Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Questions About Angels: a poem by Billy Collins

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding and boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do the fly though God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and
forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

Day One

Monday, my first day of vacation.

I read blogs for a long time.

I did some blog correspondance.

I thought a bit about a project I want to do in the fall.

I washed my kitchen floor.

Worked out. My work out DVD has three levels of work out for Abs, Upper Body, and legs. I only do the ab and upper body, because I walk my dogs 40 minutes a day, which takes care of the legs...yesterday I did the most vigorous level. Today I am sore. But not as sore as I thought, just my triceps - "so they won't jiggle when I wave 'goodbye'" which is what she reminds me over and over in the workout...

Saw my chiropractor who continues to help me heal from my big illness last fall. When I had a bad infection and caused me to have surgery to drain the infection (inn my jaw and up the side of my face) and to be hospitalized for 11 days. The right side of my lip and chin are still healing. The nerve remains damaged, I feel numb there. The chiropractor does this "energy" stuff with magnets that look like blunt pencils and then hooks me up to an electicity machinge that "stimulates' my jaw muscles. It is working.

Did some grocery shopping. It has to be done.

Read.

Went looking at paint samples for a variety of project.

Walked the dogs.

Had tacos for dinner (homemade).

Did some more blogging.

Went to the library.

Picked up my son.

Took a shower. Went to bed.

Ok. not very exciting. But, it's what I did.

On the agenda for today: much the same, add "clean bedroom..." (move furniture, purge closet, etc.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Officially on vacation

Yes. Finally. No church work for two weeks. Not going anywhere. My vacation will be a mix of some housework - painting and DEEP cleaning (which I actually look forward to doing, and having the luxury of time to do); various day trips into Chicago (Art Institute? Walk along Michigan Avenue? the beach?); and a lot of reading. Looking forward to this time.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Prayer, a way to balance a life of being and doing


A reflection on Luke 11:1-13

A mother sent her fifth grade boy up to bed. In a few minutes she went to make sure that he was getting in bed. When she stuck her head into his room, she saw that he was kneeling beside his bed in prayer. Pausing to listen to his prayers, she heard her son praying over and over again. "Let it be Tokyo! Please dear God, let it be Tokyo!"

When he finished his prayers, she asked him, "What did you mean, 'Let it be Tokyo'?"

"Oh," the boy said with embarrassment, "we had our geography exam today and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France."

The last few weeks our scripture readings, especially the Gospel, have pointed us to look at our relationship with God. They’ve all asked the questions, “What does it mean to love God?”. Two weeks ago we read about the lawyer debating with Jesus. Jesus responds to the lawyer with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The point: it isn’t enough to know what God wants of us - love God, love self, love others - we need to live it.

Last week we heard the story of Mary and Martha, Mary who sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to his teachings, Martha, as the host, is busy cleaning and cooking and working. The point: We need to live balanced lives that include both living an active faith and nurturing that faith with worship, study and prayer.

Today we learn how prayer is an essential element in living a balanced life – this reading points us to see that who we are and what we do needs to be grounded in prayer. But of course, we have our own ideas of what it means to pray, which are not necessarily Jesus’.

In a Peanuts cartoon Charlie Brown is kneeling beside his bed for prayer. Suddenly he stops and says to Lucy, "I think I've made a new theological discovery, a real breakthrough. If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for."

Our prayers tend to be occasions to ask God to do what we want in our lives. We want God to do this or that. Now, certainly it is alright to ask God to help us. It’s just that God doesn’t always help us in exactly the way we think God ought too.

In this Gospel reading Jesus directs the disciples to consider prayer from another perspective. Jesus was praying. The disciples saw this and wanted to learn how to pray in a similar manner. So Jesus teaches them to pray in a way that brings the whole self to God.

Jesus opens the prayer with “Father,” a term that suggests he is speaking to someone very close to him. Later Augustine would describe this relationship as one in which God is more intimate with us than we are to ourselves – God knows us better than we know do. And Teresa of Avila said that this relationship, of God with us, means that God resides at the very center of the human person: the way Jesus prays describes a deep, intimate relationship.

We often pray with the intent of asking God to do something for us, we need God to do what we want in our lives…and then we are left wondering about those times in our lives, and in others, when the prayers appear to be unanswered.

Praying to God is less about changing God and more about changing us. Prayer is not so much about what God is doing for us. Prayer is about God being in us. When we pray we open ourselves up to God and allow God to work in us and through us.

In the novel "The Great Hunger," a newcomer comes to a farm community. He refuses all friendship with his neighbors and puts out the no trespassing sign. One day a little child from the town climbs underneath his fence to pet his dog. The territorial dog thinks she is a threat, leaps on her and kills her.

Hostility spreads throughout the community. When the newcomer comes to town no one will speak to him. Clerks refuse to wait on him. Spring comes and the merchants refuse to sell him seed. Finally, the father of the girl who was killed comes over and sows his field. This act of kindness is too much for the insufferable newcomer. "Why-you of all people?" he asks. The father responds: “To keep God alive in my heart.”

The point of praying is to let God in, to wake God up inside of us, so that we can be changed into a more God-centered people. Praying is at the heart of doing and being. Praying changes us from the inside out. Prayer is how the lawyer will come to know the real meaning of the law. Prayer is how Mary becomes Martha and Martha becomes Mary. Prayer is how the disciples become more like Christ. Praying is how we become God-centered people. As God-centered people we are able to help others know God, just by being who we are. Our “being” becomes our “doing:” the way WE are able to be the face of Christ in a broken world.

