Saturday, July 30, 2011

Monsters Under the Bed

A reflection on the readings for Proper 13A: Genesis 32:22-32

When I was a little girl I had, for a time, this fear that a monster lived under my bed. I was old enough to know that the fear was irrational, so I didn't tell anyone about it, but I was young enough that it still took hold of me every night. The monster only liked the night time, after my bedroom light was turned off for the night. During the day I was perfectly fine in my room. But every night, after I turned out the light I would have to leap into my bed in order to avoid that monster that was suddenly present under the bed.

Now, it wasn't the sort of monster that was going to come out from under the bed. No. This monster laid on its back under the bed and had long arms that would reach out from underneath and grab me! Or at least that was my fear, it never actually got me. Once I had successfully jumped into bed and covered up I had to sleep in the center of the mattress. If I ventured too close to either edge the monster might reach one of its arms up around the side of the bed and grab me. The monster's arms were such that they could even squeeze between the wall and the sideboard and mattress of the bed, and grab me. So, no edges for me, right in the center is where I slept.

I'm amused now, when I think of that childhood fear, and the silly irrationality of it. But fears are often irrational. Fear takes over our logic and grips us in such a way that we are frozen, immobile, and incapable of making sound decisions.

Our recent book discussions on Karen Armstong's book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, have considered the idea of fear and the way fear can take over and control us. Karen Armstong says, that we need to recognize our fears and have compassion toward ourselves. And, then, recognize that often the very things we dislike in another person are the same qualities we dislike in ourselves.

Armstrong argues that there is a lot of this going on the world today – a lot of fear, and a lot of finger pointing at others, disliking the behavior of others but not taking ownership for ones own behavior. Just watch the news, and you can see how this is true.

Good gracious, the anxiety in the world around us, not to mention Washington DC, is enough to give anyone nightmares, let alone worry about monsters roaming about!

Jacob, in our reading this morning from Genesis, is also anxious. Last week we heard the story of his time working for Laban, a distant relative of Jacob's mother Rebekah. In the process of working for Laban Jacob has acquired two wives, several servants, a lot of children, and a herd of sheep. He has dealt with Laban's unethical work practices, and negotiated a way to leave Laban and return to Canaan, to be reuinted with his brother, Esau.

But Jacob has no idea how Esau will respond to this reuniting. Last Jacob knew, Esau was mad as a hornet and out for revenge. Still, Jacob yearns to return home. Our reading this morning tells the story of Jacob, enroute to Canaan, anxious and worried as he approaches the land of his brother. Out of fear Jacob sends his family off a few miles away, to wait in safety. Jacob then spends the night alone, preparing to meet Esau in the next day. And in the night, Jacob has this dream, this wrestling with a man, an angel, with God, dream, that leaves him with a dislocated hip and a new name. Jacob has been renamed Israel. Jacob's story is the story of the people who follow this God. A people who are sometimes faithful and considerate and a people who are other times, greedy and cruel. A people who are much like the people in the world today.

What we learn from the Genesis stories is that wrestling and wrangling, struggling, with ourselves, with others, and with God, is part of what it means to be human. But, it is often in the wrestling that God comes and something profound happens. All of the great saints have experienced that their most profound moments of conversion, come from a struggle, of coming face to face with God in such a way that they are forever changed.

So the crux of the matter, for the Genesis story, our lives, and our world today is: how do we manage to move beyond our own individual fears, the stuff we wrestle over, and focus on the common good of all, living as God calls us to live? The story of Jacob becomes the story of the people of God, struggling with life and God, to become faithful, to love God, love self, and love others. Our task, as a people of God is the same, to recognize that our individual selves are only as good as our collective selves, and, that how we care for others in this world is as important as how we care for ourselves.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Five: Repeat Edition

Sharon, over at RevGals, posts this Friday Five, an updated repeat of one of her favorite Friday Fives.

A decision from history: There is a chair that still sits in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall). Legend has it that it was George Washington's chair, the back carved with a half sun. Benjamin Franklin would look at it and wonder whether it was a rising or a setting sun. Eventually Franklin decided it was the hopeful symbol of the rising sun, a sign of the future of our new republic.

How do you decide? Check out the following pairs and tell which one of each appeals to you most:

1) Sunrise or Sunset: both, although I tend to see more sunsets as I am usually. Ot up early enough to watch sunrises. However when I lived in Arizona I had a great view from my backyard and appreciated many sun rises and sets.

2) To the Mountains or To the Beach: Mountains., born in Utah, mountains are part of my childhood, my spirituality, and a place of awe.

3) Coffee or Tea; both. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, with some dark chocolate!

4) Advent or Lent; both, Advent for the wreath and candles, the contemplative nature and prayers. Lent as an opportunity to reflect on the brokenness of our world and our lives, and how we can work toward repairing those broken places.

