s large-heartedness as Bonhoeffer talked about. We live with compassion and love and hope toward our neighbors and all of God’s creation. It certainly isn’t the easy route, but when we live that way all will come to recognize it.
When the Chinese invaded Tibet in the late 1950s, they immediately arrested religious leaders and members of the resistance. Chinese soldiers found an elderly monk named Tulku Arik in retreat. They bound his hands, tied him behind a horse and rider, and led him to imprisonment. The old man was very thin, ill and unable to keep up. Whenever he fell, he was dragged. Along the way, a group of villagers recognized the monk. Despite the danger, they ignored the Chinese guard and ran and tried to attend to his wounds. "Please," the old lama said, "don't worry about me. Help the soldier who is holding the rope. He has blistered his hands dragging me . . . "
Over time, Tulku Arik was moved from prison to prison, and wherever he went, compassion followed. This was not lost on the Chinese, who ultimately released him, saying, "This kind of lama is okay." [From Change of Heart by Lama Shenpen Drolma]
One of our challenges as disciples of Jesus is not to let those things "outside" of us weaken that which we hold dear inside of us, not to let such anger or vengeance or cruelty displace the things of God in our hearts where mercy, pity, love & peace reside but to let God transform the evil that we have experienced into compassion and forgiveness for others, just like that monk.
For we are called by Jesus to have our human heart connect with God’s grace, which we see in Christ’s large heartedness. Let me end with someone who in the last century tried to have her heart connected to Christ’s large heartedness, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. These are her words:
"Speak tenderly to all [them]. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well."Amen.
Friday, August 28, 2009
By Katharine Jefferts Schori, August 27, 2009
In my opening address at General Convention, I spoke about the "great Western heresy" of individualism (see the full text here). There have been varied reactions from people who weren't there, who heard or read an isolated comment without the context. Apparently I wasn't clear!
Individualism (the understanding that the interests and independence of the individual necessarily trump the interests of others as well as principles of interdependence) is basically unbiblical and unchristian.
The spiritual journey, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is about holy living in community. When Jesus was asked to summarize the Torah, he said, "love God and love your neighbor as yourself." That means our task is to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors. If salvation is understood only as "getting right with God" without considering "getting right with (all) our neighbors," then we've got a heresy (an unorthodox belief) on our hands.
The theme of our General Convention, ubuntu, was chosen intentionally to focus on this. Often translated from its original African dialects as "I am because we are," ubuntu has significant biblical connections and warrant. The Hebrew prophets save their strongest denunciation for those who claim to be worshiping correctly but ignore injustice done to their neighbors (e.g., Amos 5:21-24), and Jesus insists that those who will enter the kingdom are the ones who have cared for neighbor by feeding, watering, clothing, housing, healing and visiting "the least of these" (Matt 25:31-46).
Read the rest of her fine article, here.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Recently I was reading the religion blog in the Washington Post and one essayist, John Mark Reynolds, wrote: Do you know what you get when you cross an Episcopalian with a Southern Baptist? I didn’t know, so I kept on reading. You get someone who comes to your door and rings your bell, but once you open it has no idea what to say.
No idea what to say? Really? I could swear I was in church at 7 am on Ash Wednesday morning, heard our challenging lectionary, was called out, forced to confront myself by a strong sermon, and then called to be holy by our penitential rite. I thought we had a lot to say, and when I picked my head up to look around there was a big crowd of witnesses sharing that sobering moment with me.
Nothing to say? When my son and daughter and the youth of our parish head out year after year to the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast, and to the Lakota Sioux lands in North Dakota, and to our sister parish in Honduras… they worked hard, very hard… and began and ended every day with worship. Like so many of our youth, they have plenty to say, “Not only with their lips but with their lives.” Or, as Benedict himself might say, ora et labora, pray and work.