Illustrations from www.esermons.com
The theme for this homily was influenced by John Shea, “The Relentless Widow” The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers, Luke, Year C

Friday, July 27, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Floods and Droughts

1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope? Several. I lived through the huge snowstorm of 1968. I was in middle school and living in Wisconsin, big time snow. But, as I remember, no snow days. Off we trudged walking to school. We've had bitter cold long snowy winters in the Chicago area and terrible heat waves and droughts (1995) when people were dying from the heat.



2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming? Very important. I am appalled at how little people really think about it. Seems folks in my area are more interested in convenience and comfort, the environment is someone else's problem. Me, I try to be "green." I only use the A/C when I really have too (over 90 degrees, high humidity, night time so I can sleep). I prefer fans. I recycle everything I can.



3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree? Agree. Which to me means that we care for all the earth and the earth's creatures.



And because it is summer- on a brighter note....



4. What is your favourite season and why? I like 'em all. I love summer, and heat, and sun, and shorts, sandals and tee shirts. But then I love it when the weather turns cool and crisp and I can put on layers of clothes. I love the fall leaves and a walk on a sunny autumn day. Then, I love it when it turns cold and snowy, snuggled up with a cup of tea and a good book. (Ok, I don't really like to be OUTSIDE when it's cold, I just like to look at it...).



5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....warm. Sunny. But not too hot.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Question

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My husband and I will celebrate our 22 wedding anniversary in a few weeks and we are already making plans for dinner and probably an art fair. (I love art fairs). Plus it's been the topic in various of forums, blogs, and books I've been reading this summer. So I've been thinking a lot about monogamy. What does it mean to commit oneself to one other person? Is it important?

Let me just say, before I begin my story, that I do believe in monogamy, I took vows to that end, and I have lived them faithfully. So, my simple answer is yes, it's important. But I arrive at that simple answer from a life lived in more complex circumstances.

I hesitate to write this, it will make me vulnerable. And remind me of myself in days I prefer to forget. I did not like Anne Lamott's book, "Hard Laughter" because her main character reminds me of myself and my friends when we were in our early twenties. Not exactly, but there is enough of a resemblance to make me uncomfortable in the memories.

This story begins long before I went back to church. Before I knew the man who is now my husband. and, way before I had an thought about being ordained.

I'm thinking back to 1979 - 1983. I was in a relationship, even thought I was in love. We met in college in 1976. After college we moved to Chicago and got an apartment. Turns our we had very different ideas of what this would mean. He seemed to think that living together still allowed him to explore other relationships. I was clearly his "main" relationship - but, well, others were to be allowed. I put up with this for years. It made me wonder if I too "ought" to have other relationships? It was a very painful, confusing time. We were living in an artistic world, a counter-cultural world, a free world. For awhile I got my own apartment, but eventually we moved back in together, in another apartment. There were many parts of our relationship that were wonderful. He was funny, and active, we played tennis and went cross country skiing. He was kind and gave me sweet handpainted cards on my birthday and Valentine's Day. So, I loved him, and his family. Compared to my family they were rock solid (they really were a wonderful family, but I suspect infidelity was an inherited male trademark). But things deteriorated. He wanted to have a menage a tois with my (then) best friend. She wanted to too. I DID NOT.

Eventually he decided to go to graduate school, in another state. I decided not to go. I had a job and a life where I was. He left. I went into therapy for the first time. And really began to understand myself a lot better.

We broke up. For awhile I dated three men at the same time, none of them seriously. Until one became serious. And we decided to get married. I took vows, and never really doubted my ability to be faithful.

Over the years I have on rare occasion contemplated another relationship. Not with an actual person, which seems kind of funny. I would think, "well if the right person came along I'd have an affair. Maybe it would help me get out of this miserable marriage." Because at times this marriage has been miserable. Probably for both of us.

But always I would think and know that such behavior would not help. It would not solve my marital issues and it would not make me happier and it not be good for me or anyone involved. Deep down inside (Ok, it was all that therapy, and some Buddhism spirituality), but deep down inside I knew that I had to fix my problems with the person I was with, or I would just keep repeating them. Of course it helped that my husband was willing to do the same - he has never been unfaithful either. Which makes a difference. Two people who realize that we have to work out together, with one another, and sometimes on our own, but still with the other. Admitedly I sometimes thought about divorce, free myself, and then a new relationship. But, well, same principle for me - I'd just keep repeating the same issues until I worked them out with the person I was involved with.

So. I've hung in there. We've hung in there. Twenty-two years is a long time. We've been through a lot. I can't say we've worked out all our issues. We are still raising kids (19 and 15).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Symeon The New Theologian (949-1022)




A poem by Symeon from "The Enlightened Heart" An anthology of Sacred Poetry Edited by Stephen Mitchell


We awaken in Christ's body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhead).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous - Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ's body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Three Poems Worth Reading

If you haven't already, go check out these poems:

gannet girl Kindness


jan The Guest House

I do not know how to create a direct link to the post, so scroll down to the poem...or read all the posts until you get to the poem...all wonderful posts and poems...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hannah, my Great, Great, Great, Grandmother

I admit it, I have a deep fascination with my heritage. I think it comes from the fact that I moved away from my family when I was 9 and have had little contact with any family since then. Well, I did have contact with my mother and father and brothers, but no one else. The reason for that fact will be the topic of another post....

