Thursday, August 9, 2018

Desire

do you ever feel
the desire
sinking into your fingers
itching your very nerves
to clean every space
in the house

sometimes our darkest desires
impulses we cannot control
feelings we wish to deny
aren't the crazy ones
but the embarrassing ones
to clean out the tub

8/5/17

Meditation


"God walks everywhere incognito." (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)

It can be a great comfort to know that God walks among us all the time. Unfortunately, we don't always seem to be able to see God at work in and around us all the time. While there are many practices which help us open our eyes to God in the world, one of the best practices is Christian meditation.

Many people feel that meditation is a practice of Eastern or New Age religions and not Christianity. However, Christianity has a long and deep tradition of meditation, especially in monastic traditions. Christian meditation is not simply about emptying the mind, but connecting to the mind of God and being open to God's presence.

Practices of meditation range from meditating on a verse of scripture, repeating it in the mind to allow it to settle and for you to see it with new eyes or heart. Or perhaps meditation by looking deeply at an image, an icon or a cross, and letting the image open itself up to you. Another way of meditating is my sitting in nature or a prayer or some other reflection. Meditation is a practice of opening yourself up, letting go of preconceived notions, and letting whatever you are meditating on speak to you. What speaks to you this week?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Stillness

a fast paced stillness
biking through the woods
nothing between you and breathing
with the song of life surrounding

a slow steady stillness
sitting on the meditation pillow
nothing between you and breathing
with the rush of life in your veins

a very present stillness
kneeling in the church to pray
nothing between you and breathing
with the love of life listening

7/29/17

Bible Study

Studying the whole Bible all at one go is an enormous task. No one can get through all of it in one day or even a couple of days! The most common ways of studying the Bible are following different guides which break up different books or genres of the Holy Scriptures into accessible passages for study. There are hundreds of good commentary and Bible Study books and programs available online and through book stores which focus on different books or topics included in the Scriptures. Many times people join Bible Study groups, like our Wednesday Night Bible Study, in order to be able to have personal guidance and listen to other's perspectives on the chosen passages.

Even if you aren't interested in following someone else's guidance through the Bible, there are many good ways of reading and studying the Bible on your own. Four time honored ways of reading the Bible on your own are by following one of the following patterns: Lectio Divina, the Artist method, the Detective method, the Treasure-seeker method, and the Jesus' Apprentice method. Lectio Divina is made up of four steps: read, meditate, pray, and contemplate. The Artist method looks at the images of the passage and the images brought up in your own mind from the passage. The Detective method asks the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions of the passage and relates it to your own life. The Treasure-seeker method seeks the truth or lesson in the passage for the person reading. What is the truth for me in this passage? The Jesus' Apprentice method can be used specifically in the Gospel passages. It seeks what is important to Jesus, what is his teaching, what does he seek.

All these different ways seek greater understanding and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and their place in our own lives. How many have you tried? If there is a new method to you here, try it out this week. What insight does it bring you? God is always speaking to us through the words of the Scriptures.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Labels

the dry erase board was covered in notes
marketing ways of labeling others
ways of separating, dividing, and creating fear

are we all just soup cans
lined up on a grocery shelf
segregated by our outward devices
lacking what is seen by the heart?

please let me lose my paper label
torn with relief from my sides
pour me out and let me splatter
see the colors born inside

The 79th General Convention


Did you know that our Episcopal Church is made up of dioceses in 18 different countries?

I hadn't. This is just one bit of information I learned this month while at General Convention. As a first time delegate to General Convention, I was amazed and overwhelmed and inspired by the breadth and depth and diversity of the Episcopal Church at General Convention. Granted, the Episcopal Church is not perfect, and there were some long dry meetings. However I learned so much about how the church works on the international level and about good work going on throughout the Church.

Every three years, delegates, bishops, youth, alternates, vendors, and more gather together at General Convention to help guide and govern the Church for the next three years. We lift each other up in prayer, celebrate good work, mourn losses and injustices, and work together to move forward along the way Jesus calls us.