5) "Raindrops on Roses" or "Whiskers on Kittens": uhm, well...I guess whiskers on cats since I have two.

BONUS: Tell more about one of the pairs. Why did you choose it? Difficult or easy choice? A story from your own experience? Perhaps I cam write more, later, bit for now I have to run..a bunch of early meetings this morning.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Relief

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
Across the doorsill where the two worlds touch
The door is round and open
Don't go back to sleep!
(Rumi)

Like most of the country we have had two weeks of record breaking temperatures and high humidity. We've had bad storms and power outages, no rain or too much rain. It's been a brutal summer.

But today, oh my. Today the humidity broke, and the temperatures dropped to the 80's. It's one of those beautiful summer days that make one's heart sing in harmony with the birds outside. A gentle breeze wafts through the trees, windows are open, and the air is soft.


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Prayer 12A /Pentecost 6

Oh God, how are we to understand the tragedies
that befall your creation?
Humans inflicting pain on others -
economic pain,
emotional pain,
physical pain,
even the taking
of life.
Why all this violence?
Why so much anger?
Why?
How are we to pray?
What can we say?
We give it all to you.

To you, O God,
We incline our lives.
Giving you our silent
tears, the screams that cannot
leave our chest, the agony of
grief so deep we do not know
how to pray.
What are we to say?
We give it all to you.

With sighs too deep for words,
we give it all
to you.

Trusting in your Spirit
to do that which we
cannot.
To guide our lives
to turn our hearts
to transform this
broken world
and bring forth
healing,
as only You
can do.

We know not how to pray
but with sighs too deep
for words, Your spirit
births us whole, again.
Amen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Prayer Primordial

Our scripture readings this summer are following three primary texts: Genesis from the Hebrew texts, Romans from the New Testaments, and the Gospel of Matthew. We've talked about Genesis being a collection of stories told around the camp fires of nomadic people which were finally collated into a written text some 3000 years ago. Matthew, one of the Gospels is interested in showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish Law – of what it means to love God, love self, and love others. Our reading this morning gives us images of the kingdom of God – what it looks like when God is active in creation, these are images of transformation and growth.

Paul's Letter to the Romans was written about 57/58, to a Jewish community in Rome that had been followers of Jesus for about a decade. It was written before the Roman Jewish war of 70, which divided the rabbi following Jews from the Jesus following Jews.

As the longest letter written by Paul, Romans is the most complicated and the most influential in the formation of Christian theology – particularly around the issue of God's judgment of humanity, also known as justification. Together our three texts remind us that God is invested in a relationship with human beings, that God poured out the fullest expression of God's love in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and that as Christians we live most fully into our relationship with God when we follow the teachings of Jesus by suspending our temptation to judge others and instead work to actively love God, love self, and love others.

Years ago I was a massage therapist. My primary ministry was working as a volunteer in a local hospital offering massages to parents of sick children. It was while doing this volunteer work that I learned a lot about suspending judgment. In the hospital were all kinds of situations – babies who had been there nearly a year – for whom I never saw the parents; singles moms struggling with failure to thrive infants; anxious parents tending to their sick child – sometimes at the expense of their healthy children at home; any number of situations. But my job, the job of everyone who worked on the Peds unit, was to set aside our judgment and understand that each family was doing the best they could to tend to the situation at hand. We had to understand that there were many details we knew nothing about, but our role was to be supportive of the family and help in every way we could. Setting aside judgment opened me to see the sorrow and fear and heartache of these children and their families.

Anyway, it was during this time of volunteer work that I began to discern a call to the priesthood. Part of that discernment time included praying with this reading from Romans. It was very helpful when I encountered so many tragic illnesses and sad situations.

Who among us has not experienced sighs too deep for words? This description of prayer resonates with my own prayer life and times when I have been so sad or overwhelmed by the injustices of the world, a sick and dying child, tragic violence like that in Norway, that I have no words. It reminds me of a book I once read called, Primary Speech. Written by a pair of Jungian analysts, the book describes prayer as coming from the core of our being. It is “said in our minds, the unvoiced longing rising from our hearts...” It is preverbal. It is “the unconscious voice that exists in us from the very beginning, the moment of birth. . . . [It] starts early in human life, with instincts and emotions.” Primary speech is inherent to human nature, as a primordial, wordless conversation with the divine, and so the authors of this book claim, there is never a time when we are not in prayer.
Everyone prays, whether we call it prayer or not. We pray every time we ask for help, understanding, or strength. The Spirit intercedes because it recoginizes our deepest yearning, she knows what is in our hearts, the Spirit resonates in and through the experience of all creation. The Spirit, as the active ongoing action of God's love enables the “love of God in Christ” to work in us, and nothing can separate us from it—not “hardship, or distress, or persecution,” to quote Paul. Not foreclosure, oil prices, climate change, nor economic collapse.