Anyway, I come from a family of LDS, Mormons. Which means I have some family history accessible to me through the family genealogy. Following my mothers death in 2004 I acquired some records of family history and learned a bit about my ancestors. One great, great, great grandmother, in particular, resonated with me.

She was born on April 4, 1839, in Pendlebury, Lancashire, England. Her parents, Isaac and Charlotte, named their daughter Johanna. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Clayton in Manchester. Hannah was one of four children (two brothers named William and James, and a sister named Harriet), plus a child named Jonathon whom they acquired in 1834; although the records do not state how or why.

Hannah was baptized into the Church Of Latter Day Saints on May 9, 1857. She and Jonathon, the young boy raised in her family, were married on December 20, 1957 in th Manchester Cathedral. Their marriage, in this Cathedral of the Church of England, caused them to be "excommunicated" from the LDS church, apparently for being married in this a Cathedral of the Church of England. However, they were reinstated quickly.

On May 23, 1863 Hannah left England for the USA. They sailed on the Antarctic from Liverpool. With her were her two children, William (3 years old) and Harriet, an infant. Her first born son, also named William died shortly after birth. Her husband, Jonathon, remained in England earning a living to support his family while they relocated to the USA. In this case, the wife and children were moving across the ocean to settle in a community that understood and embraced their same faith.

As it turns out Hannah was four months pregnant when she left England. The boat trip across the Atlantic was arduous. The ship was old and leaky. The drinking water was bad. Many people died on the trip, either from poor food or measles. It appears that young Harriet, Hannah's daughter died on the trip, for no record of her exists after the trip.

The ship arrived in New York harbor on July 4, 1863. The Civil War was in full swing and the emigrants were in great danger. Many young men were drafted into the army as soon as they left the boat. Hannah continued her journey moving through New England, crossing the Niagara Bridge, and then taking ferries across the Great Lakes. Arriving in Chicago they then took a cattle car to St. Joseph, MO and then a steamer to Florence Bench, Nebraska. An ox team was waiting to take them from French Bench to Salt Lake City. This team had been waiting a month for her arrival. The team arrived in Salt Lake City in September. Hannah was 8 months pregnant. Her son, my great great grandfather Jacob, was born, Oct. 9, 1863.

A year later Jonathon arrived in Salt Lake City. Jonathon and Hannah had 13 children, 9 of which survived. Hannah died on Jan. 23, 1883, from complications following the birth of her 13th child, the baby died as well. (Think about it, she had birthed children on two continents for over 20 years).

What impresses me about this woman, my great-great-great grandmother, is her strength. She travelled, by herself, with two young children, and 4 months pregnant, from England to Salt Lake City, Utah. She was in her last tri-mester and traveling via ox and wagon from Nebraska to Utah - over the Rocky Mountains (no small feat). And she did it all for her faith.

Jonathon arrived in SLC on September 20, 1864. Later he married other women, living a life of polygamy. He married a woman named Amelda on April, 24, 1874. Hannah died in 1883. Jonathon married a third woman, Sarah Susannah around 1885. Jonathon was accused and found guilty of polygamy in 1886. He served 3-1/2 months in jail, was fined $150.00 and had court fees of $52.25. Later Jonathon and Almeda divorced. Jonathon died on July 1, 1896 and is buried in the Salt Lake City cemetery. In this same cemetery are buried my grandparents, an aunt, and my mother, not to mention countless other relatives from generations back. (It is a beautiful cemetery on the side of a mountain over looking the entire SLC valley).

I often think of this grandmother. Of her faith. Of her willingness to suffer through great challenges for her faith. Of her leaving the Church of England for the LDS church, church of my childhood, the church was I baptized into, the same baptism accepted by the Episcopal Church when I was confirmed in 1990. The same church that ordained me in 1999.

I often wonder how this same grandmother, in her love of family and faith, would feel about her great-great-great grand child being a priest, a woman priest, in the very church she left. I live in awe of her strength, her witness, her faith...and only hope that she would love me as I am and understand.

Now, I am a woman who left the very faith that these early pioneers risked life and limb for. I cannot imagine how Hannah must have felt being on her own, so vulnerable and tired, and yet so strong. I remember being 8 months pregnant, barely able to move. I can't imagine walking down the valley into SLC in that condition. I can't imagine leaving my husband, the father of my children, a continent behind, while I moved with our children to a new land, a new home.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Art of Hospitality: Balancing Doing and Being


A reflection on: Genesis 18:1-10; Luke 10:38-42

Benedict of Nursia lived in Italy between the 5th and 6th centuries. Born into some wealth, he was sent to Rome for his formal education. This education would have established him in the life of a noble man, but after his education he chose to leave Rome and settle in the desert for a life of studying God and faith.

Over his life time Benedict started and directed twelve monasteries. So profound was his leadership that he is called the founder of Western monastic life for both men and women. For 1500 years monastic communities around the world have been established under the Benedictine order and follow the Rule of St. Benedict.

Essentially this rule is a set of guidelines for living in community; guidelines for developing one’s personal faith life, developing a corporate faith life, and the rules give guidelines for managing a monastic community.

The principle rule of life in Benedictine spirituality is hospitality.

As a result many monastic communities offer retreat centers, grounded in the Benedictine spirituality of hospitality. The Episcopal Church celebrates his feast day on July 11.

