Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuesday Topics: Talk Amongst Yourselves

Yesterday, my so called "day off" was a flurry of activity - way too busy. From seeing an attorney in the morning regarding my illness and whether I ought to pursue a law suit (I don't want too, but it seems I do have a case of dentist neglect which made the condition worse). Then a lunch meeting, then a Dr. appt with my son, then a long phone interview with the search committee for a potential new call. Geez. so today, while not my day off, will be much more relaxing. I only have to pay bills on line, write a sermon, organize my thoughts for the annual meeting on Sun. exercise, maybe go to dog park (cold and snowy, so not muddy). And then another Dr. appt with my son (chiropractor, TMJ and headaches)....

Here's the topic:

When your day off isn't a day off, do you take another one that same week?

How do you find the space and time for rest and renewal when really busy?

Can one find sabbath time in just a few minutes or hours of a day? Does it "count" to zone out on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a purring kitten?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

My friends have encouraged me to see an attorney regarding the infection I got last fall which landed me in the hospital for 11 days. I see one today to determine if the dentist treating me at that time is culpable for the severity of the infection. I really hate to do this. I am not a litigious person and think that sometimes things just happen, not every circumstance in life has someone to "blame." On the other hand this infection was really bad and I was quite sick, and it may have been avoidable if the dentist had given me antibiotics from the get go....

So this morning I see an attorney and we'll see what happens.

Then tonight I have a phone interview for a job search, a potential new parish call. I need to spend time preparing for that.

My sweet kitten is laying on my lap sleeping and purring, I'd rather just sit here. But I need to get up and exercise and get ready for my day.

Monday is supposed to be my day off.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Epiphany 4C

The headlines on Monday said Windy v’s Indy! The Bears are going to the Super Bowl, and they’re playing the Indianapolis Colts.

Tony Dungy is the head coach of the Colts, and Lovie Smith is the head coach of the Bears, and as it turns out these two have a long history together in the NFL. Eleven years ago Tony Dungy was the head coach in Tampa Bay and he gave Lovie Smith his first coaching job as the Buccaneers linebacker coach . They worked together for over 4 years. Now, on Feb. fourth these two men are and their respective teams are headed for the Super Bowl.

In Tuesday’s Daily Herald Lovie is quoted as saying: “A dream of mine was a chance to play the Colt’s. My dream was for Tony to get to the Super Bowl. That dream has been fulfilled. Now it’s about the Chicago Bears winning that Super Bowl.”

All around this part of the Midwest, is Super Bowl fever – on the news, in the papers, even making national news, and in our every day conversations, young and old, men and women, alike.

Winning sports teams have an infectious impact on the community that supports them. And after years of supporting losing teams it is invigorating for Chicagoans to have two winning teams in two years – first the White Sox in the World Series, and now the Bears at the Super Bowl.

Most all of us get excited and most of us will participate in some kind of Super Bowl festivity, even if we just watch the game at home with friends or family.

It’s interesting to me, this phenomenon of sports and how it impacts us so deeply. It’s like somehow we feel better about ourselves and our community because we live in an area with a winning team. Of course when they lose we say something like, well you know, isn’t that typical, they need to strengthen their defensive or their offensive players…when they lose it’s all about them. But when they win, its all about us!

This same human phenomenon is at play in our reading today from the Gospel. The people in Nazareth are so excited that Jesus is there. They’ve heard all about the wonderful things he’s done – and in response they are like, “Well, yeah, of course, he’s Joseph’s son…”

You know!, Joseph, our good neighbor. Joseph the carpenter….

and because Jesus has done all these wonderful things, and because he’s from the home town, and because he is now famous for his miracles, the town is so excited! Jesus makes them all special just by being from there and coming back. They want him to stay and do all kinds of wonderful things for them and in their presence so they can feel even better about themselves.

But for this Jesus calls them to task. He reminds them that work he does is about much more than making them feel better about themselves…”Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ and you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the thing that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”

Jesus goes on to tell his home town friends and family that his ministry, and theirs, is about something more: Jesus reminds them that they were not chosen by God to create a closed society where they could feel good about themselves. They were chosen by God to bring the Good News of God, the benefits of faith, to all people. And here’s the clincher, they are supposed to focus their energy on other people, not themselves. He uses examples from their tradition to remind them of this: that Elijah and Elisha: “there were many widows in Israel and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of the widows except one who lived elsewhere….and there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except one who lived elsewhere…

The people in Jesus’ town need this same kind of shift in thinking…it’s not about them, it’s about others – the call of God to Jesus, to the Nazareans, and to us, is a call to look beyond ourselves and love others.

