Friday, June 29, 2012

To Do Tada!


(I found this list posted on Facebook, credited to Julian Lennon, but my efforts to create a link to his Facebook page fail. Anyway, I didn't create the list, but find it hilarious).


Slowly, methodically, I am moving through my "To-Do" list. The one that contains all the things I need to do before I leave for a week of vacation and a week of General Convention for the Episcopal Church. The list includes:

1.Organize the massive amount of paper in my office. During certain busy times this past year I would literally pick up a pile of papers sitting on my desk and put them inside a cabinet. My office looked clean, but the behind the scenes piles grew. And then the pile on my desk grew. A big part of the issue was lack of file cabinets. We solved the problem by purchasing some mesh file holder that fit inside the built in cabinets in my office - thus enabling me to more effective use this space. I am about half way through the mess. It's unlikely I will get it all done before I leave, but I have made significant headway.

2. I had a numerous projects to complete for General Convention: a powerpoint presentation on the WordsMatter project for the Episcopal Women's Caucus breakfast on Sunday, July 8; prayer cards which will be used at the breakfast that contain the opening prayer written as part of the WordsMatter project. And prayer card book-marks that are WordsMatter (expansive language), which were written by me and two other EWC board members, and then translated into French, Haitian-Creole, and Spanish. These will be sold at the EWC booth at General Convention. AND I had to arrange for our local artist and glass blower to make the EWC award - the St. Mary Magdalene award and the St. Joseph award, each given to a woman or a man, who has been instrumental in social justice causese in the Episcopal Church.

3. All of the above needs to be packed up and shipped today to the hotel in Indianapolis, and arrive on Tuesday.

4. This on top of the other arrangements one must take care of before leaving: notes to supply clergy, arranging back up pastoral care should a clergy person be needed, and so forth; announcements and bulletin content for the next three Sundays; a draft of the funeral bulletin in case there is the need for a funeral while I am away (there is a real potential as one more parishioner is at the end of life). I do hope I am here for the funeral, but there is nothing I can do if I am at the wedding or at convention - I have made arrangements for a former priest, one who worked here in the 1980's to take care of it.

5. Today I have some more office work to do, a run to the post office to mail the prayer cards and awards, a hospital visit to the ailing parishioner, and a wedding rehearsal in Detroit. I'm overwhelmed already!

6. Tomorrow - baptism rehearsal for Sunday's baptism and then the wedding in Detroit. (It will be a combined Christian/Persian ceremony - the bride is from Iran, now a citizen of the US). Dealing with Imam's can be wonderfully gracious, or a little tricky....I have no idea how this will be - but since he has agreed to do this interfaith service in the first place I assume he will be fine to work with. He is afterall from Dearborn - and familiar with interfaith dynamics.

All I need to do is figure out my sermon for Sunday...and find time to write it. Then, come Sunday afternoon - vacation. WOW!  I am so blessed to have a job which enables me to take a vacation. I am also very ready for some time to rest and recharge.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday afternoon

What a week - three funerals. I officiated at three funerals this week, that makes four for the month of June. There is the potential for one more funeral, as yet another parishioner faces the end of life reality....

But, not only, what a week. What a month! It began with the Jazz Eucharist - a "regular" Sunday service but with all the music and musical settings lead by a Jazz quartet and to jazz rhythms. Oh, that was fun! A month of pot-lucks and church picnics, and dinner parties, of a week long interfaith seminar, Father's Day, summer worship services, preparing for General Convention, end of the year meetings with diocesan clergy groups....just simply a lot. A lot all compressed into one month.

Oh well, it's all good.

I have also taken on, with some regular diligence, an exercise routine. I try to alternate weights, aerobic, bike riding, and yoga, across the days and week. It feels good to exercise! But that has certainly added to my busyness.

Today, after church, I walked out to the garden. I have hardly had a chance to check it out. My broccoli is prolific, but the flowers were beginning to open - little yellow flowers - so when I eat it some of it will be actual flower. That's ok. My brussel sprouts are slowly forming,, looks like I will have a decent crop. Tomatoes are coming forth, zucchini, cucumbers, beans and bell peppers - all coming along.I've harvested the last of the lettuce - how fun to eat lettuce from my garden! But the cauliflower remains just leaves. No flower. Weird...