Embracing Benedictine spirituality is not limited to monasteries; many churches center their community faith life in the Benedictine spirituality of hospitality. Hospitality is one of the guiding principles of Diana Butler Bass’ book, “Christianity for the Rest of Us,” which many of us have read.

Hospitality means essentially: how we welcome others into our community and how we care for one another. The welcome, in its fullest sense, means all are welcome. Some call this: “radical hospitality.”

Faith communities around the country are finding creative ways to bring this ancient principle alive in their churches. It lives in the way churches worship, the way the congregation is attentive to newcomers, and the way we open ourselves up to everyone who walks in our doors.

Our readings today from Genesis and Luke point us to some of the scriptural foundations for using hospitality as a guiding principle for our lives.

In Genesis we hear the story that underlies the icon of the Trinity hanging in our narthex. This icon, written by a Russian iconographer represents the three persons - “angels” who appear to Abraham and Sarah. When they appear Abraham runs out to greet them and offers them profound hospitality – rest and food, bathing and comfort.

This was not such an easy thing to do, for the three could just as easily have been thieves out to rob them, very common among nomadic people in the desert.

But rather than presume they were thieves Abraham welcomes them. It is this radical hospitality, in the face of fear, that tells the story, for the three persons, are really angels of God – and in the Christian tradition of this icon – they have come to be the Trinity, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

In radical hospitality we are called to welcome all people because in doing so we also welcome God.

Mary and Martha continue the theme of hospitality and faith by unpacking two sides of this teaching: the balance between doing and being.

The spiritual teaching of this reading asks us to see the sisters of Mary and Martha as if they were two sides of one person. One side is the worker bee – always doing, the other is the quiet thinking side – always being.

This story teaches us that we need to balance these two pieces of our selves in order to live a good faithful Christian life. We must strive to balance the busyness of our lives with time for study, prayer, and quietness.

And then we are to go out and do likewise: we are to live an active life of faith – because the things we do are to be grounded in God through prayer and study.

In other words, the work each of us does in our daily lives, in our jobs, our homes, our lives, is to be grounded in our faith – this is how we live a Christian life.

Balancing life is an on-going process. Some of us are more inclined to be busy, like Martha. However, being overly busy may make us distracted or anxious instead of being grounded in a calm sense of God’s grace. Others of us are more inclined to study, like Mary. But if all we do is study or live quiet lives we may not be active in expressing our faith.

The goal is to do both, so that one informs the other – our quietness, study, or prayer informs our busyness, the work we do becomes the work of God. And the work of God is always grounded in hospitality, which means caring for others in a radical way:

loving God, loving self, loving others.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

RevGals Friday 5- looking back, looking forward


Sally over at RevGals writes:

When I began work here at Downham Market a wise friend told me that after one year I would see a few changes and sense God at work- years two and three would cause me to question and to wonder why I had chosen to accept the post here and in year four I might see the beginnings of something new.

And so with that in mind alongside yesterdays celebrations I bring you Friday 5 Looking back, looking forward... and, since this is posted on my blog I'll add, "watch out for the snakes>" they might bite and hurt...


1. Share a moment/ time of real encouragement in your journey of faith O gosh. thankfully I have had several. I have gone through so many occasions of self-doubt, fear, feelings of being unworthy...in some ways a typical woman in ministry. I am grateful for the people who stood by me through challenges to my ordination process, through various discernment processes, through illness, through parish struggles and hopes and dreams....I have been blessed with a lot of encouragement over the years.

2. Do you have a current vision / dream for your work/ family/ministry? Yes. I have a powerful vision for ministry. It may be lived into in a variety of ways: one way if I stay at my current parish, perhaps another way if I move on to another. BUT regardless, I have a vision for my ministry that involves making a real difference in the world - I mean really changing the world around me...it's a dream. it's a hope. but, it's possible....won't say what exact just yet...

3.Money is no object and so you will..... oh, way too many possibilities - make sure everyone has clean fresh water; make sure everyone has food; make sure everyone has parents who love them and raise them well; make sure women are accepted as true equals; make sure people whose skin color is not the regional "norm" have equal opportunities; make sure that we are sensitive to use of gendered language, i.e. not use "he" when we mean men and women, and not use men when we mean "men and women.." (I'm just saying...)...

4. How do you see your way through the disappointments? What keeps you going? I have learned to get up in the morning, put one foot in front of the other, and keep on walking. I do this because I have faith that somehow God is involved and perhaps I am being guided by God. Of course I continue to pray, discern, and speak with others, to test if what I think I am discerning is in fact what God is calling forth in me...

5. How important are your roots? As I moved away from my family when I was 9 years old and have barely seen these folks (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, parents) it would hardly seem important. But, I think, since I have been gone from the city of my birth for nearly 35 years, I work harder to remain connected than I would other wise. I yearn for that kind of inter generational connectedness. And I only get hints of it at various times in my life...sigh.

6. Bonus= what would you like to add ? Maybe I will think of somethings tomorrow...right now I am VBS exhausted...

A Vision of Light


I am coming to the end of a very busy long week of hosting Vacation Bible School at small church. It's really a blast. I love have all the kids around and the hustle and bustle. But it takes five hours of my day just to do it, and that's with a lot of help. I'm not even in charge of VBS, just the pastor of the church, (ok, so I'm in charge that way - in the real big picture way of parish ministry). But I have a director and she has lots of help. So. I can only imagine how tired I'd be if I did more...still, on top of that has been my usual weekly work load, and laundry, and meals, and dog walking, and exercising, and a few meetings...etc.