At a time of bewildering complexity and ever greater challenge some churches have told us that contrary to what you’ve heard, being a Christian in the 21st Century is actually a piece of cake, all you gotta do is follow a few, very simple rules… The churches that say that have definitely had a good run the last 20 years. There are shelves in bookstores groaning under the weight of critical social science scholarship, marketing theory, and even, occasionally, theology; books that tells us what we’re doing wrong and what the other guys are doing right. And in 2009 we can either stop being us, or hold on, and believe that what we are and how we got to this day has prepared us for whatever God’s going to dish out in the years ahead. We may not know what’s in store, but we must share Benedict’s conviction, in the final words of The Rule that ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, "that in all [things] God may be glorified." ~ PBS’s Ray Suarez (July 11 Sermon)
One such truth is Peter’s assertion and his understanding that indeed God has no favorites, but that anybody who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God, or in more traditional language, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” So that neither the self-proclaimed orthodox, the selective traditionalist, the evangelicals, nor the progressives and the reformers have any special claim on God’s favor or God’s approval. If indeed God, who doeth all things well, is the creator of all things, how can some things be more acceptable to the Creator than others? It follows, for me at least, that if God is the Creator of all persons, then how can some people be more acceptable to God than others? ~ Bishop Barbara Harris (Integrity Eucharist – July 10)
Some of you here have known and supported my family through the years, my parents in particular. I think particularly of Bishop Rowthorn who was a great friend to us when I used to play hide and seek in the pews and altars of my father's church. Or I think of the silent multitude of prayer that has held us as a family for over 35 years through the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. I am the daughter of many of the injustices that built this country, and the attempts of my ancestors to right them where and when they could in their contexts. My mother is the descendant of African American slaves, and the native Cherokee people who hid among them in North Carolina, refusing to move west to Oklahoma: two peoples who suffered and comforted each other in the haunted spaces of our nation's history. My father's family arrived in Virginia in explorer's ships, and built a life on the backs of slaves working tobacco and rice plantations in South Carolina. They in their turn cast off the oppressive yoke of Britain, signed the Declaration of Independence, and fought a Revolution. My paternal grandmother was a proud Daughter of the Confederacy. My maternal aunt was a Black Panther. When my father saw and loved my mother in an elevator in Cambridge, MA, it was an Ubuntu moment- 1967- illegal for him to marry her. His bishop refused to ordain him. His family turned their backs on him. It was dangerous for my mother to hold his hand in some places. But they had an Ubuntu vision. And together their generation has built a new family and a new nation, rooted in love, and prayer, some of them under the sacrifice of death. I know I am here because I stand on the shoulders of people like them, and the people among you who supported them and connected to that same vision.
So today, we are again at a Jubilee year, another crisis moment, another opportunity to remake our world order. How, in the future, will my daughter stand on our shoulders? ~ Abagail Nelson, senior vice president of programs for Episcopal Relief and Development (July 14 Eucharist)
"This is our moment, this is our time, this is our call and under an anointing of the spirit of God we will not fail in that call, but be in the vanguard of a change that will resound around the world full of hope and grace to renew humanity itself through the hope and power of Jesus in whose name I have preached and in whose name I have prayed." ~ Bishop Steven Charleston, (July 15 sermon)Here at the Eucharist we state who we are and where and why. We give voice to our hunger and helplessness; we name death, in us and around us; we give thanks that we are called from emptiness to life, and our own true names are spoken by the Word. May this gathering be a sign of life in the face of death, a declaration of who we are in Jesus and with one another, in the heart of God the Holy Trinity: chosen friends who, miraculously, know something of that God's longing for what has been made. ~ Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (July 9 Eucharist)
The good news is that this would be a relatively simple thing to change . . . and the Episcopal structure itself, I believe, has remarkable inherent powers of self-renewal. And that’s why, I believe, this moment of Episcopal crisis is also a moment of Episcopal opportunity. Perhaps, in the ways of the Spirit, the crisis and opportunity always go together. In that Spirit, let us pray:
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. Let us not forget the lessons of the past nor fear the challenges of the future. Anoint us with your grace and shine in our hearts as we reflect your light, seeking to be and make disciples in reconciling communities for the good of the world you so love. Amen. (BCP) ~ Brian McLaren (July 16 Eucharist)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Say You're One of Them is a book of fiction written by a Nigerian Jesuit Uwem Akpan.
It is an excellent book, well written, drawing you into his five short stories.
They are stories that are sad and depressing, and they feel like actual accounts of what is going on in Africa right now.