So. Now I'm going to make a homemade pizza, crust and all. I think I'll make two - one with pepperoni and one with basil and fresh tomato. Yum.

Here's to giving thanks to summer and all the joys and delights that come from the season....busy or not, I love the season.

Friday, June 22, 2012

RevGals Friday Five

Sally, over at RevGals offers this Friday Five:

Over the last year I have found that life has been tough for various reasons, in bits and pieces I might cope with them all, but one after another in a relentless overlapping procession has left me drained and in need of resources that bring life.
Sometimes even those resources are hard to lay my hands on, but even then if I choose to be mindful the memory of them can be sustaining.

So I wonder,

1. What brings you light in the dark places? I am trying to move away from using "darkness" as a metaphor for negativity or challenges. I am trying to understand darkness as the source of life, where life itself begins in the dark womb. However, despair and bleakness are real emotions in my life which have profoundly impacted me. When I am in the depths of despair and hope is lost and life is bleak, I turn to exercise. Moving my body seems to really help. I also turn to prayer. And I read novels, fiction, or poetry (Mary Oliver).
 

2. How do you connect/reconnect with God, and where do you find him/her holding you? In my daily meditation. I try to spend 30 minutes every afternoon in silence. It's restful, soothing, and certainly is the place where I feel God's presence most profoundly.






3. Is there a prayer/poem/piece of liturgy that speaks life/sustains you? Almost any Mary Oliver poem will suffice. I can usually find a poem of hers that speaks into what I am feeling, and she says it so very well. Occasionally Billy Collin's poetry will also (I do love his poetry, but it serves a different purpose for me). And often music sustains me. There were literally years when the old, famous,
Dixie Chicks album - and in particular the song, "Not ready to make nice" got me through every day.


4. Is there a piece of music that lifts your heart?(share it or a link to it) see above.







5. Is there a place you run to (even in your imagination? I meditate or exercise or read..

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Look Out, Here Comes God!

A reflection on the readings for Proper 6B: I Samuel 15:34-16:13 and Mark 4:26-34

Our Old Testament reading today comes from the Biblical genre known as Judges and kings. These books of the Bible talk about the long history, about 410 years, of the Hebrew people which modulated between tribal leaders, known as judges, and the kings.  This story was compiled and culminated in book form between the 9th and 8th centuries BCE. The primary effort during this time was the consolidation of settlements and tribes. Life centered around tribal relationships not cities. 

The transition from tribal leader/judge to king was slow because the region had no means of unifying the diverse tribes into one cohesive unit for defense and leadership. After several centuries of leadership by tribal judges they were finally able to unify the tribes and claim a king – the kings are familiar to us : Saul, David (author of the Psalms) and Solomon.

The story in the book of Samuel tells the story of the transition from the leadership of tribal judges to the leadership of a king.

Samuel was a great judge, prophet and charismatic leader, often considered a hero. Samuel was born to a woman named Hannah, raised in the temple under the great priest Eli. As a judge Samuel had to render legal decisions – in the sense of what is the law of God and how are the people living according to God’s law?

This Sunday’s reading describes the surprising and unexpected revelations of God. God is not a homogenous force. God does not act evenly over all creation. Rather, the manner in which God acts and inspires is contextual, historical, and personal. God has a vision for our lives, for all of creation.

Bruce Epperly on his blog, “The Adventurous Lectionary” says this about our readings this morning:
“While no one is left out in the interplay of call and response, God’s revelation is always personal and variable. A shepherd boy is chosen as king; a mustard seed grows into a great plant; and a small child grows into the Christ. God takes initiative, but our response and a supportive environment help God’s dreams come to fruition and new dreams emerge. Where is God moving uniquely and intimately in your life? What is God’s dream for you, right now and over the long haul? Moreover, what are God’s dreams for you and for your congregation, and loved ones? How can we be open to God’s dream for ourselves and God’s dream for others?”


