Monday, June 29, 2009

Sometimes You Just Have To Jump

"Sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff without knowing where you will land. Sixteen years ago, I jumped. It was 1993. I was 23 years old and terrified by what I was seeing in the news about rape camps in Bosnia. I couldn't find anyone doing something about the astounding injsutices women were experiencing, so I decided to do something myself. I cannot tell you how many people ridiculed my efforts. I was not getting paid, and a lot of people said, 'Stop doing that. Go get a real job, and get paid.'...At 25 years old I was honored by President Clinton at a White House ceremony for my grassroots work. Even then I would not have imagined that 15 years later, Women for Women would be assisting hundreds of thousands of women in countries all over the world...If I, an immigrant woman from Iraq with no money, can do this, you can too." (Zalnab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International, in her commencement speech at Rice University, NY Times National section, June 14, 2009)

What an amazing woman.
How sad that such a need exists in our world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hope or Fear?

"You chose a Wellesley grad who spent the first decade of her career broke, begging for freelance work, who constantly heard that she was under qualified or, later, overqualified (that means old) or basically just plain wrong for whatever it was she wanted to do. She eventually ended up with a really great job, doing exactly what she wanted to do, exactly where she wanted to do it: in the Middle East. And she got hit by a car bomb; they nearly took her legs off. She had to come back from the dead, roughly five times, and learn how to walk again. So it tells me a lot about you and your current state of mind that you all thought you needed to hear from me, with whatever lessons I had to offer from those experiences, as you leave college for the rest of your life. In short, you all want to know how to be bomb-proof, right? So, you're right: I learned a lot. Most of all, that every time I ran into a wall, I had two choices on how to face it: hope or fear." Kimberly Dozier, CBS News correspondent in her commencement speech at Wellesley College, as reprinted in the NY Times NATIONAL section, Sunday, June 14, 2009.

I listened to an Alban Institute webinar last week with Diana Butler Bass and Graham Standish called, "Moving from Financial Survival to Missional Focus." It was very good. The essence of it was fear or hope. Basically that we live in a time of great fear. People are afraid of all kinds of things. And the fear is causing a profound "freezing" - an inability to be creative, to take risks, to discern what God might be calling a person, a congregation, a community, to do/be. The response to this fear is to work for, to hold intentionally, hope. And hope comes from prayer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Proper 7B

A reflection on Mark 4:35-41, Proper 7B

The cover page of New York Times Magazine last week carried the title, “INFRASTRUCTURE” in bold black capital letters highlighted in fushia on a bright orange pencil drawing of buildings, highways, hot air balloons, cars, trains, and so forth.

I read the NY Times magazine every week, but this one was particularly enticing as I wondered what spin the Times was taking on this topic. Inside the magazine was an article titled, “Datatecture” covering the infrastructure of our world via the internet and our interconnectivity through Facebook, MySpace, iTunes, Gmail, and so forth. Another article looked at the remaking of Paris while another one looked at high-speed rail issues and a fourth article discussed the merits of more humane prisons with cells that are like mini apartments. I was particularly drawn to an article on the price of chicken, where the author bought a chicken at a farmers market and then wondered by he, or anyone, would spend $35 to buy a farm raised chicken from a farmers market. This article included a recipe from the author for his homemade chicken meatballs. For this author the price of chicken is an indication of an infrastructure gone haywire. More to the point, I think, was an article about the high number of shopping malls in America: some 20 square feet of shopping space for every human being in this country. America tops the list, compared to 13 square feet per person in Canada, 6.5 square feet in Australia, and 3 square feet in Sweden, according to a study conducted by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson. The fact that many of the malls in this country are abandoned or built but never used, is an indication of a country whose infrastructure is over-retailed. You might say that this article looked at an infrastructure of misused abundance, defeating the purpose, according to this magazine, of well-designed infrastructure whose function is never separate from form.