True, God does not prevent these things from happening— even Paul living in the first century knew this. God does not magically saves us from life’s traumas, rather as people of faith we can choose to put our trust in God who will not abandon us, no matter what we do or what gets thrown at us. God is present. God’s love is unwavering.

Paul says it well: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And God’s love is transformational, it's resurrection, for it is actively engaged in working all things together for good, even if we have no idea how God is doing this in our lives and the world around us.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Five:Overcoming

Sally, over at RevGals, offers this Friday Five;

Today is the Feast day of St Mary Magdalene, and as I've been pondering her life, and the inspiration she is I find in her a wonderful mix of struggle and devotion. She is both the woman who needed a deep healing and the woman who was declared (by many) to be the first amongst the apostles. She inspires me by the way she overcame so much to become so much. When I stop to think about the folk who do inspire me they are almost always overcomer's in some way or another.

With that in mind I bring you this Friday Five; List five people who inspire you to dare to step out into becoming more: Bonus question, a song or fictional character that inspires you to move beyond boundaries!

1. From a young age I had an active prayer life, and through that a relationship with God. Like any relationship, my relationship with God has had it's challenges. I suppose I have been a challenge for God, too....although God never mentions that. I have learned to trust in God's goodness and God's desire for my life (our lives) to be good, healthy. I have learned to be patient, and to have compassion, even when all the circumstances of life could justify a more angry and bitter response. I have learned to hold tenderly my sorrow and grief but to not wallow to deeply in despair. I have experienced resurrection, new life, in surprising and unexpected ways. I think that my formation as a human being would have been very different if I did not believe in God and if I had not, do not, intentionally work on my relationship with God.

2. My husband. He supports me in becoming the best version of myself that I can be. I trust his feedback, and I know he has my back. This was not always apparent. We have done some hard work in our 26 years, but from that we have both grown.

3. My children. I did not have good role models for parenting. I made a lot of mistakes in raising my kids, but for the most part they had even handed loving parents. Parenting pushed me into learning and growing and working hard at understanding my "stuff" so I could do better for my children.

4. Linda, a priest who mentored me when I was learning about this vocation. She taught me a lot about how to be a priest who is also a woman. I also learned a lot from other priest: Tom, Bob, and Steve, each as different from the other as possible, but formative in deepening my understanding of priesthood.

5. Frances, my mother in law. She is now in the end stages of life, but she was the mom I never had.




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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monday Musings on Tuesday Morning

Yesterday was a day of errands. It began with an early morning dog walk, in a vain effort to beat the heat. It still felt as if we were walking through soup. The air thick, humid, even our windows are steamed. It rained briefly, but that only added to the rainforest effect of moisture heavy air.

Most of the day was spent indoors. I exercised, gave myself a manicure and pedicure, French-tip style. And, I read "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" by Karen Armstrong. We are having a summer book discussion group with our first meeting today. If you are interest in this book you may enjoy this video of Karen Armstrong presenting at St. John the Divine in NYC.

Today, and most of this week will be filled with meetings, and efforts to keep cool. What about you and your work? Stay cool!


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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weeds Crop Up, Sometimes That Is How God Works...

A reflection on Genesis 28:10-19a and Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, for Proper 11A
Our reading from Matthew today is another parable. Last week I talked about parables and shared a reflection on weeding my garden. That reflection would not have worked for this reading because last week I talked about the pleasure I find in weeding my garden, but in this parable Jesus suggests that we leave the weeds to grow along side the wheat. Any gardener knows that this is not really good advice – since the weeds will compromise the health and productivity of the crop. But Jesus is not talking about food, he's talking about human beings. In this parable he's suggesting that human beings learn to live together, that we accept our differences, and strive to live without judging others, trusting that God will sort it all out in the end.

Our reading from Genesis continues the story of Isaac and Rebekah and their sons, Esau and Jacob. The battle between Esau and Jacob began in the womb and continues into life, is more than a story of sibling rivalry. It represents the struggle between rival powers in the ancient world – who is in control of this ancient country/land - is represented by the battle between these brothers. As we learn later in Genesis, Jacob is renamed Israel by God – so the story represents a battle between ancient Israel and other nations.

Once Jacob has deceived Esau and received the father's blessing, we learn that Esau is irate. In order to protect her sons from harming one another, Rebekah urges Jacob to leave. Our reading this morning picks up the story with Jacob on a run for his life.