This year at General Convention, some big news headlines were about revision of the Book of Common Prayer, the Presiding Bishop's call to the Way of Love, Immigration reform with the visit to the Hutto Residential Center, sexual harassment in the Church, and further opening up the Church to the diversity of human beings throughout the world. This September, Sunday the 30th, we will be having an Adult Formation class about General Convention and some of the resolutions and changes which came out of this summer's grand meeting. I hope you will join me that day in conversation about the work of the Church today.

Find more information about General Convention at: generalconvention.org.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Witness

"So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." (Acts 1:6-9)

Jesus tells his disciples that they are going to be his witnesses, to the ends of the earth. We have talked about being a witness this year. Being a witness requires seeing and sharing. The disciples had seen a lot of things when it came to Jesus and his ministry. They had seen God very handily at work in the world and now was the time for them to go out and share their stories with others. Being a witness means not only talking about Jesus, but sharing, through words and deeds what God has done for you.

Witnessing as a spiritual discipline requires trust in the Holy Spirit. We share in ways that sometimes feels very vulnerable to us. Sharing about something as personal as God at work in our lives opens us up in ways we are not all used to. As a witness you also have to trust the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. No one will be immediately transformed because of your story, however, your story can be a starting place for someone else's journey to God. How can you intentionally be the face of God to someone else today?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Small Groups

"Jesus was never a lone ranger." (p. 149 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

Nope, Jesus wasn't a lone ranger. One of the first things he does in his ministry is chose twelve disciples to walk with him and to be with. He spends hours with his disciples, teaching them, talking with them, eating with them. Jesus has a small group in which to process and work towards his goals and to support him when the going gets tough. (Though in his case, he was usually supporting them...)

The best small groups have an intentional purpose and agreement, they have a structure which everyone supports and have leaders who keep the group on track. Otherwise, small groups come in many many many different kinds of groups. Bible study, book study, prayer, action, games, hobbies, support, ministry, training, coaching... all sorts of small groups exist in the world. Small groups help us understand our lives by experiencing the ways others' understand their lives. Small groups give us connection and relationship and allow us accountability when we set out on the road.

While we have some small groups here in this community, we don't have a small group for everyone. There are many groups in the wider community of Franklin and I hope you are part of a small group which supports you in some way. If you are in search of a small group, let Kaycee and I know. There are many ways for the community here to connect to each other and there may be opportunities waiting for you!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Spiritual Direction

"Spiritual direction is a relationship that allows one to assist another in discerning God's activity and presence in his or her life. This relationship assumes that we all need help to listen to God and live out his call." (p. 116 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

Many people experience spiritual direction for the first time at a retreat. They are scheduled time with a priest, monk, nun, or other spiritual director where they are to talk about where God is in their life at that time during the retreat. Spiritual direction is a God centered relationship requiring trust and maturity. The spiritual director gives a new perspective to the life story of the directee by helping them see God at work through conversation, reflection, and exercises.

Find a spiritual director with whom you can have a good relationship some times takes a while. Many retreat centers, diocesan centers, and some churches have lists of trained spiritual directors, however, as a relationship, it is important to find someone you trust and who will listen to you. The best starting place with spiritual direction is to start talking about where God is in your life with someone you know who listens well to God and can speak truthfully and compassionately. Who helps you see God's movement in the world?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Unplugging

"In a world where people use the Internet an average of 30 hours a week and keep the TV or radio on 7.9 hours a day, we need to get unplugged from virtual reality and address our addiction to technology and the toxins it brings into our lives. Unplug, and look into the eyes of another human face - see the beauty of God's creation!" (p. 87 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

We all know how much we time we spend looking at screens... right? In the quote above, it says people use the Internet on average 30 hours a week! That is an average of 4 hours and 15 minutes a day! For those of us who work in offices on computers, this average might actually be low. With all the constant distraction and interaction online, sometimes we simply just need to unplug. Put down the phones and tablets and computers, and spend some quality time with other people.