Hearing this, the people, of course, are enraged. They would rather feel good about themselves, just by being associated with Jesus – they don’t want to have to do anything. They want him to do the work and for them to feel good about it.

Ok, so the football players do all the work and win the games and we rejoice as if we have been right beside them all along. Yet on some level, either by watching at home, or attending the games live, or buying their merchandise, we have actually participated in their winning, through our support. So this is not an exact analogy to our Gospel.

But the basic idea remains: we humans love to be affiliated with the rich and the famous and the successful, because when we are we somehow feel better about ourselves as well. Jesus takes this one step further by reminding the people that they are not suppose to form an exclusive club that lets some in and keeps some out. They are suppose to be a people who know God’s love and then actively share it with others making the circle ever wider, ever more open. Because when Jesus brings up the widow from Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, he is speaking about people far removed from the Israelites, people who have in fact persecuted them. It was like telling them that God cares as much for the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and the suicide bombers, as God cares for us. That’s how Jesus’ words were heard. It’s no wonder they drove him out of town.

None of us wants to hear, really, that God loves our enemies like God loves us. But Jesus’ words remind his townsfolk, and remind us, that God does not get our boundaries of who is in and who is out. The problem is not that we are loved any less. The problem is people we fear, despise, or just plain dislike, are loved by God. God just keeps on loving human beings and we are invited to join in the love or move aside.

Our scripture, especially much of the Gospels, like the parable of the good Samaritan, the woman at the well, the story of Nicodemus, and including our Gospel reading this morning, remind us of the truth of this.

And this is equally true for our churches today as we struggle over who is in and who is out. It’s true for us as a parish community as we ponder what it is we are being called to do and be. On the one hand I think it is really simple: get up off the sofa, stop being a sideline fan of Jesus, and share the love you have of God with all of God’s people.

I know, this is hard to do. We don’t like to talk about our faith. It’s awkward and we don’t know how. But that is not what we are called to do. I don’t think we’re called to pull out megaphones and shout from the street corner, but we’re not supposed to keep silent either.

Jeremiah gives us a good sense of what this is like. In response to God’s call to him, Jeremiah, the young child, backs away from God. He says’ “I can’t do what you ask, I am only a child.” This reading, by the way, is used at many ordination services acknowledging that the about to be ordained person is somewhat terrified of what lays ahead. And some would say, for good reason, because the ordained are always out there front and center, like a coach hoping the team players can make it to the Super Bowl.

In our reading from Jeremiah, God responds:” Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…you shall go to all whom I send you and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid…for I have put my words in your mouth.”

Truly comforting words. As we move from the safety of our sofas to the world beyond, God not only calls us but will give us the words to say. God calls and God provides. But God also expects that we will venture forth, not just as people cheering on the sidelines, but as people leading the way - bringing God’s message of hope and love to a world of lost and lonely people looking for a team.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Five: RevGals

Self Care: list four things I do for self care and one thing I'd love to do but never have

1. Meditate: I use to do this twice a day for twenty minutes. Now I do it once a day for 30, usually in the afternoon.

2. Exercise: I use to (before I got sick and landed in the hospital) exercise about 40 minutes a day. Now I am working that back into my daily (almost) routine, I work out about 20 minutes. Once winter leaves I'll increase it because we can go back to Dog Park, which is just too muddy these days.

3. Afternoon Tea and Chocolate: most days I stop for a cup of Earl Grey with skim milk and a few pieces of dark chocolate. I usually blog while I sip the tea and eat the chocolate

4: I am seeing a Chiropractor for the first time in my life. He is doing acupressure and various adjustments to help my body heal from being sick, and build up a healthier me so I don't get sick again. Usually I get monthly massages but I haven't been able to afford that lately. And I do have a tremendous amount of stress right now...so I appreciate the chiropractor who is treating me without really charging me full price (a true doctor!).

5. What I've always wanted to do but never have: take a three or four month sabbatical to study and travel and for renewal. I'm due for one in the next year, but will probably change jobs ('cuz I may have too since the church is running out of money and can't retain a full time priest)...and if I change jobs it will be at least a few years before I could leave for a sabbatical.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tunes on Thursday

I spent a small part of my morning wandering through a music store looking to use a gift card from Christmas. Thursday mornings I have a standing appointment about 40 minutes from my house. It's a good time to listen to music while I drive, and I'm always looking for new music and groups to listen too.