Jacob, upon leaving home, heads east – toward the land of his mother – eventually coming to the home of an uncle named Laban. But along the way he stops to rest for the night and uses a stone for a pillow. That's our reading this morning. During the night he has a dream, a revelation of God – God comes face to face with Jacob – and gives Jacob a blessing. Upon waking Jacob calls the place holy. This land, which he names Bethel, becomes the family burial site, and a place of importance in the unfolding Genesis family story.

Years ago, with another congregation, I lead an adult forum every Sunday between the 8am and 10am service. For this forum, which is what they wanted to do, we usually read and discussed a book. One year we decided to read the entire book of Genesis, and as a companion to that bible study we read Bill Moyers book, Genesis, A living Conversation. For this book, Moyers invited a diverse group of people to read and discuss the primary stories of Genesis – so he had Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, screen writers, authors, religious people, and non-religious people – who gathered every so often and discussed a story from Genesis. It was so interesting that Moyers made a PBS series out of it. Here's a bit of that conversation that pertains today's reading:

One of the discussion members says: “Rebekah pays a heavy price for her actions. Her life is miserable from this time forward. She tells her younger, beloved son to run away to her family in far off Mesopotamia and puts on a brave face, saying, it's just for a few days. But she knows in her heart that she will never see Jacob again.”

Moyers asks, “Does it occur to you that Rebekah's sacrifice of Jacob is analogous to Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac?

Another member says: “They're both prepared to make sacrifices for a larger cause. What am I or any of us here today ready to do for a....cause we love? How would we respond if our faith was truly tested? This story also shows us that conflicts are inevitable...”

A third member of the group says:“This story...points out that you don't have to get rid of..conflict before God's purposes can be worked out. It is precisely in and through these conflicts that the promise of God is carried out..we can identify with this because it is...in and through the sometimes messy parts of our lives that God's purposes are worked out.”*

Life can be messy sometimes. Weeds crop up. Stuff happens. But our call as a people of God is to stay faithful and trust that when we treat one another with dignity and respect, with kindness and compassion, and when we give each other the benefit of the doubt, instead of judgment, we leave room for God to work in and through us.

*excerpts from Genesis, A Living Conversation, pages 261-262

Friday, July 15, 2011

RevGals Friday Five: Gratitude in a Name



Jan, over at RevGals offers this Friday Five meme on Gratitude:

A wise person once told me to make an ABC list of things I am grateful for any time I feel sad or depressed. It is a good practice when one is feeling happier than that, too. So for this Friday Five, I suggest that you use your name or nickname of about five letters and express your gratitude about something that starts with each letter. Some people have longer names, so you decide how you will go about this! (Last names, middle names, and nicknames count!)

I'll have to think about this one, gratitudes that begin with T.E.R.R.I.

T - Topsoil, which helps my garden and flowers grow. Tomatoes, which are growing thick in my garden - Roma, Cherry, and Big Boy. Today, a day off. Tomorrow, because I live in hope.

E - Environment, I have lived in a many different environments from cold to hot, from progressive to traditional, but my current environment feels just right. I do worry about the global environment and global warming, the severe storms seem to be a result of our abuse of the environment...so I hope that we can become more sensitive to the way we live. I am grateful for the beauty of this world, which amazes me on a regular basis - from sunrise to sunset, from flowers to trees, to birds, and more.

R - Resurrection, I have experienced the reality of the resurrection in my life. Sometimes it is evident in the grace of God made manifest in my relationships, other times it is God's mercy prevailing through difficulty, often it is just the tenacity of the Holy Spirit to keep me going when all feels lost, enabling me to take the next step, until new life is revealed. It's happened more than once.

R - Roses, we are planning to convert one of our abandoned garden islands into a rose garden. To that end we are researching the best variety of roses for this region. We also plan to convert another island into a butterfly garden, planting flowers that attract butterflys.

I - Interfaith, I live in a community that works hard to maintain good interfaith relationships, intentional relationships that learn from and support one another. Interior, I am paying attention to my interior life these days as stuff from the past gets triggered and as I learn to function as solo pastor. It's been a long time since I have worked without a deacon or another priest to assist. It's ok, but I am working hard. So I am beginning the process of finding a spiritual director near by. I have interior work to do, but it's good work, and for that I am thankful.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interfaith Worship at Christ Episcopal Church, Dearborn, Makes the News

This article appeared in the Detroit News today.



Interfaith worship provides education, understanding
The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski,Gail Katz and Eide Alawan

Imagine the primary Sunday morning service in a Christian church that begins with a 9-year-old Muslim boy offering the Islamic Call to Prayer, followed by a woman lighting candles on a table set with bread, wine and grape juice and offering the Jewish prayers that begin the Sabbath worship, followed by an Episcopal priest offering the "collect of the day."

So began the interfaith service over the weekend at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn. Parishioners specifically requested the service after reading about the national "Faith Shared" project, organized by Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First. The challenge in planning such a service was in knowing who from the other faith traditions to invite to help organize and participate in the service.