The reading from I Samuel describes Samuel’s covert operation to choose a new king. The lectionary has skipped from Chapter 8 last Sunday to Chapter 15, which we heard today. The seven chapters in between tell of Saul’s inept leadership as the king. Like last week our reading this morning has the people asking Samuel, the great tribal judge, for a  king…the prophesy we heard last week, that the king will fail because he represents a false idol over God, is proven true. The kings are perceived as being God like, of being a unifying agent pulling together the diverse tribes and various perspectives of the tribes of Israel.

Saul, caught up in his own diversions of power and greed, has lost the confidence and support of the people, they now clamor for a new spiritual-political leader. In chapter 15 verses 10-21 we hear God telling Samuel that Saul has failed as a king. Saul comes across as groveling and pathetic. By the time we get to chapter 16 a new king is being anointed, and the reign of David is ushered in.

David is one of Jesse’s sons, thus the lineage between Abraham, Moses, Jesse, David, and Jesus is made clear. Jesse has twelve sons, including David. In the story Samuel examines the older sons, any one being a likely candidate for the job as king. But they are all passed over until Samuel comes upon the youngest and least equipped, a shepherd boy named David. God tells Samuel that David is the chosen one. David becomes God’s choice for king.

Once again God is acting in and through the smallest and least likely of candidates. God sees deep into our lives and recognizes within us, deeper gifts and possibilities, hidden to the untrained eye. God uses small and unexpected events – and unlikely people – to manifest God’s desire into the world.

God acts through the small and seemingly insignificant, God acts in unexpected ways, inviting us to consider how God is working in our lives, and in our community. How might each of us be one of God’s “chosen? “ How are you being “called” for a particular divine task? Consider what great calling are you hiding, even from yourself?

There is a quiet movement of grace in our lives. Unheralded, and mostly unobserved, changing the world not by bravado or coercion, or even celebrity status or miraculous demonstrations, but by constantly growing grace and emerging presence.  Each moment contains the possibility of a miracle, of God’s inspiration manifesting in small and unexpected ways.  Small seeds burst open and grow into abundant sources of food and shade, - symbols of God’s grace spread generously. Small children grow into leaders. New creation arises from barren soil and ashes. God is calling us to take the time, to nurture patience, to become creatures of discernment.

We are called to look deeply into our lives, and the lives of others. We are called to be attentive to the movements of the Spirit within – to listen and to watch. And then, to not be afraid to take risks, to respond to God’s call, to follow the Spirit into the smallest of places, only to come out the other side, alive, renewed, and expansive. God grows within us like yeast in flour and water, like a seed taking root in soil, like new life bursting forth, in the most unexpected ways.

Look out, here comes God!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Balance




This little cutey has taken to teasing and taunting my dogs. Ruby and Emmy wait for the chipmunk to scamper up on the deck, fully anticipating that they will be able to catch her.

Emmy on the left and Ruby on the right. In the center is Oliver, our daughter's dog - who catches chipmunks at the horse farm where he spends most of his days while she is working....


But alas, the dogs are confined behind glass, or screen, and the chipmunk seems to know it. Oh sure, she runs off whenever the dogs bark at her (which is often...oh my, so very often....) but she also comes very close, dangerously close if it were not for the sliding glass door. She comes to help herself to the pitcher of bird seed that my husband stores on the deck - a partially full, two quart pitcher...and the chipmunk just plunks herself right down inside the pitcher and eats to her heart content. Until the dogs bark. And then she's gone, faster than lightening.

I know people who despise these little ones. People who tell stories of how they have  rid their yard of them with traps and cats and other cruel devices. We don't do that. I keep thinking of Terry Tempest William's book, "Finding Beauty in a Broken World" and her reflections on the value of prairie dogs. Many people in the west find prairie dogs to be a nuisance - their cattle and horses catch their hooves in the holes breaking legs, they "damage" property and cause all kinds of "problems." So the ranchers and farmers get rid of them by poisoning their nests or shooting them.

Turns out, when they get rid of the prairie dogs, the land turns to dust. Nothing can grow. The prairie dogs are crucial to the homeostasis of the ground. Their holes aerate the land and help to keep the soil healthy, which enables the grasses to grow which feed the cattle and horses.