I thought about buying an Elton John (oh, too many choices since I don't have any CD's of his, just old albums). I thought about Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of my fav groups...I have their best of and love it, but no, not exactly what I had in mind. I looked at Dixie Chicks, another fav, but I only have their new one, Home By Another Way, and I don't know if I'd like their older stuff. I briefly considered ColdPlay, but couldn't find them (didn't look very hard). Eventually I settled on the new Indigo Girls two disk CD. I chose this because I heard them interviewed on the radio about the CD and I've been meaning to pick it up...I heard a few tracks, in the car on my way home from the mall, but so far I like it!

Mostly I only listen to music in the car or at the office. Although when I was in the hospital last Nov. for 11 days I had my husband bring a CD player and some CD's. In the hospital I listened to classical (Mozart) and Celtic...soothing, relaxing music, good to knit by or read the paper. And sometimes I listen to Mozart in the car, but mostly I like my rock or alternative rock. I especially like good lyrics and a good tune, but no heavy stuff - makes my nerves rattle. And that makes for bad driving.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wednesday What If's

Is this a good idea, to spend Wednesday's wondering about what ifs? Somehow I doubt it, but it is where the stillness led me so I'm willing to check it out and see. May be a very short lived segment of my writing and musings...

I use to think that God had a plan and that all I had to do was figure out God's plan for me and I could make the right choices and decisions in my life, and all would be good. But as a result I would also struggle over decisions, should I do this or that? Then one day a good friend of mine said, "You know, God gives us choices, and God will go with us wherever we choose to go. In this way God continues to create and re-create with us as co-creators in the process."

So, now I worry less about making the one "right" decision. Instead I aim to spend time discerning where God is in my life and making the best decision I can with the information I have, trusting that God will go with me. But that also means there is lots of possibility in life.

What if Al Gore were President? Where would our country and the world be right now?

What if Gene Robinson had never been elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire?

What if my mother had not had dental surgery that day? Would she still have had the heart attack and died that night?

What if my parents had not divorced and I had stayed in Salt Lake City? Would I have found my way to the Episcopal Church anyway? Would I be priest?

What if????

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday Topics - Talk Amongst Yourselves

1. Why would a Doctors office charge a $25.oo yearly Administration Fee that appears to be for no other purpose than for the office to collect an additional $25.00 from each patient.

2. Why would people so willingly pay this fee, no questions asked? I saw young and old do this, over and over. Me, I protested. And I hate to raise a fuss.

3. If they are going to charge this fee (well, and they do), the least they could do is have good magazines to read while waiting (forever) to see the doctor.

4. My doctors office is not a club or some other organization I join, but this annual fee insinuates that it is.

5. WHY does this bug me so much?

6. Isn't it just a little unethical or at least in bad form to charge this?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

  • Monday, my day "off."
  • Ryan leaves for Afghanistan at 10:30am Eastern time for a 16month deployment
  • I think he may be "safer" in Afghanistan than Baghdad?
  • This is really difficult, I worry about the safety and well being of our troops, so young.
  • In three weeks I turn 50
  • How does one celebrate a 50th? A big party or a quiet day?
  • I'm having dreams that I am in the midst of a Tsunami (really!)
  • We have our big annual church meeting in two weeks
  • What will we choose to do, live or die?
  • I am in five search process, two haven't contacted me since before Christmas - so they may be over, two are in the very early stages, and one, well I would really like the one
  • I use to preach without a text. Ok, I'd write the text, but I'd internalize the content and not use the notes...
  • I use to meditate twice every day
  • Now I am just a muddle
  • I have been off antibiotics for a week, no sign of the infection returning (that's really good)
  • I continue to try and rally this parish and hope they find what excites them
  • I am getting more involved with refugee ministries
  • I want to build a teen center in our church for the middle schoolers, we have two middle schools within a mile of the church, and nothing for kids to do after school, no community center
  • I appreciate RevGals and the community there
  • The Bears made it to the SuperBowl
  • Until Sept. 2, 2007, Saturn is opposing my"sun" and conjuncting my "ascendent" which, if you care about astrology, helps explain the muddle and intensity of my life - me I know a fair amount about astrology, from a previous life interest, but I don't know if I believe it.
  • There is snow on the ground, if I had a fireplace I'd light a fire and drink coffee and read all morning. Instead I have to exercise then go into the office to take care of some newcomer packets, then find some way to enjoy my "day off."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Knit Together

When you crack open a hard boiled egg you find inside, between the shell and the white of the egg, a thick lining material. This lining is connective tissue. Our human bodies also have connective tissue. This connective tissue runs like a sweater through our bodies, between the skin and muscles, through the muscles to organs and bones. The connective tissue helps hold in place our abdominal organs. And, just as it sounds, the connective tissue runs in and through our entire body, providing the means for inter-connectedness. A body worker, like a massage therapist, works with the connective tissue whenever she or he gives a massage. Body workers recognize that a tightness in one part of the body may be related to a condition in another part of the body, called referred pain. Our bodies are profoundly connected, muscle, bone, organ, skin, through the connective tissue.