For those of us who are committed to the MDGs and lifting nations in Africa out of poverty and war, this is a book you cannot miss.
Bath Massace written by Arnie Bernstein tells the story of the first school bombing in American history that took place in Bath, MI in May 1927.
"Criminals are not born, they are made."
These haunting words said by the Virginia Tech shooter, were written by the bomber Andrew Kehoe in 1927 and left on the fence at his farm that he destroyed the same morning the Bath Consolidated School was devastated by his bomb.
Bernstein really gets you to see not only the children, the teachers and others who were witnesses and victims, but wonderfully threads the events before, during and after the bombing. He richly tells a tale that needs to be remembered!
Now on my nightstand: Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture & Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
Monday, August 24, 2009
NY Times - Aug. 23, 2009
On a summer visit back to the farm here where I grew up, I think I figured out the central problem with modern industrial agriculture. It’s not just that it produces unhealthy food, mishandles waste and overuses antibiotics in ways that harm us all.
More fundamentally, it has no soul.
The family farm traditionally was the most soulful place imaginable, and that was the case with our own farm on the edge of the Willamette Valley. I can’t say we were efficient: for a time we thought about calling ourselves “Wandering Livestock Ranch,” after our Angus cattle escaped in one direction and our Duroc hogs in another.
When coyotes threatened our sheep operation, we spent $300 on a Kuvasz, a breed of guard dog that is said to excel in protecting sheep. Alas, our fancy-pants new sheep dog began her duties by dining on lamb.
It’s always said that if a dog kills one lamb, it will never stop, and so the local rule was that if your dog killed one sheep you had to shoot it. Instead we engaged in a successful cover-up. It worked, for the dog never touched a lamb again and for the rest of her long life fended off coyotes heroically.
That kind of diverse, chaotic family farm is now disappearing, replaced by insipid food assembly lines.The result is food that also lacks soul... Read the whole article here.
My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. - Thomas MertonThis prayer by Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a prayer for guidance, a prayer of humility, reminds me of the words of Solomon as he pleads to God for God to hear his servants as he stands in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Both prayers seek God in our midst, like the Psalmist who utters: "How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God."
This is the longing that we each have inside of us to find God, and so we journey to those places where we believe God dwells, we go to church, we visit sacred places. Some of those places are sacred places for many people like the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built, other places have become sacred to us. Perhaps it is the garden we kneel down in and tend to, perhaps it is a place from our childhood wanderings. Maybe it is your front porch, your kitchen, your car, your barn. Or an activity that you do, music or biking or boating (or soccer!). Wherever your sacred place or places are, it is where you take your longing for God and transfer that longing into prayer. Where you take that thirsty soul and let it loose, and send it out to connect with God.
Mahatma Gandhi said that Prayer is not asking, it is a longing of the soul. The dwelling place of God is wherever we lift the veil that separates us from God, and invite God in. Where does God dwell for you? Where do you let the longing of your soul loose, and connect to God?
It is, according to the psalmist, a place where all are welcome, even the tiniest of creatures: “The sparrow has found her a house by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,” and a place where we find joy, “Happy are they who dwell in your house. They will always be praising you.” The dwelling place of God is a place where our souls cry out, and also where we praise God for all that we are, and all that we have.
Where do you find God? Think about your childhood, and the places you found God. As an adult, has the dwelling place of God changed? As children, we hopefully were different in our longings for God, our search for the dwelling place. Hopefully we went looking with innocence, but many children, perhaps even yourself, went to the dwelling place of God for sanctuary. Now that we are adults, there are many times when we seek sanctuary in the dwelling place of God. Our longings are not just to be with God, but to have things fixed. We long for God to forgive us, to help us forgive others, we long for God to help us in our distress. As adults we do go through the desert in order to get to the springs of life. We do climb the mountains to get to the temple.
But when we get there. When we make it through the desert. When we have climbed the mountains, we find that the psalmist is right, “For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
We find that the desert despair and the trials of life are wiped away, and the dwelling place of God is more than comfort, more than praise. It is a transformation. And we want that to last. For so much around us is passing and doesn’t give us what our heart really desires. So many temptations claim to give us what we really want & need, but our souls cry out for something else. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.”