It was a serendipitous coincidence, in which the date scheduled nationwide for the service, June 26, happened to also fall at the conclusion of the 10th anniversary of the Worldviews Seminar, so the Rev. Terri Pilarski of Christ Episcopal Church had the chance to make contacts in the interfaith world and successfully organize the service.

Co-created by Christ Church, Episcopal Relief and Development, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the Islamic Center of America, the seminar provides a weeklong course on world religions.

The service included portions of Muslim, Jewish and Christian worship, honoring each tradition in the process. Beginning with each tradition's call to prayer and worship, the service included readings from and reflections on the sacred texts of the Torah and the Gospels, plus a reading from the Quran, chanted in Arabic and translated into English.

Gail Katz, co-founder of Women's Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro Detroit and member of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, brought her family's Sabbath candlesticks, and after lighting the Shabbat candles, she blessed them in Hebrew and welcomed everyone.

Yousif Makki, a member of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, chanted the Muslim Call to Prayer, and his brother, Younes, explained the meaning of the Arabic prayer in English.

Katz also shared the "Parashah" of the week — the Torah portion read that week in synagogues all over the world. Younes followed the sharing of the Torah portion with a reading from the Quran. Prayers over a meal were offered by each tradition, and the bread, wine and juice were shared among the gathered congregation.

Each component of the worship offered the comparable element from each tradition. To us, the only unusual aspect of the service was that the various elements were woven into a typical order for a Sunday morning worship service in the Episcopal Church.

Not every Jewish or Muslim worship experience would include all of these elements in one service, although they are each a component of faithful practice in the life of a Jew or Muslim.

Dearborn is a special community that honors its diversity and enjoys sincere hospitality and compassion among the people of this city. While this worship service was a first for the community, it is just one example of the many ways that Jews, Christians and Muslims work together and learn from each other, for the good of all.

Hearing each other's prayers and learning about our diverse faith traditions are ways to move forward to break down our cultural, ethnic and religious segregation, which is often far too pronounced in greater metropolitan Detroit. The more we learn about the faith-based practices of our neighbors who might dress differently, eat different foods and speak different languages, the more we find our commonality as human beings and underscore our similar missions of unity, peace, community-building and mutual understanding.

The purpose of this service, one of dozens nationwide inspired by the national Faith Shared project organized by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, both based in Washington, D.C., was not to blend our diverse ways of worshipping God into one common service, nor was it an invitation to create one world religion.

Rather, it was decisively an opportunity to learn from one another and celebrate our differences as we honored our similarities.

The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is rector of Christ Episcopal Church; Gail Katz is co-founder of WISDOM; and Eide Alawan represents the office of Interfaith Outreach of the Islamic Center of America. Email comments to letters@detnews.com.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

I am having a good time this summer remembering how to preach without a text. For me this reflects two realities. One is that my inner self is feeling peaceful, and from this peaceful state I can hold onto the points I want to make between scripture and life. Instead of using the pulpit I am coming down into the congregation and preaching from the center aisle. The second reality is that I feel comfortable with the congregation and value being closer to the people, it's more intimate preaching for the smaller summer community. To be this intimate requires a level of trust. And, so the third reality is that I feel a sense of trust building between me and the congregation. From that place of trust I find myself inviting the congregation into a dialogue for some of the sermon time. It's a process for them, too, finding their voice and feeling safe enough to speak up.

Yesterday I planned to walk my dogs and then ride my bike to a yoga class. But after the dog walk, and a 30 minute meditation, I really felt like taking a long bike ride and skipping the yoga class. Even though it was ninety something degrees the huge trees throughout this community provide ample shade. There's a bike trail the follows the Rouge river and through the University of Michigan, Dearborn, campus. It's about 5 miles one way, but if you stay on it you'll come to a longer trail that is 18 miles northwest to another town. I only rode about 4.5 miles of the trail before turning back. I am out of practice, as a long distance biker, and in the heat didn't want to over extend myself. Plus, I am not really sure now safe the trails are for a woman out by herself. Some of the trail feels very secluded. Here too was a test of trust.

But along they way I encountered other bikers out for an afternoon ride. Some of them casual riders, like me. But some of them serious bikers going the distance, despite the heat. I also encountered people walking the trail, most striking was a Muslim couple. She clearly pregnant, noticeable even through her full attire of dress, long sleeves, and head scarf. He holding her arm, and listening and she softly spoke in Arabic. It was a sweet image. The bike ride was wonderful and stirs in me a desire to explore other trails in the area.

This morning I am pondering the interior process in which I am learning to trust again. It will be a relatively quiet week, or so it seems on this morning.