God created us as interactive and relational beings. We all need some time where we are in personal contact with other people, in conversation, in non-verbal way, and in touch. Some good ways of unplugging are by taking intentional times away from phones, tablets, computers, and televisions and doing something else. By stepping away from the constant barrage of 'instant' communication, you can focus on other types of communication, perhaps even communication with God! To get started thinking about your plugged in/unplugged balance, keep track this week of how much time you spend looking at a screen, any screen. Is that time balanced by how much time you spend face to face with other people?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Witness


Today I was witness to:
people partying
people escaping reality
the backs of my eyelids
Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania
Truckers smoking cigarettes
an abundance of food shared
a father and a boyfriend working together
a beautiful sunset
a blue heron take flight
a mother being cold
family sitting around
enjoying being together

Today I was witness to:
humanity and profound love
always hand in hand

6/24/17

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Proper 7B


This week has seen its fair share of storms.
Thunderstorms. Power outages.
Flooding.
More shootings.
Political outrage and debate.
Families torn apart.

The world is a stormy place.
Thankfully, Jesus offers peace in the midst of the storms.

We all know this story from the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus and the disciples get in the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee
to get some time away from the crowds.
Jesus is exhausted and along the short journey,
he falls deeply asleep.
Naturally, that is when a storm arises,
lashing wind, waves pushing against the sides,
scaring the disciples into thinking they were going to sink. 

Of course, they over exaggerate. 
Since most of the disciples were fishermen,
they probably all knew how to swim and the sea of Galilee isn't that big. 
Nor are there any sharks or crocodiles in the sea (again, too small),
It would be a long swim to shore, but not impossible,
so while the boat might have sank, they most likely wouldn't have all died. 
However, getting tossed about in any storm, physical, emotional, political, 
isn't the most fun and tends to make us human beings fearful and cranky.
We know well the disciples fear.
Many of us fear death, especially by one of the many storms of this world.

I wonder about that storm. 
They would have known it was a possibility. 
Though storms crop up quickly in the valley in which the Sea of Galilee rests, 
there are always signs of approaching storms.
Dark clouds, changes in temperature or pressure,
changes in wind gusts. 

Even in the socio-political realms,
you can usually tell when storms are arising,
inflammatory messages being shared, crimes against other people,
people making deals or changing their stance.

Even as I prepare to go to General Convention, 
the every three year National Episcopal Church governance and program convention, 
I can see the signs of gathering storms. 
I gathered this week with the other members of the deputation from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania 
and we touched on only a few topics, 
but topics I know will have much conversation and debate surrounding them:
The Israel-Palestinian conflict, 
the sexual harrassment #MeToo movement, 
Same Gender Marriage liturgies,
immigrant family separation and detainment,
and Book of Common Prayer changes.

It seems that on all sides,
we are in the midst of raging storms.
Even in the church, we are not immune to storms.

It seems,
that even though peace is one of Jesus' top three ministries in the world,
those being love, grace, and peace,
we still have no idea how to live into the peace Jesus gives to us.
We almost seem to like living in the midst of raging storms. 

Jesus stands up in the boat and commands the wind and the sea to be at peace.
And they listen to him. 
Immediately, creation responds.
Yet how often does Jesus stand among his disciples 
and offer them peace,
and even still they don't always live into the peace Jesus gives them.

Of course, the peace which Jesus offers 
is not one which gets rid of all the storms in the world.
It is not a peace which ignores the world either.
It is a peace which steadies our hearts and minds,
helps us work towards making a difference in the world
while knowing that is at work in the midst of the storm.

Jesus stood up and commanded the storm.
He shouted out peace and creation listened to him.
Jesus is not the only one who can stand up for peace.
We might not command the wind and the rain and the sea
but we do make a difference when we stand up together against the storm.
Now you may say, we can't stand up to the storm!
We could die!

Why are we afraid? We have God on our side.
We have Jesus who even the wind and the sea obey.

Thankfully as part of General Convention,
in the midst of all the storms of opinion and politics
the community will gather for worship together everyday. 

We will need the reminder of Jesus' peace, love, and grace for us
in the midst of all the issues inherent in governing and financing 
and guiding the national church. 

One of the many reasons we come together as a community
each week
is to be reminded of
and to share
the Peace
Jesus gives to each of us,
the peace he gave to his disciples that day,
when they too were rocked by the storms raging around them.
Our liturgy,
though confusing to some
is structured the way it is
in order to help us walk through life in this world,
to remind of us of God's love, grace, and peace for us,
to give us strength and courage
to walk back out of here
into a stormy world
keeping the inner peace
Jesus gives to us.