So. I'll take a little annoyance from the chipmunks. They certainly are in higher population this year than they were last - but I suspect something will come around and reduce the population - a fox or a coyote, or something. Nature has her ways of maintaining balance....

Saturday, June 09, 2012

First Samuel, the last Judge

A reflection on I Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20, 11:14-15

The season after Pentecost, which lasts until the season of Advent – or the end of November, offers us expanded sets of readings – every Sunday we will have two options for the Old Testament reading.  For the time being we have chosen to follow Track One, which follows an entire book of the OT. Last summer we heard readings from the Book of Genesis and talked about the creation of the people of God through the great stories of our ancient mothers and fathers of faith.

Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch – five books also known as the Torah – the primary readings of the Hebrew people and modern day Jews. The Pentateuch lays out the law of God, how the people are to live according to what God desires. It begins with Abraham and then continues with Moses freeing the people from slavery in Egypt, forty years of wandering in the desert in the book of Exodus, two books of laws known as Numbers and Leviticus, and then in Deuteronomy, just as Moses dies, they finally see the promised land. Joshua is the next book, and it is a book of conquest led by the warrior Joshua – it is a battle for the people to claim this promised land. After Joshua come the Judges – Judges tells the long history, about 410 years of leadership of the Hebrew people conducted not by kings, but by tribal judges.  This story was compiled and culminated in book form between the 9th and 8th centuries, BCE, and includes the books of the Bible now known as : Judges, First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings.  The story takes place in the Palestinian and Transjordan region.  The primary effort during this time was the consolidation of settlements and tribes. Life centered around tribal relationships not cities.  The tribal leaders did not conform to any particular standard – they range from Jepithah, a military commander to Deborah, a prophet, along with Samuel and other judges.

The Israelite people of this early time had an aversion to kings and the idea of a single leader. Nonetheless there is a push toward claiming a king, one chosen by God. However this process was slow because the region had no means of unifying the diverse tribes into one cohesive unit for defense and leadership. After several centuries of leadership by judges they were finally able to unify the tribes and claim a king – the kings are familiar to us : Saul, David (author of the Psalms) and Solomon.

The story in the book of Samuel tells the story of the transition from the leadership of a judge to the leadership of a king.

Samuel was a great judge, prophet and charismatic leader, often considered a hero. Samuel was born to a woman named Hannah, raised in the temple under the great priest Eli (remember the reading where the young Samuel hears someone calling his name, thinks its Eli but it’s actually God?). As a judge Samuel had to render legal decisions – in the sense of what is the law of God and how are the people living according to God’s law?

Our reading this morning begins in chapter 8. We have skipped over the story of Hannah and her desire for a baby – of her promise to give a baby back to God and thus the birth of Samuel and his life spent in the temple under the training of the priest Eli.

We have also skipped over the story of Eli and his sons who are seen by the people as being deceitful and which eventually leads to the leadership of Samuel.  The lectionary has also skipped over the theft of the ark – the despair over losing the symbol of God’s presence and how this affects the people, and the subsequent return of the ark.  The ark was a box that was also the symbol of God’s  presence.

Now in chapter 8 we hear the people asking Samuel for a king. Through Samuel God warns them against it, making the tyrannical nature of worldly power excruciatingly clear. But the people want a king, and a king is what they get. The importance of this turning point cannot be overstated. Samuel becomes the last of the judges, of the tribal leadership, and the era of kings is ushered in. The story of Saul, David, and Solomon begins. Unfortunately the story ends with another exile and the collapse of the nation.

The story of judges and kings reminds us today that we are to think about how we are governed: are we governed by external forces that distract us from God, and from what God desires of us?

In other words do we lead our lives motivated first by what it means to love God, self, and others, and thus treating all with dignity and respect? The question has to do with ethical living, but just beneath the surface is another question: where do we place our trust? Do we place our trust in God and in living a life that embraces God’s command that we love? The stories we hear in the Old Testament are ripe with examples of what happens when people fall away from God and pursue life ruled by other principles.

References: The Interpreter's One Volume Commentary on the Bible and The Faith and Process Blog.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Raw Material of the Spirit

The funeral, which was planned for this Saturday has been postponed until next Saturday. This is both a blessing in that if frees up this week, which otherwise would have been very intense, and it brings it's own complications of time and space and other commitments that need to be cancelled. Life is full.