What about you? What are you pondering? And, what's going on with your week ahead?


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Prayer

For all the blessings of this life,
we give thanks to You, Creator God.
For: families, friends, colleagues,
neighbors, and strangers, who nurture
us, that the love of God may grow
within. That Your love, your Word,
like a seed, may grow to produce
in us, good fruit.

May your love, be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.

For the leaders of various nations
and cities, that they may lead with
strong hearts and gentle hands and
generous spirits, with compassion
and mercy, with wisdom and grace.
May they reflect your will guiding
all their actions and decisions.

May your love, be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.

For those who serve in harms way,
those who live in dangerous places,
those who live in areas of war and strife,
those who live in fear, those who worry
about employment, bills, food, and
struggle just to find dignity in life.
May your grace bring peace and safety
to all people, one to another.

May your love, be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.

For those who suffer from any illness,
or dis-ease - of mind, body, or spirit.
Restore these, and all those we carry
in our hearts, to fullness of health.
Health as only you, O God, can bring.
May your mercy shower each of us
with healing mercy and love.

May your love, be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.

For those who are dying, and
for those who have died. Send
forth your comforting love.
Give solace to those who mourn.
Console those who grieve.
May your grace surround us
like a mantle upon our heads
a shawl upon our shoulders
a hand, to hold our hand.

May your love, be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.
Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Weeding for Life

A reflection on Matthew 13:18-23 for Proper 10A

I use to hate weeding. It was one of those nasty projects that I tolerated, and rushed to complete because I found it so tedious and boring. Recently I was unable to tend to the weeding in my plot for more than a week, I found that I had a jungle of weeds. It was overwhelming. One day I went out with the intention of weeding the entire thing, but after an hour I had one small section done, was over heated, and out of time. So the next day I went out again for about an hour. Then each day I went out for about an hour and did what I could do. Eventually I eased into a comfortable rhythm of weeding, the hour time frame fit into my schedule, I was slowly making progress with the jungle, and I discovered that weeding had become a calming discipline – weeding slowed me down, and invited me to just appreciate the act of tending to the garden.

I remember other occasions when I have weeded gardens that I did not plant. Then, looking at some mysterious plant or flower I'd wonder, is this a weed or something that is intended to be here?

Unlike my garden, where I planted everything and can tell a weed from the crops, some flower beds require a more discerning approach, and a certain amount of wait and see.

Our reading this morning from Matthew sounds as if it is about gardening. The parable of the sower is found in three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, indicating that it is primary to the teachings of Jesus. In Matthew it is the first of many parables about weeds and wheat and mustard seeds, treasures and pearls, and fishing nets.

A parable is a story with many layers of meaning, like an onion, one can peel back each layer to find yet another. Jesus spoke in parable for just that reason, so that people would wrestle with the meaning and move into an ever deeper understanding of their faith and their relationship with God.

For this parable we might wonder: Who is the sower? Who is the seed? Who is the soil? And who or what grows from the seed?

Any thoughts? On the one hand its a parable so there are no “correct” answers. But on the other hand there are some answers that are more likely than others. So, who do you say is the sower....the seed...the soil....the crop that grows....

A typical understanding of the parable is this:

God is the sower, Jesus is the seed – God throws the seed, the word of God, the love of God, known to us as Jesus, - God scatters the word, love, Jesus, broadly across all the world.

We are the soil. Sometimes we are rocky or thorny soil unable to hear the word, receive the love, or welcome Jesus into our lives – in such a manner as to enable that word, that love, Jesus to fully take root and grow inside of us, in such a manner as to become transformative.

But sometimes we are like good soil and God's word, God's love, Jesus can take root inside of us, transforming us into our best possible selves – people who reflect God's love, God's word, the face and hands and heart of Jesus, back into the world – by loving others as God loves. Often, the word of God, the love of God does not look like much, it's like a plain tiny seed. Birds eat seeds that are scattered on the ground, just ask anyone who has planted grass seed....but in the parable, when the birds eat the seed they might represent the distractions and troubles that crop up in life, trying to pull us away from God. But like the birds, who usually redeposit the seed elsewhere, which explains why some plants grow in random places, the Word of God, the Love of God is tenacious and adaptable.

So - regardless of the distractions, or our ability to receive the word or the love – God crops up in our lives over and over, waiting for us to receive God's love into our lives where it can grow – beautiful and hearty, fruitful, and productive – God's grace growing in and through us, creating a community garden of love.

Creative Cooking

Every Friday I visit the local farmers market. After several weeks of shopping I have found a number of favorite vendors. I try to. Uy a little something from about five or six different stands: bread, cheese, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, onions, and so forth.

Yesterday one of the vendors was selling his homemade ricotta cheese, half price since it was about to expire. I stood at his booth and created a recipe in my head, which convinced me to buy a container of the ricotta.