Whether we recognize it or not,
whether that is how we feel after church or not,
that is the liturgy's intention.
It is a gathering in together to draw strength, courage, forgiveness, grace, love, and peace,
and then a pushing out to share those things with everyone else in the world.

While today our communal worship may seem a little awkward,
doing the Instructed Eucharist splits up the natural flow of the service,
and we are going to end in the middle,
and then gather again next week to finish our Instructed Eucharist,
learning about the flow and intention of our communal worship 
allows us to go deeper into what each part is for,
why we do each part of the service, and why we do it in the order it is in,
so that when we come together on a regular basis,
we can understand and experience the love, grace, and peace,
which comes out of our worship together.

It is telling, in the Episcopal Church,
how fundamental in nature
Jesus' peace is to our working together as a community, as the church of God, 
in that the first act of a newly ordained priest,
is to share the peace of God with the congregation present.
The first thing we do as priests
is to spread peace.
To offer the gift of peace
in the midst of a stormy and violent world.

I offer to you today,
in the midst of all the storms present outside these walls,
physical, emotional, personal, public, political,
whatever storm you find yourself in,
I invite you into the peace of God,
here in this room,
find
the steadfast loving reassurance
that God holds you,
and loves you,
and has a calm place for you to rest.

Amen. 




Friday, June 22, 2018

Journaling


"On the pages of a journal, in the privacy of a moment, we can take tentative steps into truth and scour our feelings, hurts, ideas and struggles before God." (p.  57 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

I will admit, I added journaling to the list for this summer because it is one of my favorite ways of working out my thoughts, prayers, and the ups and downs of all of my life, not just the spiritual. Not all journals are the same, just as not all people are the same. For some, journaling is writing long prose about how they are doing and what is going on in their lives. For others, journaling is making lists of activities and their consequences, or series of pictures or words tied together in personal meaning. Today, art journals or Bible art journaling are trendy activities. I have multiple journals for different aspects of my life and different kinds of creative moods.

However, journaling is not only the process of writing or creating art, but also the process of reflecting on the writing or art created. Real journaling goes back over what has been writing or created before and looks for patterns or trends to see what is going on in our lives which we might not fully realize. In many ways, like the examen, it is in the reflecting back on what we have done, seen, heard, written, or created that we find where God has been at work in our lives. While it is lovely to be able to feel and know God's presence in the moment as it happens, many times we start with coming to know God in hindsight, looking back over what has happened to us. What have you created lately?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Participate

it is an active passivity
the book lying there
waiting for the reader to return

held in time the story waits

you wrap your arms around me
the world moves on
while I participate in eternity

held outside of time
the real story continues

6/6/17

Friday, June 15, 2018

Examen


 "How do you tend to recognize God's presence in your day?"

Also known as the Examination of Consciousness, the Examen is a practice of questions which leads to seeing God in the details of our lives. Most people know of the Examen from the Catholic Jesuit tradition, popularized by Ignatius of Loyola. There are many different formats or ways of using an examen practice to deepen our spiritual lives. The focus in each one stays on the details of our daily lives and how and what affects our spiritual lives.

In most examen practices, a time is set apart at the end of the day to reflect on where God was in the daily activities. By going through the different activities and looking at our bodily responses or where we saw God or writing down the words which exemplify the activities, we start to see patterns emerge which show us where God is at work. For many, questions of gratitude about our daily lives can be very helpful in long term spiritual growth.

Many people think the examen practice needs to be rigorous and difficult. However, the examen can even be fun. One way of doing an examen practice for yourself, or perhaps your children, is to play a game of I Spy: the I Spy God edition. Where have you spied God in your life today? What points to God's presence?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Rule of Life


"A rule for life is a simple statement of the regular rhythms we choose in order to present our bodies to God as our "spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1). Each rule, or rhythm, is a way we partner with God for the transformation only he can bring." (p. 36 Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

Many of us have heard of the Rule of Saint Benedict or the Franciscan Rule of Life. These Rules were written by monks for monks as a way of structuring and ordering the common life of the monastery. However, having a rule of life goes all the way back to the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 2:42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." The earliest followers of Jesus thought that every Christian should follow these four ways of living: learning the teachings, being a part of the community, sharing in Communion, and praying together. Ever since then, Christians have been developing their own rules of life and rules of living for their communities.