And, of course, there's that sermon waiting to be written...sigh...

Tonight, however, I'm going to take it easy. I'm going to walk my dogs. Make a simple supper, 'cuz my husband is working late. I'm going to have a nice glass of wine, with supper, and read "A Vision of Light." This book will be the subject of the RevGals book club conversation on Monday - and for once I will have read all of the book we are discussing. And, I really like this book. Can't wait to delve into it again tonight. Can't wait for the book club conversation on Monday...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happiness by Jane Kenyon

Diane has posted a new poem at her blog. Check it out here.

Happiness

Diane has posted a new poem over at her blog. She says:I wanted to share my favorite picture from vacation, and a new poem, by Jane Kenyon. I just discovered it in a collection called Otherwise. Jane Kenyon died of leukemia in April of 1995. Check it out here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What Kind of a Neighbor Am I?



A Reflection on Luke 10:25-37

Over the last couple of years I’ve come to enjoy the TV show, Boston Legal. Granted, it is a bit ridiculous and outrageous in its portrayal of certain aspects of our society and office romance; although it’s probably more accurate than I care to admit. What I like about the show is it’s undertone of social justice. Each episode takes on a social cause and works it in to the office politics, in to the crime and trial, and most importantly in the brilliant closing statement of the trail lawyers. The writing is smart and provocative, looking at the nuances of the issue and the subtext the rides below the surface of cultural platitudes.

Our gospel reading this morning has a smart lawyer provoking Jesus. He really wants to push the issue of “Who is my neighbor?” This portion of the Gospel is part of an ongoing dialogue in Luke about what it really means to love God and love neighbor. The lawyers’ tone is somewhat sarcastic; this lawyer doesn’t want to really think about the neighbor. The lawyer wants to stay comfortable in his knowledge of the “law” and not get pushed into nuances and subtext of meaning. Besides, he’s sure he gets it and Jesus doesn’t.

But for Jesus the sublime is always more important than the socially accepted norm. Jesus sees below the surface and understands issues at their core. Jesus sees into people and knows what’s really in their heart. In response to the lawyers’ question he gives a pointed illustration, one the lawyer can’t fail to miss.

Who is my neighbor? In our world Jesus would push us to look carefully at all our norms, all the ways we categorize people and therefore deem them as acceptable or as folks we need not care about.

The dirty smelly homeless person walking up to you…

Kids in the mall wearing baggy black clothes, multi-colored hair, and black eye make up…

Dark skinned people…

People who don’t speak English…

Overweight…

Too thin…

Who is my neighbor? Well, only those who are normal, like me…

These are the arguments used by the Levite and the priest. In their minds they could say, “I don’t need to help this person because this person is defiled, impure, and just touching this person will make me bad…the law entitles me to walk on by.”

The same is true for us. The list of who we consider our neighbors, or not, goes on and on. We all use our prejudices and bias to justify in our heads our response to other people. We choose to criticize, belittle, and judge. At the very least we choose to look the other way. There are many broken people in this world. But not everyone in our profile of brokenness is in fact broken. Or at least not anymore broken than we are ourselves.

The Samaritan helps the injured man. It is like you or me helping the person who makes us the most uncomfortable. Or, better yet, it would like you or me being the injured person; helped by someone who makes us the most uncomfortable. Surely the initial thought of the injured man was, no, not you, not a Samaritan?

Think about it. How would you feel if you were suddenly in need of help? And the one person who stopped to help you was the person you are most afraid of. Would it feel like help? Probably not at first…

Who is my neighbor?

Many people in our suburbs, in this county, leave for work early in the morning. Come home at night pull into the attached garage and enter the house from the garage. We never go outside, or if we do we have tall fences around our property. We never even see our neighbors.

Who are they? Some of us have no idea.

In the end this Gospel is not just a question of “who is my neighbor?”

More importantly it is also a question of “What kind of a neighbor am I?”

The Gospel pushes us to consider not only the identity of our neighbor, but also, who we are.

Who am I?

And, then,

How do I love?

The real question of this Gospel becomes not who but how.

How do I love and how do I allow myself to be loved?

Think about it.

Then, go and do likewise.

Friday, July 13, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Cultural Choices....

As you may have seen in this Wednesday's Festival, Pottermania has hit the RevGals---though not all of them. Yes, I am all over Harry like a Seeker on the Snitch, but I know there are others who will be ecstatic to see the July madness end.

So today's F5 is a Choose Your Own Adventure: do the magical version or the Muggle one, or both:



Option 1: Accio Friday Five!

1. Which Harry Potter book is your favorite and why? My daughter was just the right age when the first book came out. Our house was Potter-Mania for a few years. But since then, and as my son is not an avid reader (sadly)...well. I haven't taken to reading them on my own. So. I've read the first two and a portion of the third. The rest, I've just seen the movies. Love them, though.

2. Which character do you most resemble? Which character would you most like to get to know? I don't resemble any of them...but I would like to know more about Minerva McGonagall.

3. How careful are you about spoilers? Don't like 'em.


4. Make one prediction/share one hope about book 7. I hope Harry Potter lives and finds some peace in his life, some sense of justice for all his years of turmoil.

5. Rowling has said she's not planning any prequels or sequels, but are there characters or storylines (past or future) that you would like to see pursued? Notsure...