So this morning I am back to my routine, my daily effort to begin each day with some time in prayer and reflection followed by exercise. Chapter nine of "Called to Question" focuses on the self, or rather the "Self." Chittister writes,

"Whatever the now-current science of personal development may theorize, the fact remains that the self is all we have. It is the raw material of the spiritual life."

Chittister is very careful to define the self as our most authentic core being which is deeply connected too and, or yearning for, God. It's not the self we might recognize when we look in the mirror.

"It is not the world with which we wrestle; it is the self that is the antagonist in our lives. The cry of the restless self is the cry for the God beyond the little gods we fashion along the way."
Every time I have been swept up by notions of grandiosity, because I did something that would make me "look" better I denied my authentic self. No doubt that some things I do move me up the "ladder" of success. But I no longer look for the next strategic move that will do this intentionally. Every effort along those lines has failed, because I took positions or served in ways that were not authentic to the growth I needed. I suffocated. Perhaps this was so because ultimately my inner, spiritual self was too restless to settle for anything less than life-giving work.

 "Self is what enables us to refuse to settle down, in love with the mediocre, satisfied with banal, because the self is always on its way to somewhere else. Self is the seeker within. Even when we cannot be moved by the world around us, self rages on inside us, relentless in its seeking, regardless of the restraints....Dissatisfaction becomes the spiritual director of our souls."
I notice in my own life that I was always restless, whatever "career" path I took. After about four or six years I began to squirm and feel bored.  That is until I was ordained and began my vocation as a priest. Now, all that inner squirmyness of my restless spirit has settled. It is, for me, a sign that I am doing what is authentic to my inner Self, and what God is calling me to do. I have a friend who once said that he felt that God called him to the priesthood in order to save him from himself. I get that....

"It is not the act of leaving one thing to do another that changes us....(however) The very act of grappling with the desire to quit, of facing the compulsion to start over, of finding ourselves most ourselves where we are brings us to a new level of life, a new depth of heart. ..We don't change our circumstances; we change our attitudes. We become a self that is self-contained, not trapped."
My journey to find my authentic voice continues, it will be never ending. I am drawn to the idea of self-containment as a holding place for the soul to grow. Like Winnicot's concept of the "Holding Environment" and the "good enough mother" - in which the parents provide a child with a safe enough environment in which to grow and yet, because the parents cannot do everything for the child and sometimes "fail" - they also offer enough opportunities to develop self-sufficiency - so the idea of self-containment speaks to me as a developmental aspect of the soul, the Self.

Finding authenticity is a process of being "held" in a safe enough place...

 (place may be a job, a vocation - for Chittister I think it means her vocation as a nun, living with the containment of that - place is where-ever one finds oneself in life and is not necessarily a physical structure but rather a psychological and or spiritual reality).

Safe "enough" because the "place"also enables opportunities to be challenged from which Spirit may grow. In such an environment the soul can learn about trust, grow in confidence, test without fear of complete collapse from repercussions, or at least learn that the repercussions won't collapse ones self, and all the while come to know oneself in presence of God more fully. It is a process that works from the inside out, the raw material of the Spirit.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

This Week, of funerals and sorrow

This week will be consumed with funerals and sorrow. One of our beloved saints of the parish, a woman 88 years old has died of a fast growing cancer. She made the decision to go in peace, exclaiming to me, and all who spoke to her, that she had lived a good life, and was ready. For a short time she thought she had six months, but it's only been one.

Also our parish administrator has left town for the week. She has two family funerals, her sister-in-law died Sunday, and then her nephew (son of the sister-in-law) died sudden, in his sleep, the next day.

I'll be extra busy. I always am when the parish admin is gone - she does so much for us! I hope her week is filled with grace, although it will also be a very difficult one.

A week of grief and loss, a week of sorrow. A week of celebrating the gift and the fragility of life. I'll get back to reading and reflecting on "Called to Question" sometime soon - but not today....