Having a rule of life can be a very enriching practice. One way to try out a rule of life is to set a time limit on it, such as: "I will pray for ten minutes every morning for 40 days." Then when the 40 days are over you can look back on the rule and your relationship to it and see if it is really a good rule for your life. Not everyone's rules of life are the same. Night owls probably wouldn't like the early morning yoga and meditation practice of a morning lark. Whereas the morning lark might not be able to handle saying Compline every night at 11 pm. Part of the flexibility of a rule of life is that it fits your life and allows you to connect with God. What is in your rule of life?


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Accountability

ten minutes a day
six days: an hour
sixty thousand days
one hundred sixty five years

but double it
twenty minutes, three days
thirty thousand days
eighty two years

a lifetime of work
being an expert
day in and day out
being responsible for change

3/15/17
(They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. This is the math if you try to become an expert only spending 10 minutes a day. It would take 165 years to work up the hours needed.)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Pray


pray for peace
in the midst of conflict
pray for clarity
in the midst of chaos
pray for charity
in the midst of consumerism
pray for kindness
in the midst of terrorism

pray Sweet Jesus
when we cannot
pray O Holy Spirit
when we forget
pray Creating Father
through to our bones

5/30/17

Sabbath


"Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns." Exodus 20:8-10

The fourth commandment reminds us to rest. Rest!? You might think? Who has time to rest? In the American culture at this time, rest is not a priority. Rest is for the weak. And we are all the strong who can keep going forever!

I hope you realize I'm being facetious. Rest is extremely important to our health and happiness as human beings. God created us to need and desire rest, in multiple ways. Not only do we require physical rest in sleep, but we also require mental and emotional rest in order to stay healthy. Many people experience stress and burn out because they do not allow themselves to rest enough. Being well rested allows us to work in our strengths and do the work we need to do.

The Jewish practice of sabbath starts in the evening the day before. This puts the whole next day in the right framework in order to rest. "Sabbath is God's way of saying, "Stop. Notice your limits. Don't burn out."" (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, 42) When even God rested in the story of creation, we know that we too need to rest in order to reach our full potential. We belong to the kingdom of God and in the kingdom of God there are no clocks, no task masters, no to do lists. Sabbath, and resting, are spiritual practices preparing us for our lives in the fullness of the kingdom of God.

Think about what it might mean to take a full day to rest with God. What would you need to let go of in order to rest? What are the consequences of not resting? Think about how you can find and plan a sabbath this week.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Trinity Sunday


Trinity Sunday tends to be a day for an opaque sermon.
I acknowledge and claim that. 
However, I have no plans on trying and failing to explain the Trinity to you today.
God is one in three and I believe that.
And many of you have sat through many confusing sermons on the subject.
So today I am going to speak about a different confusing topic
just to mix it up a little.

I'm going to talk about the passage from Isaiah today
and our struggle as sinners AND beloved children of God
to speak out against evil in this world.

This passage from Isaiah 
is usually known as Isaiah's call story,
though it is not the first passage from the book of Isaiah.
However, what is actually happening in this passage
is Isaiah getting spiritually ready
to get involved in
and fight the spiritual forces of wickedness 
going on in the world around him.

See, at the time Isaiah had this experience of God,
the Northern Kingdom of Israel 
and the Southern Kingdom of Judah had already split up.
King Uzziah was king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah
and was a fairly faithful king under the influence of the prophet Zechariah.
Unfortunately, towards the end of his reign 
he tried to do something in the temple that only the priests were allowed to do,
got caught, and apparently got leprosy,
and handed the power over to his son.
Sadly, his son and his grandson were not faithful to God.
Have you ever heard of Ahaz?
Well, anyway, the Syrians and the Northern Kingdom of Israel
went to war against the Southern Kingdom of Judah,
and to save himself and the Kingdom,
King Ahaz of Judah went to the Assyrians to get help,
but the price was becoming a vassal of the Assyrians. 
This vision we hear today from Isaiah,
is his introduction as to why 
he tries to intervene in the war and what Ahaz is doing.

If we kept on reading in Isaiah,
we would read in the next couple of chapters 
what he does to get involved in the war
and what he says to try to talk Ahaz out of the war.