Option 2: Please Mommy, Anything But Those Blankety-Blank Books!

And we do mean anything:


1. Former U.S. First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson died this week. In honor of her love of the land and the environment, share your favorite flower or wildflower. I really love all flowers. Well, I'mnot too crazy about daisys, except Gerber daisys...

2. A man flew almost 200 miles in a lawn chair, held aloft by helium balloons. Share something zany you'd like to try someday. Well, I think that was just nuts...oh my...no fear of heights??? yeesh. Something zany...I did a lot of fun zany stuff in my 20's before marriage and before the thought of ordination entered my consciousness. I don't have much desire now to be zany. I just want to be content. I'd like to travel and see the world, take a sabbatical and study.

3. Do you have an iPhone? If not, would you want one? No, I don't have one. But, yes, I want one...

4. Speaking of which, Blendtec Blenders put an iPhone in one of their super-duper blenders as part of their "Will It Blend?" series. What would YOU like to see ground up, whizzed up or otherwise pulverized in a blender? This is a tough one. No real ideas here.

5. According to News of the Weird, a jury in Weld County, Colo., declined to hold Kathleen Ensz accountable for leaving a flier containing her dog's droppings on the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, apparently agreeing with Ensz that she was merely exercising free speech. What do you think? Is doggy doo-doo protected by the First Amendment? Oh. why not. I makes a statement. Have a sense of humor. We have become way to litigious in this country.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Waiting

I want to post a poem. Actually I want to post the lyrics from an Indigo Girl's song: "Closer To Fine." I have written an email asking permission to post these on my blog. We'll see if I get a response and permission. In the mean time. I'm waiting.

Waiting for my meeting tonight with the vestry (governing board) where we will set our goals for next year.

Waiting for a return phone call with the Canon of Pastoral Care to discuss a brilliant idea I have...hah.

Waiting for my kitchen floor to dry, since I just washed it.

Waiting for the mail to come. In case there is something exciting instead of just bills. (hah hah)

Waiting until I get vacation, three more weeks.

Waiting for our land to sell. (part of brilliant idea I want to discuss with the Canon).

Waiting for my son to get of school and my daughter to call.

Waiting.

Waiting for what life has in store.

Waiting until the dry season ends and I feel fruitful again.

Waiting until this desert time has passed and I am no longer creatively parched.

Waiting until the harvest which always follows season like this. When all feels dull, dry, parched, empty.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"Primary Wonder" a poem by Denise Levertov

We're having a poetry party over at Jan's blog. You can find us here

An Heirloom of Love: a reflection for Proper 9C


Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

When I was little I remember a certain chair that belonged to my great-grandmother. It was a desk chair with a curved wood back, arms, and seat; a swivel chair on wheels. My brothers and I loved to twirl in that chair, round and round we’d spin. But, because it was old it wasn’t the hydraulic lift and swivel like desk chairs are today. No. This one was like a nut and bolt: the seat was a big nut that screwed onto the threaded bolt-like base. So, if we twirled enough in one direction the seat would screw right off the base and we’d end up on the floor.

My mother ended up with this chair and moved it with her everywhere, for decades. Over the years it was painted every color of every generation including, as I remember it, yellow – and then – olive green.

A few years ago, after my mother died, I found that old chair stuffed into my mother’s storage locker, broken in several pieces. She couldn’t bear to throw it out. But, now it was neither a cherished antique, not an heirloom nor a legacy, just a broken chair. So, I threw it out.

In our Gospel this morning Jesus sends the “appointed” out in pairs, seventy some people. Their task is to continue the ministry of Jesus, to go where he had intended to go and do what he had intended to do. They are to offer a way of passing down from one generation to the next an experience of Jesus. They are to offer folks, long after Jesus has gone, a precious heirloom of God’s love poured out in Christ, given for us.

What they are offering is the gift of relationship.

And, so, these appointed ones are to travel light. No need to carry any baggage. Just go and be present for the people they meet. Visit with them. Share stories. If they are welcomed, wonderful. A legacy will begin; a family history of God’s people will be shared and lived into in a new way. But if they are not welcomed, don’t worry. Move on. Don’t carry that baggage either, the baggage of being rejected or ignored. It’s ok. God’s
work will happen somehow, someway. Just move on and try again.

Of, course it will be difficult work at times. Not only will people reject the appointed ones but some might become hostile: “scorpions, snakes, and wolves” will come out to “attack” and “bite.”

Jesus’ advice to such threats: just keep going. The kingdom of God is near.

By their presence and with the intent of their hearts, these appointed ones bring with them the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is like a precious heirloom; it grows richer over time. The kingdom of God is like a priceless well aged piece of furniture, growing in value the longer the kingdom of God resonates around us. And like antiques which carry the stories of those who have used it, the kingdom of God becomes a part of our very being. And we become a part of the kingdom.

We, Christians today, are the appointed ones. We are charged to go out and share this heirloom with others. This heirloom, our Christian faith, is like a rich antique table. Around this table we invite all to join us, to come and share in the feast. We bring nourishment to the hungry, those who are starving, spiritually, or physically.

Today’s Gospel cautions us; We bring God’s love - we don’t need to bring everything. It reminds us that some of the things we might cling too are really not needed. They may feel like part of our history and our tradition, but being old doesn’t necessarily make them valuable. Some things, like that old broken chair, don’t need to be saved, stored, and moved around just for the sake of saving them. Some things just need to be discarded.