Here is what I made:

Ricotta White Sauce for Pasta

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 can of chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 can of diced tomatoes with juice (or several Roma tomatoes)
2 cups of broccoli flowers, cut smallish
1 cup of ricotta
Fresh basil, I used a good handful of leaves, some shredded, some whole
Fresh oregano, I used less oregano than basil, but still a good amoint
Pepper and salt to taste

Sauté garlic, onion, celery in olive oil in a skillet. When the onion and celery are tender, add stock, tomatoes, and herbs, stir and reduce slightly. Add ricotta and broccoli, continue to cook until thickened. For crisper broccoli add later. Salt and pepper to taste.

Use any style pasta you like. I used large shells and served with a side of Italian sausage, green salad, and a roared garlic bread.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Five: Summer Fun!



So, what's up, Rev Gals and Pals? How are you spending your summer? (I know, some of you are in a different hemisphere and it may be chilly...sorry!) Are you experiencing fire or floods or tornados? Vacationing? Working harder than ever? Experiencing change? Longing for change?

Share five things that are happening in your life, personally or professionally or some of each, in this season of life.


1. I am coming to know the people in the parish through small group meetings. Most of these have taken place in parishioners homes. They have prepared tea and coffee, or sangria with fresh fruit, homemade spring rolls, fabulous deserts, and gathered members of the parish to help me get to know them and they, me. We have sat outside in beautiful backyards, or been charmed by lovely homes. They have been a lovely way to come to know one another.

2. Gardening is a source of summer delight. I even enjoy weeding, it's become a calming discipline for me. I try to weed for an hour at a stretch several days a week.

3. Exercising is so much easier during the summer. We take our dogs for long walks and appreciate the beauty of the world around us. I have begun to bike ride again, and ride my bike to yoga class.

4. Long days, because we live at the western end of the Eastern time zone, we have sunlight until after 9PM. It's wonderful to sit on the deck in the cooling night air and unwind with a glass of iced tea.

5. Squirrels, rabbits, and birds are plentiful in our backyard. And amusing too!





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Monday, July 04, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

"We've broken all tradition," said my husband, as we settled into a morning cup of coffee. I was just thinking the same thing. With our children grown and living in another state we haven't done the usual round of holiday BBQ's and festivals, and fireworks. We didn't even have our traditional Wimbledon brunch on Saturday. Instead, with his work schedule, we grabbed a quick breakfast, saw some of the women's playoff game, and then walked the dogs before he left for work. His schedule most days: the 2-11PM shift. And, he's worked every holiday since we moved, often working closing the store ten days in a row before getting a couple of days off.

That means I am left to my own devices most afternoons and evening. I can manage to fill up that time with yoga, reading, my exercise DVD, a bike ride....and time spent on Facebook or blogging. But, this is not our tradition.

I guess we will begin to create new traditions as time goes on. I am leading a Fourth of July service this morning at the church. That's a first for this place, at least in recent memory. In my first call we offered a Fourth of July weekday service, using the lessons from Lesser Fasts and Feasts. While I am not inclined to make too much of national, secular, holidays at a Sunday morning service, I am ok with adding in a special weekday service for the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving...

Nonetheless I am pondering the reality that a week ago we held an Interfaith Service, followed by this week a celebration of the Fourth. I think we may be able to describe ourselves as an Expansive Church, one willing to embrace a wide range of liturgical realities, as an authentic expression of this community. Many of the same folks who appreciated the interfaith service are also grateful for a celebration of the Fourth....

This morning finds me reflecting on traditions, old and new. What about you? What traditional things will you do today, this week, or what new things are you creating?


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunday Prayer 9A

Holy and Gracious God,
we give thanks for all
the blessings of this life.
For, the degree to which we
know freedom and justice,
for the leaders of our nations
for the those who strive to
bring peace into the world,
may we know your mercy and
act with compassion.

We give thanks
for family, friends,
and those care for us.
May we know your love
in them, through them.
May those we know and
love, be safe this day,
protected from all trials,
comforted in strife,
healed in illness of
mind, body, or spirit.

We give thanks
for this earth, the various
lands we live in and on,
for water, that it may be clean
for those who need water,
for those struggling with
drought, wildfires, forest fires,
or an over abundance of water,
may they know balance and relief.

We give thanks
for food, that all may be well fed,
that those who are in need, will be
satisfied, that those who have
plenty will share, that all will
filled and nourished.

We give thank
for our health, and ask your blessing
on those who suffer for any cause.
May they be comforted.

We give thanks for the gift
of Jesus, your love in the world,
who comes to share our burdens,
that they may be light.