Often, when we experience some kind of pain or discomfort, we may self diagnose the symptom and treat it without really wondering how this symptom might be a part of some deeper or more wide spread problem.

Take for instance a headache. We get a headache and in response most of us will take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This usually makes the head ache go away and we feel better.

Many of us may ponder why we have the headache. What is the underlying cause? Maybe its stress, something in our lives is causing us to be stressed out and the subsequent symptom we feel in our bodies is a headache. Or maybe its hormones, some of us experience a cycle of headaches connected to our hormonal system. Or maybe we have allergies and the headache is a symptom of our environment.

But how many of us accurately assess the cause and treat it rather than the symptom?

If we only treat the symptom we miss the opportunity to take care of the problem at its source. We miss the opportunity to respond to the stress in our lives in a more effective way by either reducing the stress or reducing our experience of that stress. Maybe, in response we will slow our lives down, do less, get massages, meditate. Or maybe we will exercise to reduce the impact of stress on our bodies. Regardless, when we look at the cause rather than just treating a symptom, we are able to respond more effectively.

The same is true for our communities.

At St. Hilary’s we can assume that the source of our discomfort is lack of money and not enough people here. But I think the real source of our discomfort is some place else, and these other two are only symptoms of the real problem. I have my suspicions; and because of my expertise, I may even have diagnosed this place correctly. But what I want at this time is for all of you, by attending the vestry meetings reviewing the surveys, by reading Christianity for the Rest of Us, by forming a common language, and by having conversations with one another, I want you all to make some educated guesses as to what is at the heart of our discomfort.

In the process I encourage you all to do four things: 1. Keep a sense of humor, the ability to laugh at ourselves and at our situation can enable us to see the situation with greater clarity. 2. Avoid the tendency to be complacent, be willing to get involved. 3. Avoid the tendency to be complicit, speak up – your perspective may just be what we need to hear. And lastly, be invested in treating the cause and not just the symptom.

Ok, so humor, here is a joke to get us started:

The Pope dies and, naturally, goes to heaven where he's met by a reception committee of angels. After a whirlwind tour, The Pope is told that he can enjoy any of the myriad recreations available.He decides that he wants to read all of the ancient original text of the Holy Scriptures, so he spends the next eon or so learning the languages.After becoming a linguistic master, he sits down in the library and begins to pour over every version of the Bible, working back from the most recent "Easy Reading" to the original handwritten script.The angel librarian hears a loud scream, and goes running toward its source only to find the Pope huddled in a chair, shaking and crying."The R! They left out the R!""What do you mean?" the angel librarian asks. After collecting his wits, the Pope sobs again, "The word is not CELIBATE, but CELEBRATE!"
With a sense of humor we remember that things are seldom as they seem. It’s good to remember that we can misunderstand and misinterpret… And it’s good to laugh at ourselves and the ways we stifle the energy of the Holy Spirit.
2. Avoid being complacent: come to the meetings, participate in the conversations, read the book, be invested in this discerning process. You may just find it energizing and interesting.
3. Avoid being complicit: as humans we sometimes choose to just be quiet, not to make waves, to not invest ourselves in an outcome, and essentially not to care. I ask you to care, to care deeply, and to get involved in our future and the way we hope to make a difference in the world.
4. be invested in the process and in the outcome in a way that anticipates some life transforming outcome. God is alive in this world and in our lives, and embodiment is the primary way we understand this. God came to us in the incarnation, in the person of Christ. This assures us that God is invested in the process and the outcome, and so should we.
As a people, as individuals and as a community, we come to know the fullness of who we are through our living, through our bodies. As Christians we are the body of Christ, the living presence of God in the world. As humans we are all interconnected, one to another. When one part of our body hurts, we all hurt. When people around the world are suffering from poverty, disease, and other injustices, we all suffer. Like a snag in a sweater which pulls threads in other areas, when part of our humanity suffers, we all experience it.

This may seem odd. We may not be aware of how we are suffering, But the Spirit, which lives and breathes in and through us, carries that suffering. It fills our lives, those of us who are not the victims of poverty and disease, those of us who live with relative wealth and security, the spirit carries to us this communal suffering. Perhaps we experience it as a general sense of dissatisfaction with our lives. Perhaps it is what makes us restless. Perhaps it is what drives us to find something to do to make our lives feel meaningful. Like working on some pain in our bodies, the real source of that discomfort may not be the obvious place, it often comes from a complex combination of imbalances. Remember that we at this church are deeply connected to a phenomenon of human suffering in the world today – our symptoms manifest something deeper. As a global human community we have not acquired a holistic sense of connectedness, even though it is exists, we live unaware of it.