On our journey we must find those places where God dwells for us to find that refreshment for as St. Augustine put it:
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.”And as the psalmist tells us, “No good thing will the LORD withhold from those who walk with integrity. Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.”
Let us pray for our journey (BCP p. 832 - #58 for guidance)
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and
light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all
our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you
would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save
us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light,
and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
one and all
gather to put on the Musical
some ready props
others create costumes
set lights and sounds
sing and dance
All are pieces
of the greater whole
It takes them all
to put it on!
Campers and Staff
And there are laughs
All working towards the moment
The moment the musical begins
The actors in their place
The lights shine
The music begins
And it was all worth it!
This poem was written on 8/12/09 at Camp Washington during Theater Week.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This is the blessing I have been using on Sundays. It is based on St. Teresa of Avila's "bookmark."
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God is enough. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la pacïencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
Y La bendición de Dios omnipotente, el Padre, el Hijo y el Espíritu Santo, descienda sobre vosotros y permanezca con vosotros para siempre. Amén.
In the silence of the stars,Vacation in VT was great. On vacation, wherever you go, you get to eat the local food. We enjoyed the Maple Syrup! We liked the corn and tomatoes and other locally grown produce. Ellen and I enjoyed a night out at our favorite restaurant in Wallingford, VT. But after all of that good food and having such a good time, one is still left with a hunger, a hunger that is in our souls.
In the quiet of the hills,
In the heaving of the sea, Speak, Lord.
In the stillness of this room,
In the calming of our minds,
In the longing of our hearts, Speak, Lord.
In the voice of a friend,
In the chatter of a child,
In the words of a stranger, Speak, Lord.
In our service of word & sacrament
And in the waters of baptism
Speak, Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.
[adapted from a prayer by David Adam]
The people who had gone out to hear Jesus had that same hunger too. Some continued looking for him after the feeding of the five thousand but Jesus wanted to offer them more than a meal. Jesus said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…” It goes beyond the moment, beyond our bellies, beyond what we need or want right now, it is about what lasts. It is really about what gives us life and feeds our souls.
I think about a six-year-old boy born blind. His family doctor read about a new medical procedure developed by a young surgeon in Boston that might restore the six-year-old's sight. After tests and a review of his medical history, it was determined that the boy was a candidate for the surgery.
The boy brought his beloved teddy bear to Boston with him. The bear was showing his "age": one eye was missing, stuffing was oozing out of its seams, patches of cloth were worn away. His parents offered to get him a new teddy bear but he wanted his own bear. The boy and his teddy bear were inseparable through the consultations, tests and X-rays, right up until the anesthesia itself. The surgery was a success; after six years, the boy could see. On the morning the boy was to return home, after signing the discharge papers, the surgeon gave the boy a big hug and said, "Listen, I own stock in you; I expect to get letters from you regularly. Do you understand?"
"I want you to have this," the boy said, and handed the doctor his beloved teddy bear.
The surgeon's first impulse was not to take the bear, but he was sensitive enough to understand what the boy was trying to do. The boy wanted to return joy for joy, grace for grace. The wise physician accepted the teddy bear with a hug and a promise to take good care of his new friend.
For years, the surgeon displayed the teddy bear near his office at the hospital. The surgeon's card was placed in front of the teddy beat. Under his name, the doctor wrote: This is the highest fee I have ever received for professional services rendered.
That doctor understood the real gift he got that day and the real gift he gave. And a teddy bear becomes a sign of God's grace at work in our midst. It is about what gives us life. As the people gathered around Jesus to feel God’s grace, to have that hunger deep inside satisfied, Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Every time we gather here to hear scripture, to pray, to receive communion, we are reminded that Jesus is the bread of life in our midst, feeding our hungry souls. And today as we welcome, Hannah and Ian and Griffin into the Body of Christ, we are helping these little ones also connect with that bread of life, with that food that endures.
But it isn’t just for us to consume and be on our merry way; for this food transforms us, it is a gift, a gift we are called to share in our lives, for it is food that endures. In the words of St. Augustine:
"We are the Body of Christ. In us and through us the work of Jesus must be fulfilled. We are to be taken. We are to be blessed, broken and given to all around us, that we may be a means of grace and vehicles of God's unending love." Amen.