Friday, February 15, 2008

My Birthday and other things

Today is my birthday. I'm now 51. Funny how this one snuck up on me, busy as I am. Last year I was all freaked out about turning 50 - and this one barely hits the radar....

Besides I am thinking a lot about the shooting at NIU, not too far from where I live - kids from the parish attend school there. As far as I know, all are safe...but six or seven others have died....these shootings are breaking my heart...why are kids thinking this is "good" idea? What are we as a society teaching them? We have some serious work to do.

At the very least, when will we do something about the easy availability of guns - especially high powered automatic guns? I know making them illegal will not solve the problem but it would be a start. Then what about all the violent movies and tv shows? What about the war? What about all the ways we are desensitizing ourselves to violence, pain, suffering? And what about these hurting kids who think actions like this are a solution to their own pain? Yeah, is evil alive and well in this world? I'd say so.

Please pray for these kids, this community, all involved...

I am also running off to the office to take care of the parish admin things because she went to get her son from NIU - and of course spend the day with him. I think he is a little tramatized (ok, that sounds naive - I know he must be)...

Then I have to do all my usual Friday work and then run home to head off for the Ministry Discernment Weekend. I will be gone through Sunday (yay, happy birthday to me, spending it doing this)...(actually this will be a prayerful, quiet, reflective weekend, a break from the pace of life recently, so it will be good in that regard - and my family and I will celebrate on Sunday).

Here is something to be joyful for, in the midst of pain, sorrow, fear, discernment, aging, etc....

A new picture of Little L with her arm around Baby Z. They are now 9 weeks...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How Can I Do This?

I think the only way I am going to be able to do everything I have to do, and stay in touch with my blogger pals, is to read a few each day. This is different than the read all (almost) of them every day. So, I will start at the top and work my way down, or start in the middle and work my way up and down, etc. and hope to read every one at least once a week.

Last night I completed the draft of my Palm Sunday sermon, the first one I will preach at new church. Today I hope to complete a draft of the Easter sermon....then I need to write my last sermon for small church, which I will preach on March 2. I have also completed a letter of intro for the newsletter at new church and a Holy Week letter for the parish. I have completed the booklet for the Taize service tonight for Lent and had my final meeting with the clergy of this region, for whom I am the Dean.

So, in addition to writing I will also be packing today. And then I am off for the Lenten program. Another busy day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Change???

Someone said this to me awhile ago: here is how things work, in this country we have a hierarchy and it goes like this:

white man (our first choice)

black man (our next best choice)

white woman (a third option)

black woman (a fourth option)

all the other "minorities" (when all else fails???)...

Just makes me wonder if this is really about change or just following our comfort level?

Just wondering...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Remember You Are Dust...Remember You Are Christ's

A reflection for Lent 1

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent. On Ash Wednesday these words are followed by the imposition of ashes, and mark the beginning of Lent. The ashes remind us that we are human, made by God from the very substance of creation, remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.

All across the country this year Ash Wednesday services were cancelled, including here. So, this morning we offered each of you the opportunity to begin Lent with the imposition of ashes. A simple act, but it serves as a reminder that Lent has begun and we are called to make this time holy.

Once I have said these words I find them echoing in my head. And in the reverberations of my mind I think….what does it mean to observe a holy Lent? And, am I doing it?

(Ok, the tool bar is NOT working. I cannot spell check, or add ita

Thankfully the Ash Wed liturgy points toward what this might mean by laying out the following criteria:

We are to observe a holy Lent by doing the following:
Fasting and self-denial
Reading and meditating on God’s holy word.

Ok. But what does this really mean?

Self-examination means, simply, that we pay attention to our lives. It doesn’t mean that we beat ourselves up and exaggerate all our failings. It does mean that we pay attention to what we do, what we say, how we act, each and every day.

Repentance – oh, here is a word filled with all kinds of connotations. What do we really mean when we speak of repentance? We mean the act of turning to God, or, returning to God after a break in the relationship. Repentance literally means turning away from sin and turning back to God. Repentance follows an honest self-examination and an acknowledgement of our sin.

Ok. Now there is another loaded word. What is sin? Over the years we have talked about what sin is and what it is not… sin is not some behavior we can point our finger at. Sin is not finger pointing at “wrong” behavior because behavior is always culturally bound – what is deemed good or wrong in one era may not be good or wrong in another.

But what is always important, always relevant, and never limited by time or place – our relationship with God, with self, and with others. Essentially, sin is broken relationship in all its forms – broken with our family and friends, broken with our neighbors, broken with strangers we meet and ignore. Sin is broken relationship with God.

Our Gospel reading this morning describes the very human ways Jesus is tempted to break relationships with God, self, and others. Break relationship by emphasizing personal power, glory, and greatness over relationships of love and care. This reading points us look at the ways we have broken relationships with God. The various ways we may reject God in our lives or the ways we push God aside for other things – things that fill our busy lives and help us believe that we don’t have time for God.