Religion is like that too. Sometimes we need to discard particular ways of understanding our faith. Often the way we understand God and what God is doing in the life death and resurrection of Jesus is bound by the culture and society we live in. Many of the ways we understand God are human constructs, they can be helpful but not always “necessary” – God is mystery.

So, this gospel helps us in our housecleaning. What’s important is to bring only the most valuable and necessary pieces – ourselves, and God’s love. Our Collect for the Day sums this up: O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Baptism

I rose early this morning. By 8:00 am I had exercised (20 minute upper body with weights and ab toner); written a draft of my sermon; checked email, given myself a manicure. By 9:30 I was showered and dressed in clerics and at the church doing the final set up for the baptism.

About five months ago the Deputy Fire Chief for our town called to inquire if I would baptize his niece. He and his family are Roman Catholic, but his sister married a man from England. This sister and brother live in Minnesota and had a baby in December. Being from England the father said he wanted to baptize his daughter in the Episcopal Church. The DFC wanted to know if I would baptize the baby while his sister and BIL were in town for a family gathering around the 4th of July. In fact, he wanted to know if I would I baptize the baby on Saturday, July 7?

Now. Typically in the Episcopal Church, since the prayerbook revision of 1979 we only baptize people on Sunday morning in the midst of the worship service. The baptism is embraced by scripture on one end and Eucharist on the other. The baptized person(s) is embraced by the gathered community who vow to support this person in the life and faith. It's a really lovely piece of liturgy, even though the language is already outdated.

So. My problem was not whether to baptize this baby, but how. We (ECUSA)have no other form for baptism except the Sunday morning and "Emergency" baptism which can be done by any baptized person. I wanted something that would hold a good sense of liturgy and make the ritual meaningful without all the stuff of Sunday morning. They didn't need a sermon and they didn't need the Eucharist (because, well, they were RC and couldn't receive it from me anyway...).

In the end I created a worship service that opened like a Sunday morning baptism: Presider Allelulia Christ is Risen!
People The Lord is risen indeed, Allelulia.
Presider There is one Body and one Spirit;
People There is one hope in God's call to us;
Presider One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
People One God and Father of all.
Presider The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Presider Let us pray.

Then, instead of the Collect of the Day (Sunday) I choose a collect for baptism and then added a great prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book that speaks of God's love for us and that we love because God loves us first. It is through Christ that we know God's love and are called to love in response. Then, I asked for the candidate for Holy Baptism to be presented. I skipped scripture because I wasn't going to preach or reflect on the Word, I focused solely on Baptism.

The family, godparents, and I met ahead of time for a rehearsal and teaching. I told them that the Episcopal Church baptizes on Sunday morning in the midst of the service, but that I was baptizing this baby in the midst of her gathered community of family and those who will be responsible for life and faith. I asked several members of the people gathered to participate: the grandmother (from England) read the Prayers for the Candidate, normally reserved for the Deacon. It was lovely to hear her read in her beautiful British accent and participate in the baptism of her grand daughter. Another family member poured the water from Ewer into the font for me to bless. The young child-godparent, cousin, held the baby while I baptized her. Someone else held the bowl of chrism while I marked her with the sign of the cross, sealing her as Christ's own forever. And another family member lit the baptismal candle off of the flame of the Paschal candle and handed it to the mother, the light of Christ given for her daughter. In other words the family took all the parts normally assigned to the deacon. (And since our Deacon is in Las Vegas this weekend for the wedding of her son, it felt like the right thing to do).

A few final prayers and then I ended with the peace of the Lord. It was a sweet service and worked very well. The baby was wonderful. The mother cried. The family was pleased, even the Mum from England (the "Deacon") was pleased. So, all around a good morning.

Friday, July 06, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Hasty Edition

Reverendmother over at RevGals write: Whoops! I have been in a family-induced haze these few days, with the July 4 holiday and taking time off while relatives are visiting. So I literally lost track of what day it was!

So rather than make you guys wait even one minute longer for the five, I'll dig up an oldie:


Today, what are you:

1. Wearing tan khaki shorts, dark blue sleeveless cotton T, tevas. that's enough for this hot day. (And I even went into the office dressed this causal, no make up even, and hair pushed back with a headband, 'cuz I'm still getting used to it growing out).

2. Reading "The Elegant Gathering of White Snows" bu Kris Radish. "How Does a Poem Mean?" bu John Ciardi. "The Progressive Christian" magazine.

3. Eating raspberry Keifer for breakfast, a hot dog for lunch, and homebaked BBQ baby back ribs with homemade potato salad for dinner, with left over pie for dessert.

4. Doing I have already set up the church for a private baptism tomorrow (I never do private baptisms, always on a Sunday in the midst of worship. But the Deputy Fire Chief called me months ago asking if I would baptize his niece. The family is Roman Catholic, except the father of the baby, who is Church of England - but living in Minnesota. The father of the baby wants his daughter baptized in the Episcopal Church, and I was asked to do it. How could I say no. Of course I would do it...so. A family baptism. I am baptizing her into a loving complex Christian family, just not a specific church). SO. set up for that, including worship booklets done so it is easy for everyone to follow along. Now. I've just finished lunch, as mentioned above. I need to work on sermon for Sunday, various meetings for next week, finish making the potato salad (potatoes and eggs boiled and cooling in the fridge...did that early this am during my "found time" per an earlier post). Walk my dogs, etc.