As we work to know ourselves better let’s focus on that which connects to us the larger human condition, to that place where the Spirit leads us, a place of wholeness and well-being. When we find the source that is causing all the other symptoms we can work to relieve the imbalance and restore order.

The means to heal our brokenness we must first focus on the woundedness of the world.

Friday, January 19, 2007

RevGals Friday Five

Badda Bing Badda Boom
Friday Five
Who: The Holy Spirit, breath of God, ongoing action of God, the feminine expression of God

What: aids us in discerning God's call to us, God's hopes for us, God's dream for the world

When: She's is always around, are we able to be still enough to listen?

Where: Everywhere. Do you see her?

Why: Because we have not been left alone, God is with us always.

Bonus: How: That's the mystery!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

Monday. My day off so I slept late (8ish). The house is quiet, no school, kids still sleeping. A few inches of newly fallen snow, no big ice storm no major snow fall, just a few inches, very pretty.

Last night I preached at an ecumenical service with Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The service was held at the RC church, it is our fifth year doing this service. Preaching was awesome. Three of the four clergy were women, which was so exciting for the RC congregation.

Today, no big plans. Sit for awhile with coffee to drink, and kitten curled in my lap, enjoying the picturesque snow outside. Then I will work on resume for another search, makes five I have entered...oh my. After that, exercise, shower, and take dogs to park...unless the snow gets worse...

Oh, and last night I took my last antibiotic. That makes 9 weeks of antibiotics...now we wait and see of the infection is completely gone...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

One Body: homily for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

One of my earliest memories as a young girl is attending Easter services. At the time I lived in Salt Lake City and on this day my mother, great grandmother, and I went to temple square for services. I was all dressed up in my Easter best. The hall was very crowded. I was distracted by all the hats and people squeezing in, until the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began to sing. I remember their voices and the view from my pew like it was yesterday. I must have been 4 years old, but I was awe struck.

To this day, the image of that Easter morning is my vision of the Christian life: lots of people all gathered to celebrate. We come from different backgrounds, different expressions of our faith. Tonight we are gathered, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, each with our own practice of faith and particular beliefs.

Eugene Peterson, a pastor, professor, and author of many books on our Christian faith has written a version of the bible called, The Message. It is not an interpretation it is a reflection an offering of our scripture in common language which aims to unpack the meaning of the passages, not the literal interpretation. The Messages says this :

“You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body.”

As we gather to celebrate this week, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we are invited as one body with many parts. It is our baptism that unites us in this body. Through baptism we are all given the gift of the Spirit.

We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

In baptism we are all brought into the family. At St. Hilary’s where I serve, in the month leading up to baptism we prepare the candidates for the day. And we add them to our weekly prayer list, praying for them by first name only: in baptism we all have the same surname, the same last name: Christian.

Tonight we gather as that family, the Christian family. I am Terri Christian, this is Bob Christian, Coleen Christian, and Peg Christian. You too are named Christian. Like any family we are not all exactly alike. We express ourselves in ways authentic to who we are.

But even as we express ourselves in separate and unique ways, we are one. The image of a choir conveys this one-ness in a very special way. That is why I like that we celebrate this night with an Evensong. Singing together is a form of prayer. We gather, each of us with our own voices, some high, some low, some soft, some loud, some trained, some not. And as we gather to sing and pray we learn how to blend our voices in sweet music. We learn how to harmonize as one voice. We become for a time one voice, the Christian voice.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. …What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own.

I invite us on this night to think about and pray about those things that we have in common and not worry about the things that make us different. Focus on our baptism, the one common event that makes all of us here Christian, a name given through the Trinity of God our Creator, Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit who is the giver of life.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

Think about the ways in which we can be a blended voice harmonizing into the universe. Ponder how we can be more alike and sing about our common strengths: love of God, love of Christ, love of one another, love of self. In a few minutes we will raise our voices and sing the beautiful hymn. There’s a sweet sweet spirit in this place.

I can only imagine that as we sing this hymn God will look upon us and smile, like a parent experiencing a moment without sibling rivalry. God will smile and indeed a sweet sweet spirit will be in this place

Playfulness of Mary and Jesus

Two girls were speaking about church:

First girl: "My pastor said we could have 16 husbands."
Second girl: "Are you sure?"
First girl: "Yes. At the last wedding at the church I heard him say, four better, four worse, four richer and four poorer.