Love Sorrow
Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,
what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so
utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment
by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,
as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.
Mary Oliver, in Red Bird

Saturday, June 02, 2012

But, Seriously, Who Do You Think I Am?

a reflection on the Gospel of John 3:1-17 for Trinity Sunday

I recently renewed my subscription to the NY Times. I love to receive the Sunday edition and frequently spend Monday, my day off, reading it. One of my favorite articles in the NY Time Magazine used to be, “On Language,” written by the now deceased, William Safire. The column ran for 32 years, including two years after Safire died. The column explored the vagaries of the English language – what words mean and how they are used.  For example, Saffire once wrote an entire article on the word “wackadoodle.


Here is part of what Safire said, ….the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. (pastor of the church President Obama use to attend in Chicago) was once called a wackadoodle by a journalist in the New York Times.


Safire goes on to write, “In 1995, The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a state legislator, David Heckler, when he said that those wanting to repeal a firearms law were ‘ wackadoodles.’


In 2005, the Associated Press quoted a former prosecutor of Michael Jackson, who said, ‘It may sound kind of wackadoodle, but this is (Michael Jackson’s) world…(it’s) a separate reality.’


The Dallas Morning News zapped ‘Tom Cruise’s wackadoodle public behavior,” after his controversial appearance on the Today Show.


Safire then defines the word, “The adjective, growing in usage with about 9,000 Google hits, takes its first syllable from wacky – that is, ‘far-out, eccentric, off the wall’ possibly from ‘out of whack.’ The second syllable, “doodle” was first used in the 17th century  - when it meant  something like, ‘simpleton’….’


So, a wackadoodle is someone who is a far-out, eccentric, off the wall, out of whack, simpleton?


I have to admit that when I first read this article my thoughts jumped immediately to the Trinity and the complex nature of trying to explain to someone, Christian or not Christian, what we mean by the Trinity – one God in three persons. We say it as if it is a simple statement: The Trinity, God in three persons. We proclaim the traditional Christian understanding of the Trinity every Sunday in the Nicene Creed.


But in truth, the Trinity is a challenging enough topic for us Christians who have grown up with the concept. For those not Christian I imagine they think it a bit wackadoodle. Certainly our understanding of God in three persons can seem a bit “far out,” “eccentric” or “off the wall” and trying to explain it may turn the best of us into bumbling simpletons.


In the fourth century a huge debate was held amongst various Church leaders from around the world at a church council meeting in Nicea. This highly charged and deeply political meeting, (something we modern Christians know nothing about), set out to discuss the nature of Christ. Was he fully human? Was he fully divine? What is Christ’s relationship to God? And further more what is the Holy Spirit’s relationship to God and to Christ? What do all three have in common and what distinguishes them one from another? In some ways I imagine the council, as only we humans can do, belabored a point that Jesus himself would not have worried about.


I think this joke gets at the heart of the issue…


So one day Jesus was speaking to his disciples and he asked,

“Who do people say that I am?”

And his disciples answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah, or some other of the old prophets.”

And Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said, "You are the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

In response Jesus said, "What?"



The very idea that as Christians we worship one God but that that God expresses God’s self through three distinct entities which are nonetheless united as one is so complex that in the end all we can really say is that God is more mystery than known.



God is more mystery than known. Genesis reminds us that God created all – water, air, earth, female, male, sky, moon, water…God created all and as such God is in all and of all.  The story of Nicodemus in the Gospel of John is a well-known story that illustrates our human inability to comprehend the mystery of God’s nature. Some might say that in this story Nicodemus comes across as a wackadoodle….



When we read scripture, all of scripture, we are reminded to be cautious, mindful of the ways we humans tend to limit God by claiming that God is one thing and not another.



The Bible is filled with complex, often contradictory stories, of God’s relationship to creation, especially to humanity.  As a whole these stories give us a glimpse into the expansiveness of God’s nature – the many ways God is God.



In the end we sometimes just have to shrug our shoulders and acknowledge that our efforts to describe God are either limited, or perhaps, endless? How God manifests God’s self in and through the Trinity, as three persons in one, as God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, is an effort on the part of Christians to describe God as relationship – God is in relationship with God’s self, with creation, and with us. And, really, what’s so whacky about that?