What we see in this passage from Isaiah is his struggle and his calling.
Isaiah sees the coming and beginning war as part of the work of evil in the world.
Understandably so,
A war would mean destruction of people and land and food
none of which could really be spared at that point.
He struggles with the idea of getting involved though,
even more understandably,
because  he is one man against powers far greater than himself.

Many of us have felt this struggle,
how can we get involved in some of the larger issues in our world,
coming up against institutions and people with far greater power,
will any difference be made?

Isaiah feels his position in the world, both as a sinner, a man of unclean lips,
and as a beloved of God, for he has seen the Lord of hosts.
He is caught between knowing himself as a sinner and a beloved child of God.
As a sinner, how can he go up against the spiritual forces of wickedness
when he is not perfect?
Yet, as a man of God, a prophet,
how can he not speak out against the evil going on in the world?
Caught in between,
Isaiah struggles.
Thankfully, he has this vision.
Isaiah is forgiven and cleansed of his sin.
And then Isaiah is called,
to go back into the world and to speak up.
That's part of the foreshadowing done with the live coal touching his lips,
Isaiah will be given something to say,
he will be called upon to speak to the world.
Once he knows that his sins are forgiven,
he readily answers God's call.
The Lord speaks, saying,
"Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
Isaiah immediately answers,
"Here I am; send me!"

We struggle with our place in the world too.
We know ourselves to be sinners,
and yet, we also know ourselves to be beloved children of God.
We get caught in the middle too.
We can see and know the strength of the spiritual forces of wickedness in the world.
Evil happens all around us,
in small and large ways everyday.
Yet how can we stand up against it?
How can we speak out against greater power than us?

When we are baptized, at least in the Episcopal Church,
and we have had two baptisms this month, so this will sound familiar to you,
we, or our parents and godparents, renounce
"Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God."
We renounce
"the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God."
From our beginnings in the body of Christ,
we are called,
like Isaiah,
to speak out against, to act out against,
the evil going on in our world,
which is not an easy thing to do.
Certainly not everyone thinks of themselves in a spiritual fight or battle 
always, or even ever.
However, we all know the feeling 
when the institutional or spiritual or psychological forces 
roll over us like big steam rollers. 
Flattening us like cartoon characters.
We all know what it is like to feel
like it is no use for us to get involved. 

Thankfully, we are not alone.
We are called, along with Isaiah,
to speak out against the forces of evil in this world
and thankfully, we do not do so alone.
We go together, as the body of Christ,
with brothers and sisters throughout the world.
We know that since God calls us 
God will be with us.
Jesus will be with us.
The Holy Spirit will be with us.

Isaiah was not alone,
he went out into the world
to speak against King Ahaz,
who royally messed things up for Judah,
and God went with him.
Every time Isaiah confronted King Ahaz,
God was there with him,
the Lord provided Isaiah with what to say
and the power to back up his words.
Isaiah spoke against others too,
not just King Ahaz, 
who were not following the ways of God,
and always God went with him. 

We have been cleansed of our sins and forgiven,
not quite exactly the way Isaiah was,
at least, not that I have heard,
but we have been cleansed of our sins and forgiven 
in the waters of baptism,
in the weekly confession and absolution,
and we stand before God,
who calls to us to speak out against evil in our lives,
both big and small.
Knowing that no matter where we go
with God's message of love and redemption,
God goes with us.
Supporting us and giving us the grace and strength
to speak out against the powers 
because it is through God's power and strength,
that we speak
and God will always go with us.

Amen. 


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Praise

How can I praise your stability
in the midst of high anxiety
when the only truth to frame
is that you won't leave me alone
when despite my repeated warnings
of stormy seas and high winds
you row out determined
to keep the world together
when the only care
despite the lashing rain of tears
is that we remain forever
stubborn as a rock they say
stubborn as a rock I grin
the grey cliff withstands the stormy sea
until it falls into its arms

(5/26/17)

Spiritual Disciplines


Spiritual disciplines? What are those?
A good question for anyone in the Christian faith and life. Many people, when they take a moment to think of spiritual disciples, think of things like prayer, bible reading or study, and going to church. While those are good spiritual disciplines, those are not the only ones out there. Far from it! In seminary one of my professors gave me a book which outlines 62 different spiritual disciplines: their practices, their functions, and their strengths and weaknesses. Sixty two different practices! That is a lot of different ways to connect to God!