Two Connecticut College psychologists asked thirty couples to rate the humor in twenty-five jokes, cartoons, and comic strips. The study showed that couples who agree on what’s funny are more likely to like, love, and want to marry each other than those who didn’t laugh at the same things…
(Murstein, Brust) (Cited in Bernard Asbell with Karen Wynn, WHAT THEY KNOW ABOUT YOU, New York: Random House, 1991, p. 202)

Joan Chittister says:

God made laughter to show us that things are seldom as bad as they seem. Laughter liberates and laughter uplifts. When laughter comes into a life, nothing is too difficult, nothing can defeat us.

She continues: There are some things that must always be laughed at in life:
1. Laugh when people tell a joke. Otherwise you might make them feel bad.
2. Laugh when you look into a mirror. Otherwise you might feel bad.
3. Laugh when you make a mistake. If you don't, you're liable to forget how ultimately unimportant the whole thing really is, whatever it is.
4. Laugh at situations that are out of your control. Like when you find yourself in public wearing mismatched shoes.
5. Finally, laugh when all your carefully laid plans get changed: when the plane is late and the restaurant is closed…You’re free now to do something else, to be spontaneous for a change, to take a piece of life and treat it with outrageous abandon.

And laugh when your mother asks you to do something about the lack of wine at the wedding. Often people interpret this line in John’s gospel when Mary asks Jesus to do something, and he responds Woman, what concern is that to me?, People interpret this as if Jesus is being short or harsh with his mother. But it is also possible that Mary and Jesus are being playful, like many families are with one another when there is an inside joke in family or between family members.
Jesus may have been playful with Mary and her with him. Why not? It’s possible. The written word so seldom expresses the emotion behind the word. So it’s possible that this is really a playful time.

Mary has every reason to be certain that Jesus will do what she asks, she goes on to tell the wine stewards to do what ever he asks. She knows what he is about to do, she is confident that he will do it.

And, of course Jesus does exactly what she expects. He fills the water jars with an abundance of wine. And not just any wine, excellent wine, the best wine. An abundance of the very best.

This playfulness between Mary and Jesus gives us a hint into the nature of God and humanity, of the divine and the ordinary. I think God is playful with creation, that creation has within its being a playful nature. Sometimes, often times we humans are far too serious. God calls us to be playful and we take God seriously…

So, what might this playfulness look like? How about some of the creatures on this earth, like a rhinoceros or a platypus? There’s a sense of humor. What about blizzards and snow storms and deep cold weather, there’s a sense of humor, reminding us that we really do not have much control over the weather or this world. Reminding us to laugh at ourselves when we get too full of ourselves. What about having a conversation with our children. Kids are naturally fun loving and bring out our playfulness. I urge each of you to come to the meeting about the results of the survey we took in April. I encourage you to meet with the vestry members and reflect on how we see ourselves, and I hope you will do so with both a sense of seriousness, and a sense of humor. If we can’t find a way to laugh at ourselves now, when will we?

Jesus is playful with his mother, why not? Why not think about the ways in which we too can be playful? If we get too bogged down with heaviness, worry, and concern, we will limit our ability to see God’s creativity in our lives and world, we will limit our ability to laugh and see the joy in our lives.

I suggest that part of our discerning time in the weeks ahead include some time for fun and laughter. It may seem odd, but I think its right. Laugh at ourselves and the ways we have been stifling the spirit from our fears or anxiety. Laugh at ourselves because we fail to trust God. Let’s be playful with one another like family, like Jesus and Mary.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tears of Fear and Sorrow

On Saturday our family friend, my daughter's high school sweet heart and still best friend, will deploy to Iraq.

I can hardly imagine this kind young man facing the choices he will have to make, to live or let live, to kill or be killed. I fear for his safety. I fear for his well being. I fear for all our young men and women in this situation.

My fear wakes me up at night in tears. I grieve with all the parents, relatives, and friends who are living this reality.

My daughter can't speak about it, she can only go on each day distracting herself with her busy life.

She pleaded with him not to join the army, we had him speak to people who had served in other wars. He was determined. He's made his choice.

We support him in that choice, even as we do not support the reasons for this war. I always struggle with war, I always wish we humans could find alternatives to settle our disputes and power struggles.

Pray for Ryan.

Pray for all the young men and women in this war.

Pray for the Iraqi's whose lives are filled with violence and fear.