Amen.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Family Stories

A reflection on Genesis 24 for Proper 9A

The other night I found myself watching the movie, “Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood,” starring Ellyn Burstyn and Sandra Bullock. Its one of those movies I’ve seen a dozen times but still enjoy.

The plot revolves around a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, and a group of the mother’s friends who have known one another all their lives.

The daughter, a playwright in NYC has an interview published in the NY Times magazine, and it comes across as highly critical of the mother.

The mother reads the interview and flies into a dramatic rage. Correspondence flies back and forth, cutting the daughter from the will, sending the mother an invitation to the daughters wedding but the date and place have been cut out of the invitation, phone calls where one hangs up on the other.

Finally in exasperation the mothers friends fly to NYC, and with the fiancés help, kidnap the daughter and bring her back to the New Orleans area.

There they spend a week telling the daughter the story of her mothers's life. Its a tragic story but also funny, and well acted by a cast of great actors.

Dysfunctional family stories fill the book of Genesis from which our first reading this morning is taken.
In Genesis we have two stories of creation, the calling of Abraham and Sarah, of children born in old age, of a father who binds and almost kills his son Isaac – a story we would have heard last week if we had stayed with the lectionary.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims, have all had a field day trying to make sense of this Abraham and Isaac story with responses that vary from – it’s a story of child abuse, it’s a story about dependency on God, it’s a story about faithfulness, it’s a story about the ancient practice of human sacrifice.

Regardless of what the story is about what we hear in the rest of Genesis is that the relationship between Abraham and Sarah and Isaac is broken from this point forward – Sarah dies and Abraham arranges for a wife for Isaac, and the plot shifts to Rebekah, who as wife of Isaac, gives birth to Jacob and Esau.
The story of Jacob and Esau leads to other levels of conflict and anguish as Jacob, the second born, maneuvers to steal the birth right of Esau, the first born – and has his mother’s support to do it.
Jacob who wrestles with an angel and ends up with a new name - Israel, Jacob, whose own son, Joseph carries on the family saga, made popular in a musical starring Donnie Osmond.
Genesis is a very old text that has it's origins in stories told around camp fires as tribes travelled across the Middle East, Egypt, and areas of ancient Mesopotamia.
Genesis blends a number of stories that had have taken place over the course of hundreds of years, influenced by a number of emerging cultures.
Which is why we have two creation stories at the beginning of Genesis, as well as other conflicting elements.
But it's a rich text filled with timeless stories about the human condition.
Readings from Genesis will be our first reading through summer, accompanying stories of Jesus that we will hear in the Gospel.
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy that connects Jesus to David, a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph.
As I said last week, Matthew is interested in showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of the law of Moses, the fulfillment of what is meant by - love God, love self, and love others.
And in that way Matthew connects Jesus to the family story we hear in Genesis, and ultimately we come to know these stories as our story, the family of God.
Stories that remind us that God has blessed our lives, that we might be a blessing to others.


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Friday, July 01, 2011

RevGalsFriday Five:

kathrynzj, over at RevGals is lamenting the days when we all did a lot of writing and meme playing and reading of blogs...and wonders about the following:

1) Have your blogging (writing/reading) habits shifted since the days of yore? I still make a daily effort to scroll through my blog roll and read the updated blogs. But every day I lament the number of blogs that haven't been updated in months. Recently I even deleted a couple of them. My blog, never one that received a lot of comments, now can go days without a single comment. I write on this blog about three times a week, not daily. I post something on Monday, play the Friday Five, and usually post my sermon for Sunday. Starting a new call keeps me busy and unable to write daily...

2) Do you have some favorites that you miss? In the early days I read a number of blogs: RevSS and BarbB were regulars, but almost never post on their blogs. I do talk to RevSS on Facebook, but Barb???? sigh. She always had witty blog posts about her cats, her kids, and hiking.

3) Are there some blogs you still put in the 'must read' category? Yes, RevGals and A Place to Pray (the prayer blog for RGBP), plus any blog on my blog roll that has recently posted.

4) If we gathered at your knee, what would you tell us about those early days of blogging? The most significant aspect of blogging is the community that has formed. It's really amazing...and the friendships forged. There have been times in my life when I got by because of the prayers and compassion and friendships of this blogging community.

5) Do you have a clip or a remembrance of a previous post of yours or someone else's that you remember, you know an oldie but goodie? Well, it was fun when Diane, Jan, and I did a poetry share and comment. One of us would post a poem and the rest would talk about the metaphors and symbolism and meaning in the poem. Then someone else would post another one and we'd do the same. It was a fun way to read new poetry and gleam its meaning, while getting to know new blogging friends.

A remedy for spiritual malaise.....

I’m tired.  I’m tired of the onslaught of violence in the world: guns and mass murders; abuse of people of color; abuse of women; abuse o...