Prayer – well prayer may feel like something we think we ought to know how to do – but never actually do – or we worry that we will pray badly or somehow pray “wrong”…how do we pray? Mary Oliver the Nobel Peace Prize poet describes prayer this way:

It doesn’t have to be
The blue iris it could be
Weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
Small stones; just
Pay attention, then patch

A few words together and don’t try
To make them elaborate, this isn’t
A contest but the doorway

Into thanks, and a silence in which
Another voice may speak.

Prayer does not need to be perfect, nor poetic, nor grand. Prayer is simple. We offer to God who we are in words or in silence. Often times it is enough that we just sit down for a few minutes and say, “God, here I am.” And then be silent.

Fasting and self-denial – these speak to a process by which we empty ourselves of the stuff of life and open ourselves to God. Fasting may be from food or drink – but it also may be from simply being too busy. Imagine your Lenten discipline being a fast from busyness.

Reading and meditating on God’s holy word. Well, this one is easily done if we come to church on Sunday. Here we are able to hear the Word spoken and the preacher breaking open that word so that it is relevant to the lives we live. Scripture tells the story of the people of God and their lived experiences with God. Scripture opens up for us the struggles of a people of faith and the joys and sorrows experienced by people seeking God.

Lent is traditionally a season of preparation for Easter. We prepare ourselves by looking at who we are and what we are doing. We prepare ourselves by following Jesus in the final days of his life and learning from him what it means to be a person of faith.

Lent is traditionally a season of preparing candidates for baptism. In the early church, following two years of teaching, adults entered their final phase of preparation to become Christian during the season of Lent.

From the beginning of my call here as your priest you all have said to me that you want me to baptize with an open and generous spirit. You do not want me to limit baptism to some set of criteria. You want me to baptize. I have found that to be an amazing act of hospitality. I have taken this seriously and baptized generously. Most recently we participated in the baptism last Sunday at St. Nicholas, of my God-daughters. Baptized by the Presiding Bishop in a festive celebration - in an incredible service of joy and hospitality.

And, now today, even on this first day of Lent, we will baptize a young boy. He desires this baptism and for a variety of reasons this day is the best day to do so. And so we will.

We will baptize him in the waters that flow from the rocks of Lent. In these rocks we symbolize the ruggedness of our journey, the challenges and temptations of our faith. The baptismal water that symbolically flows from these rocks into the font remind us that God pours God’s self out for us. In the middle of the water stands a bowl of ashes, another sign of life coming forth from what seems to us to be charred remnants. From the ashes come the rocks, from the rocks come the water, from the water comes life.

In the ancient church there lived a group of people praying in the desert. They went to the desert to find solace and quiet, to get away from the busyness of the city, they went to the desert to pray. One of these desert people was named Poemen. He was called Abba Poemen, or Father Poemen, a leader of a desert community. He said this about water and rocks:

"the nature of water is yielding, and that of a stone is hard. Yet if you hang a bottle filled with water above the stone so that the water drips drop by drop, it will wear a hole in the stone. In the same way the word of God is tender, and our hearts are hard. So when people hear the word of God, frequently their hearts are opened to the presence of God."

This baptism this morning stands as a reminder that, more often than not, the temptations we experience actually harden us to God. But God pursues us, slowly, like drops of water on rocks. This baptism comes because this child and this family desire and have decided that now is the time. God is speaking in their lives and this is the response. Out of the rocks, out of the barrenness of this winter season, come living water. This water will not be stilled by us. This water will not be contained by humanity, no matter what we do or how we try. Not even by the human imposition of tradition. This living water represents the love of God which flows forth at all times. And for Christians it is the living water that gives us new life in Christ and names us as God’s. Baptism is the beginning of the relationship. For each of us here today baptism is the real invitation into observing a holy Lent.

In baptism we are washed in the waters of love. A sign of the cross is marked on our foreheads with the sacred oil, the chrism.. The cross of ashes is traced over the cross of oil and reminds us each and every year who we are and whose we are. Each time we come for prayers of healing and anointing another cross is traced in oil. And so it goes, layer upon layer, the mark is traced on us. Through the temptations of life which seek to pull us away from God this mark remains, indelible, ever present. Remember you are dust. Remember you are Christ’s.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Marked as Christ's Own

This morning Bishop Katharine preached on the Transfiguration of Jesus. She called it a "revealing moment" when God shone forth as a reminder that we are all beloved of God. She then proceeded to baptize Baby Z and Little L. M2 was so generous - letting the Godmother's (Moi and LG) hold the babies. We processed in carrying them and held them through out the service, including the baptism when Bishop Katharine poured water over their tiny heads. We used the baptism liturgy from the New Zealand Prayer Book. It was amazing. Here are some photos....

Bishop Katharine processing in:

I Will With God's Help...

I baptize you in the name of...(Baby Z)

M2 with Baby Z, Bishop Katharine, Moi with Little L, LG

Baby Z has sleep apnea (common with preemies) so, she is on a monitor...

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 ...