Pray for all of us in these uncertain times.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

After a long spell of warm weather in the Chicago area, there is finally a hint of winter chill. As much as I do not like the deep chill we get around here it is even more disconcerting to have such a warm winter. What are we doing to our environment? I once heard a comedian-social commentary say something like, if we think we are destroying the planet with pollution, we are wrong. We are destroying the planets capacity to support human life (and animal life, etc). But even once we are gone, the planet will remain and possibly some adaptive life forms, it's humans that will be extinct.
Society today. I am in the process of sharing with my parish the findings of research by Diana Butler Bass who speaks about our culture and Christianity, in particular renewal of spirituality and growth in membership for mainline churches. She counters the findings that support the mega-church influence with ideas for the rest of us in her book: Christianity for the Rest of Us. I have found her work to be very helpful in articulating what I am experiencing in my congregation. It's the "Go to church on Sunday, have a 'nice' time and go home." No deep involvement or commitment desired, no desire to be "changed, transformed" no desire to grow in faith. She argues against the media push to polarize the issue in churches between liberal and conservative agendas. She articulates a conflict between the "Established" voice of the church of the 1950's, that voice of authority, and the voice of the emerging church or as she calls the "Intentional Practicing" congregation. The Established church is dying, but those churches who are practicing ancient Christian disciplines (like; hospitality, discernment, testimony, social justice, etc) are growing, and not just in deeper faithful people, but in numbers. Her research shows this happening across denominational lines and across the liberal/conservative pole. Food for thought.
My work with my parish these days is all about discernment: what do they want? And only they can determine that. But also, what do I want? How much energy do I put into this parish? When is it time to say, I've done my job, and move on?
My health is slowly getting better. Eight weeks ago I was admitted into the hospital for an infection, I was there for 11 days. I remain on antibiotics, but no more PICC line, no more 4X daily IV therapy, now only one oral tablet a day. I am getting better. The scar from the surgery (just below the jaw bone on my right side, about 4 inches long) is healing, softening. The tissues affected by the surgery are regaining normal movement (no more stiff neck and face). As is the scar from the tracheotomy I had to have, since the infection invaded my jaw bone and muscle (running up the side of my face to the temple), my jaw shut and I could only open my mouth about 1/8 inch. For surgery they intibated me through my nose (yeh, yuck!!) and then they put a trach in during surgery in case of any additional emergency follow up surgery. Anyway, that too is healing. My energy is almost normal. Thanks be to God and thanks to all those who have prayed for and cared for me. Now, let's pray that when I end the antibiotics next Monday the infection does not return....
Job search. I have my name into four places searching for a new priest/rector. None of these are near where I currently live, three are west, one is east coast. Oy vay. I am in such a muddle. I hope for clarity, I pray for direction. All I have is confusion. And the majority of my energy is going into the place I currently serve, which probably needs to let me go and hire a part time priest....
Today is Monday, my day off, a day to rest. But I have to answer a bunch of questions for one of the search committtees and prepare for a big vestry meeting tomorrow night. And over the course of the week prepare two sermons, one for the congregation on Sunday, and one for our ecumenical Evensong to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is our fifth year doing this service as the gather churches in our area, it is the first year I will preach. I'm going to preach on singing, on choirs, on blended voices harmonizing to create one beautiful sound - Christians all around uniting in that which makes us common, baptism and love of God in Christ.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stations of the Magi

Whenever I take a long journey, especially if I’m driving, I do a lot to prepare. In addition to road maps and planning the route and packing, we do a thorough check of the car: tires, fluids, battery operated emergency flashers, flash lights, blankets, and food.

The word journey isn’t a word most of use in our daily speech. We might say, road trip, or vacation, or a hike. Journey is a more ancient word and our Christian tradition can help us appreciate the richness this word conveys.

Until recent times, the taking of a journey was filled with great danger, traveling long distances on foot, or horse, or boat left one vulnerable to the elements of weather and terrain. The journals of a Henry Muhlenberg, who came to the American colonies to help organize the Lutherans, describe how the ship he was on ran out of water and the rats, desperate for water would lick the sweat off the faces of passengers while they slept.

My family history includes the journey of pioneers, who traveled west. Some even traveled by boat from England, then a train from the east coast to the Mississippi, then a wagon train to Utah or Idaho. These folks kept their belongings in the wagon, but the people, men, women, and children, walked in order to not overload the weight of the wagons for the ox that pulled them. The route out west was filled with graves, signs of the arduous nature of the journey.