"Spiritual practices don't give us "spiritual brownie points" or help us "work the system" for a passing grade from God. They simply put us in a place where we can begin to notice God and respond to his word to us." (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook p. 19) Spiritual practices help us connect our desire for God in our lives with the work that God is doing in our lives. While there are lots of books out there which outline different practices, ways of connecting to God are not limited to 62 or 100 or even 1000. There are thousands of ways in which we can connect to God in our daily lives. However, throughout the summer, I will be talking about some spiritual practices to try out. Maybe you do some of these things already, perhaps you've never thought of them as spiritual disciplines, maybe they will all be new to you. See what fits your life and desire for God in your life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pentecost Sermon


I want you to take a look at your hand. 
Right or left, it doesn't matter.
Every day our hands do impressive amounts of work.
They influence our experience of the world.
Look at your fingers.
You probably don't think about them often.
They are very similar in nature to each other,
yet each is different. 
Each is unique from the others.
Even our fingers have diversity!
Each of our fingers have different purposes and gifts. 
The fact that our thumbs are at an angle and move slightly differently than the other fingers... opposable thumbs! 
What a gift our thumbs are in our daily lives!
(Especially when you consider animals without opposable thumbs,
we have all seen those internet memes.)
We may look at our hands and think they are all the same. 
In fact, we have diversity right in our hands.

The word diversity really means a range of different things.
Not that it has a range of different meanings,
it quite literally means, "a range of different things."
Having a collection be diverse means that there are different things in the collection.
So speaking about diversity in the context of people 
requires two things: community and different gifts.

This is where we go to the passage from Acts,
the bedrock of Pentecost.
The passage starts with the community.
"The disciples were all together in one place." 
Here we have a collection of people, already diverse in nature.
Tax collectors, fisherman, carpenters,
all gathered together in a room because of the same glue.
Its quite obvious that the only reason the disciples ever managed to stay together
was because of Jesus. 
Together, this little community of men,
has an amazing experience.
A rush of wind and tongues of fire,
a change of heart and feeling of presence,
and a sudden new knowledge filling each of them. 

Diversity is one of the first gifts the Holy Spirit ever gives to the church, 
simply by giving the disciples the ability to speak different languages.
When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples that day of Pentecost,
it didn't tell the disciples to go only 
to the Aramaic speaking good Jews to spread the good news of Jesus.
No, the Holy Spirit gave the disciples new languages,
the gift of speaking to people wholly different from them.
With the gifts of the Holy Spirit there were going to be
Egyptian followers of Jesus
and Parthian followers of Jesus
and Mesopotamian followers of Jesus.
People from all over the known world
who didn't all have the same background or the same ideas.
The Holy Spirit came and made the disciples more diverse,
even than they had been before.

I love the fact that someone thinks this rush of speaking in languages from Jews
is because of wine.
As if having some wine could give us the ability to speak a new language.
The work of the Holy Spirit in this way 
was so new, 
so amazing, 
so profound,
no good excuses could be made to justify the event away.
Someone in the crowd tried to blame it on wine,
but we all know that was simply out of fear.
You can see the bystanders trying to push the idea away,
out of fear, out of wanting to stay away from the unknown.

Unfortunately, for many the gift of diversity looks like a threat. 
The unknown quality of people being different from one another leads to fear. 
Thankfully, this fear can be overcome.
Recognizing and accepting diversity does put us outside of our comfort zones. 
It is the work of the Holy Spirit,
and God doesn't call us to be comfortable.
In a world increasing separating into groups of like minded people who do not play well with people or groups who are differently minded, 
the world lacks the grace of living into our gifts as diverse people.

However, everyone is different in this world. 
Everyone deserves the dignity and respect which we each crave for ourselves. 
Everyone is different and has different gifts. 
One of the greatest gifts we can give another person
is acknowledging them for as uniquely themselves. 
It is only by working together, 
using all the gifts which we bring to the table, 
can we really ever accomplish anything. 
The world is worth working with other people who are extremely different than us. 
Not everyone can speak Spanish or German or Hindi or Swahili, 
but the Holy Spirit has given us the gifts that we need in order to work together.