In the Christian faith we have an infrastructure that clearly connects function to form. This is found in our use of the liturgical calendar which breaks the year into segments, or rather, seasons, each of which highlight the life of Christ. The first season of the year is Advent. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, which is the last Sunday in November or the first Sunday December. Advent marks the time before the birth of Christ, a time of waiting for the coming Messiah. We sing, O Come O Come Emmanuel. Each season has a color, and for Advent the color is deep blue. Advent is followed by Christmas, the birth of Christ, and the color is white. Next comes Epiphany which celebrates the arrival of Three Kings and the gifts they bring to the new born baby Jesus. Following Epiphany we enter into a time called, Ordinary. It’s color is green. In ordinary time we celebrate the ordinary every day life of Christ as he lived among the disciples. Following this Ordinary time after Epiphany we enter into the season of Lent. Lent is ushered in with Ash Wed. and it is a time of penitence, prayer, self examination, and study. The color is purple. Lent leads us into Holy Week whose color is red and it celebrates the last week of Jesus’ life: from the procession into Jerusalem, to the washing of the feet and the creation of the Eucharistic meal, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Easter is a long season that celebrates the resurrection and the new life of Christ, its color is white. The day of Pentecost, also a red day, celebrates the birth of the church with the giving of the Holy Spirit to all people. Pentecost is always celebrated 50 days after Easter and falls somewhere between mid May and early June.

So now we have travelled all those seasons and find ourselves in the Season after Pentecost, which like the Sunday’s after the Epiphany, is a season of Ordinary time. Again, ordinary time marks the ordinary every day life of Jesus, those days of his ministry in between his birth and his death and resurrection. This season of Ordinary time is the longest season in the church year and lasts from May until the beginning of Advent in late November or early December. Its color, like that of ordinary time after the Epiphany, is green.

Celebrating the seasons of the church year provide Christians with an infrastructure for our prayer and worship grounded in the life and teachings of Jesus. As Episcopalians this is particularly relevant because our identity is grounded in our worship, we are the people of Common Prayer. The idea is that all Episcopalians use the same worship structure, even if on a given Sunday we are not all using the exact same prayers, the structure of the worship remains the same: An opening sentence, a hymn of praise, a prayer, the scripture readings followed by a sermon, the Nicene Creed, the Prayers of the People, the Confession, the peace, the offertory, the Eucharistic prayer, the post-communion prayer, a blessing, a closing hymn, and a dismissal. These comprise the infrastructure of our worship.

Week after week as we come and worship and pray and sing, we are being formed in our faith. We are formed by words and action and images. Some of our prayers we know by heart, having said them over and over for years, other words are new to us, perhaps waking us up to a new revelation of God’s presence. We become formed by the ritual of standing, kneeling, or holding out our cupped hands. We become formed by images of the cross, the chalice, the colors, even the presence, or not, of flowers. And most importantly we become formed by the people in our community – by the love, the compassion, and the reality that Christ is alive in these relationships.

This formation from words and action and image and relationships, then becomes the infrastructure of our lives and builds the foundation of our faith which sustains us when our lives become stormy, unpredictable, and frightening. As we navigate the ups and downs of life, as we strive to find balance on the sea of life, our formation as community enables us to lean into this life of faith, into the body of Christ, that we have come to know from one season to the next, from scripture to prayer, from feast to famine, and find solid ground to anchor us.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Every day
I see or I hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the oceans's shrine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

By Mary Oliver from, "Why I Wake Early" Beacon Press, 2004

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mother Wisdom Speaks

Some of you I will hollow out.
I will make you a cave.
I will carve you so deep the stars will shine in your darkness.
You will be a bowl.
You will be the cup in the rock collecting rain...

I will do this because the world needs the hollowness of you.
I will do this for the space that you will be.
I will do this because you must be large.
A passage.
People will find their way through you.
A bowl.
People will eat from you
and their hunger will not weaken them to death.
A cup to catch the sacred rain....

Light will flow in your hollowing.
You will be filled with light.
Your bones will shine.
The round open center of you will be radiant.
I will call you Brilliant One.
I will call you Daughter Who is Wide.
I will call you transformed.

From a poem by Christine Lore Webber, published in Woman Prayers, edited by Mary Ford-Grabowsky.

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 ...