In Christianity we use the word journey to describe our faith and growth of spirituality. This journey into the meaning of life is described as moving from the mundane, the trivial, or evil, toward what is good and valuable. This spiritual journey is also filled with danger: the danger of distraction, boredom, or unfulfilled expectation. People who make this spiritual journey are often called pilgrims. I have been using that language here as well, seeking to understand the nature of our post-modern culture, our restless aimless sense of being unrooted and not belonging to a place or a community. Coming out of research by Diana Butler Bass I have started using two metaphors to help us understand our world today: when wandering aimless in our spiritual journey we are called nomads, so sense of being rooted. But when we claim a place and a community with whom to grow and nurture our spiritual selves, we become pilgrims. In this context, being a pilgrim means being on a spiritual journey with others in a faith community seeking to grow our faith. Being a spiritual pilgrim requires us to do some very intentional things: to worship together, to pray as community and in our daily lives, to show genuine hospitality to those we know and those we do not know, to educate ourselves about the injustices in the world and to be a people of compassion, loving others, loving God, loving ourselves. It means we take on the traditional Christian discipline of Christ, we give of ourselves as he gave, and we do this intentionally. These Christian disciplines include things like hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, and beauty. As a faith community we at St. Hilary’s are on a journey of discernment, which includes forms of prayer.

In our Synthesis CE for the month of January and February I have included an introduction on praying with scripture. Responding to your questions and concerns about how scripture informs our understanding of current issues and our contemporary world I am working to bring scripture to you all in a variety of ways. By reading and praying with scripture we grow in faith and understanding of how God is active in our lives and world. This is one way I have invited us to be a discerning community. Discernment means that we are intentionally creating the environment to see and hear God in our midst and come to some understanding of what God is calling us to do. We have had several discernment committees in this parish who have spent a year or more discerning whether an individual member has a call to holy orders. Through this process we have raised up two deacons and are investing our prayers in the discernment process of a third person contemplating a call to the priesthood. Some of us have been trained in this kind of discernment. Discerning God’s call to our community is much the same process, of questioning, listening, silence, prayer, and conversation. When we are discerning our prayer is: O God, grant me your sense of timing. It is a spiritual journey we travel together.

Our discerning will be informed by several community activities: praying with scripture in our worship on Sunday and in your personal lives during the week; the presentations unpacking the research information from Diana Butler Bass, meeting with vestry members, and then the parish, to review the results of the survey we took last Spring, to gather on Sunday’s and worship and pray together. To ponder what we can do as individuals and as a parish. To listen for God in our midst. Today I offer yet another way to assist in our prayer and discernment, a labyrinth.

The walking of a Labyrinth is an ancient practice of prayer and meditation; a physical process of an internal a spiritual journey. A labyrinth is a patterned walkway that has a beginning point, walks one through a series of circles or partial circles to a center point and then out again. As one walks the labyrinth one prays about what ever concern is on one’s mind at the time. Walking a labyrinth is a form of meditation, prayer in movement, a spiritual journey..

The original labyrinths were made thousands of years ago. Christians took on the practice in the middle ages, and contemporary spirituality has renewed this practice. The most famous labyrinth is in the Chartres Cathedral in France.

Today as we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany I invite us to use the image of a labyrinth to enter into this season. For the next several weeks we walk the journey of the wise men, or in our case, the wise men, women, and children. Our journey will presume that God is with us, that somehow in the mix of these times we are Christ led and Spirit fed.

The journey begins by seeing the star of Bethlehem, a sign that God beckons us. We have traveled before, but this journey – over the weeks between now and our annual meeting on Feb. 4, will be different. This one we have to make together, but it is you all who will discern the end of the path. As your rector and priest I have brought us this far, now the next steps are up to you.

So, we will set out on this journey, following the star, looking for signs that point us to the Christ child, the new born life. The journey will be arduous at times: you may find yourself bored, or resistant to what is being asked of you, you may be angry or fearful or anxious, or maybe you are able to be quiet and open to the process, the spirit. I trust it will be enlightening and maybe even fun, or at least energizing.

I invite your to walk the labyrinth of our church space, the nave and sanctuary, to walk it in prayer. Along the way you will find some stations; stations of the wise men. Stop at these points, pray and reflect on the meditations provided in this booklet, or on your own. The Christian journey is marked by several distinctive emphasis: first, we travel a spiritual journey together, we are a community; second, the journey we travel is Christ, he is our guide, the one we follow; and third, the mid point of the journey, in our labyrinth is the altar, to remind us that in Christ, in the brokenness of his life, God poured out for us love and compassion. Fourth, we partake of the bread and the wine to fill ourselves with that same love and compassion that we might share it with others. Fifth, we are sent out into the world to share this love.

The Christian life is not a solitary journey toward personal fulfillment.The Christian life is a journey we make as community, we walk this road together. In this season after the Epiphany open yourself up to the possibility that God is doing a new thing with us.

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...