I recently renewed my subscription to the NY Times. I love to receive the Sunday edition and frequently spend Monday, my day off, reading it. One of my favorite articles in the NY Time Magazine used to be, “On Language,” written by the now deceased, William Safire. The column ran for 32 years, including eighteen months after Saffire died. The column explored the vagaries of the English language – what words mean and how they are used.  For example, Saffire once wrote an entire article on the word “wackadoodle.



Here is part of what Safire said, ….the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. (pastor of the church President Obama use to attend in Chicago) was once called a wackadoodle by a journalist in the New York Times.


Safire goes on to write, “In 1995, The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a state legislator, David Heckler, when he said that those wanting to repeal a firearms law were ‘ wackadoodles.’


In 2005, the Associated Press quoted a former prosecutor of Michael Jackson, who said, ‘It may sound kind of wackadoodle, but this is (Michael Jackson’s) world…(it’s) a separate reality.’


The Dallas Morning News zapped ‘Tom Cruise’s wackadoodle public behavior,” after his controversial appearance on the Today Show.


Safire then defines the word, “The adjective, growing in usage with about 9,000 Google hits, takes its first syllable from wacky – that is, ‘far-out, eccentric, off the wall’ possibly from ‘out of whack.’ The second syllable, “doodle” was first used in the 17th century  - when it meant  something like, ‘simpleton’….’


So, a wackadoodle is someone who is a far-out, eccentric, off the wall, out of whack, simpleton?

I have to admit that when I first read this article my thoughts jumped immediately to the Trinity and the complex nature of trying to explain to someone, Christian or not Christian, what we mean by the Trinity – one God in three persons. We say it as if it is a simple statement: The Trinity, God in three persons. We proclaim the traditional Christian understanding of the Trinity every Sunday in the Nicene Creed.


But in truth, the Trinity is a challenging enough topic for us Christians who have grown up with the concept. For those not Christian I imagine they think it a bit wackadoodle. Certainly our understanding of God in three persons can seem a bit “far out,” “eccentric” or “off the wall” and trying to explain it may turn the best of us into bumbling simpletons.


In the fourth century a huge debate was held amongst various Church leaders from around the world at a church council meeting in Nicea. This highly charged and deeply political meeting, (something we modern Christians know nothing about), set out to discuss the nature of Christ. Was he fully human? Was he fully divine? What is Christ’s relationship to God? And further more what is the Holy Spirit’s relationship to God and to Christ? What do all three have in common and what distinguishes them one from another? In some ways I imagine the council, as only we humans can do, belabored a point that Jesus himself would not have worried about.


I think this joke gets at the heart of the issue…


So one day Jesus was speaking to his disciples and he asked,

“Who do people say that I am?”

And his disciples answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah, or some other of the old prophets.”

And Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said, "You are the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

In response Jesus said, "What?"


The very idea that as Christians we worship one God but that that God expresses God’s self through three distinct entities which are nonetheless united as one is so complex that in the end all we can really say is that God is more mystery than known.


God is more mystery than known. Genesis reminds us that God created all – water, air, earth, female, male, sky, moon, water…God created all and as such God is in all and of all.  The story of Nicodemus in the Gospel of John is a well-known story that illustrates our human inability to comprehend the mystery of God’s nature. Some might say that in this story Nicodemus comes across as a wackadoodle….


When we read scripture, all of scripture, we are reminded to be cautious, mindful of the ways we humans tend to limit God by claiming that God is one thing and not another.


The Bible is filled with complex, often contradictory stories, of God’s relationship to creation, especially to humanity.  As a whole these stories give us a glimpse into the expansiveness of God’s nature – the many ways God is God.


In the end we sometimes just have to shrug our shoulders and acknowledge that our efforts to describe God are either limited, or perhaps, endless? How God manifests God’s self in and through the Trinity, as three persons in one, as God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, is an effort on the part of Christians to describe God as relationship – God is in relationship with God’s self, with creation, and with us. And, really, what’s so whacky about that?


Playing for Hope

My family and I once lived in a community with a high percentage of immigrants from Serbia-Croatia, people who had fled the war in the earl...