5. Pondering Not much. I've decided not to ponder much of anything this summer. I'm going to practice "being" instead of pondering. Being in the moment. That about matches my energy level and creativity (or lack there of).

a Found Moment in Time

I got up early today because the air conditioning guys were coming for the annual maintenance of rectory and church A/C. I got up early so I could exercise (ab toner and weights for upper body and arms) and get my animals fed and out before the guys arrive at 8am. I got up early so I could shower and be ready for them.

I called to make sure they knew to come to the rectory first, since this is where I am. I feel so organized and prepared. But then they asked to reschedule. So many other people have no air conditioning. It's hot and expected to be hotter. Ok. It's in the upper 80's and low 90's, and humid. It's not 116...but then this is the Midwest not the Southwest.

So, I said "Sure." Now, they'll come one day next week. And I'll have to do this same thing all over again.

But for now, I have some free time I didn't anticipate. RevGals has not yet posted it's Friday Five. All my other blogger friends must still be asleep or working. All is quiet. What to do?

Answer. Nothing. Drink my cup of coffee and watch the birds outside. Then. I'll walk over to the office.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Poetry Conversation continues at diane's blog












You can find the conversation here To Be of Use
o

How I spent the 4th of July


I am not big fan of the 4th of July. It's not that I wish to be unpatriotic. I love this complex, conflicted country of ours. It is beautiful and founded on ideals I fully embrace: freedom and equality for all men.

I have a problem with our generic use of men when we mean people. It's an old phrase and should not be used that way any more. We should say what we mean. When we mean men and women, say so. Use "people" or "human beings" or "humanity" but don't use "men" unless that's what your mean. I am not, nor ever will be, a man. I don't want to be lumped into that category as if I have no gender identity of my own.

So, I love our ever expanding understanding of who is included in the word "men." With our various Ammendments to the Constitution we gradually including everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. But, like I said, its complex and the process is fraught with conflict. And, it's not really what I want to reflect on today.

One of the things I love about our country is our passion for setting aside natural habitats like forest preserves and national parks which retain the beauty of this land. These natural sites are real blessing, but also another sign of our complexity and conflict. We would probably build on every square inch of land if we could.

The Chicago area is particularly wonderful for its Cook County Forest Preserves. These preserves are spread through out the metro area covering vast amounts of land, miles and miles, around lakes and rivers, forests and prairie land. Much of my day yesterday was spent in a forest preserve.

Usually we go to dog park to walk our dogs, or around the block...but yesterday we decided to explore a new forest preserve near our home. We drive by it but have never stopped. So. We packed up a cooler of chilled beverages (pepsi, diet mountaint dew, water). We leashed the dogs and filled their water container and set off.

It was a lovely walk through trees and grasses. We walked for 3 miles (not far, but far enough in 85 degree humid sun). When we started out it was overcast and on the cool side. But true to Chicago weather the clouds blew over and soon we were in blazing sun. The entire walk took 90 minutes. It was so refreshing, when all was done, to stand in the shade of tree, a cool breeze blowing, sipping those cold beverages. The dogs laid in the grass, so very content and exhausted. And all night they were tired. Which was a good thing.

We were supposed to have dinner with friends, but they got sick. So, husband and I had a lovely meal on our deck, just the two of us. Daughter was at the Wisconsin Dells with friends and their family. Son was at a BBQ with friends. We ate hamburgers, guacamole, and apple pie.

Then we watched the local fireworks. Which we can see and hear from our front porch. It's the best. Just step outside and enjoy. I love the professional fireworks. I love the boom and the bursting color. It's exhilarating. But I HATE the locals who illegally blow of stuff all around. Scaring my dogs and cats and keeping me on the alert for a fire. We close up the house and turn on the AC and try to block it out. But the animals still hear them, and they still freak out. It's too sad. So, what I really hate about the 4th, all those illegal fireworks. I love it when it starts to rain about 10pm.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Journey: another poem by Mary Oliver

Diane and I are sharing poems. It's not really my turn to post one since I just posted Bleeding-heart. But this one came to me in a blog discussion, so here it is. Diane, you're next. Or, anyone else can post a poem and lead us to it. We're having a fun conversation about poetry.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Monday, July 02, 2007

And, then just like that they're gone

We've been watching a robin's nest outside our back door. About three weeks ago we noticed it in the plum tree. The branches of this tree overhang our deck and arch above the door from the attached garage. The nest is tucked up on a branch above the garage door. In an amazing act of nature the nest blends right in with the brown of branches and red leaves of the tree. One needs patience to find it, a slow and diligent eye. Of course my husband, the nature lover found it. My husband is one of these human beings that draws animals to him. All animals love him. He understands them. And he remembers details about animal nature and characteristics that I've never even heard. So. Of course he saw the nest. And he'd spend long minutes watching the momma bird sit on the nest.

One day, about 10 days ago (maybe less), the eggs hatched. We had the pleasure of watching these baby hatchlings, all three of them, grow. At first they were featherless silent creatures with huge yellow mouths gaping open in an endless need for food. But soon they had feathers and made chirping noises. Then, yesterday they hopped out of the nest. They crept along the branches. And then. Last evening they few away. I saw one take wing and fly off. And, just like that they're gone.

I will with God's help....uncomplicating the complicated

I was baptized when I was nine years old. I have vivid memories of the baptism itself, of being terrified, as I was fully immersed three ti...