Many people feel that the church is, and has always been,
a place for people who all think, feel, believe, and look the same.
You have to be and act and speak in a particular way in order to be a part of the church.
Unfortunately, there are many parts of the church in which this is true.
There are rules governing what you can wear, what you can eat or drink,
who you can talk to, and so forth.

By no means am I advocating a standard of lawlessness or anarchy,
there are standards for being a follower of Jesus
however none of them are based on what clothing you wear
or what you can eat or drink.
In fact, Jesus would probably have broken any and all rules
given to him by the religious authorities of his own church
in order to be involved and part of the lives of the people who needed him.

Diversity is a strength, not one of the church's greatest strengths,
though thankfully one that we are more and more recognizing the need for.
Here in this community, we have a range of diversity
Episcopalians, Lutherans, a few Catholics,
we have people who speak languages other than English,
we have people who are differently abled,
we have people who can program electronic devices,
and people who stay as far away from such devices as they can,
and all these diversities make for a better community.

We come together today to join our diverse hands
to be together as a community with different gifts
experiencing the Holy Spirit in this time and in this place,
so that when we go out into the world 
we can meet God at work through the Holy Spirit
in all the diverse places and people we experience.
God sends us out to find ourselves and Him
in all the beautiful diversities of His creation.

Amen. 


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Singing


we are
sounds without words
haunting melody
it curls around the mind
changing mood, imagination
what I know as home
became deeper
sunk in memories
subconscious amniotic fluid
the voiceless cry
of a lone viola
stringing through the wind
my heart provides
accompaniment beneath

(3/7/17)

Pentecost Reflection



"O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen." (BCP 227)

Pentecost was a huge change in the life of the community of Jesus followers. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and changed everything. It opened up the way of Jesus to new people, through the disciples being able to speak new languages. It opened up questions about the place of the Holy Spirit in people's lives with sweeping changes in how the community of Jesus followers saw themselves. It lead the disciples into truths they had never faced before.

I love how the prayer for Pentecost above asks that we can rejoice in the 'holy comfort' of the Holy Spirit. Most times when people experience the workings of the Holy Spirit it is in a new and uncomfortable way. The Holy Spirit sweeps into our lives and turns them upside down. Yet, there is something comforting about the presence of the Holy Spirit, even as it is changing our lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit allows us to know that God is with us and that what is happening is for our much greater good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Prayer


There is a phrase in the global church community
which can be said in many different ways.
Almost like the southern, "Bless your heart"
which can be everything from a prayer to a derogatory comment,
the phrase, "I'll pray for you"
can be used in both good and bad ways.
Sometimes it is said in a way that is demeaning,
or makes you wonder if that person will actually pray for you.
However, it can also provide great comfort,
allowing people to know that they are not alone and that someone else cares about them
and loves them enough to pray for them.
Prayer for another is a powerful tool in the Christian community tool box.
Prayer for another is an action of the love of God in us.

Naturally, when we talk about prayer,
we have to recognize that there are different types of prayer.
We pray for ourselves,
we pray in order to communicate with God, and have God communicate with us,
we pray for others specifically in intercessory prayer,
and we pray on behalf of the world.

In the gospel passage for today,
we see Jesus in the midst of prayer,
showing multiple different kinds and uses of prayer.

Chapter 17 of the gospel of John is solely Jesus praying.
He prays for a whole chapter,
While sitting in the garden of Gethsemane
between the Last Supper and his arrest.
Jesus prays fervently to God.
The story says that he was alone during this time period
yet, in the gospel of John,
we have the text of his prayer,
written down for all of us to read and hear.
Jesus probably told his disciples about his prayer afterwards.

The whole chapter-long prayer can be broken up into three parts:
Jesus praying for himself
Jesus praying for his disciples
Jesus praying for the world.

In the first six verses, Jesus prays for himself.
He knows what is coming at this point and he wishes that it didn't have to happen.
However, Jesus is obedient to God and acknowledges that he was sent to do God's will
and God's will he will do.
He prays that God will be glorified through him and that he can join God in glory.
Jesus loves God and thus prays to God. 
In some ways, because Jesus is part of God, 
Jesus' prayers are a self-giving love to and of God.

In the portion of the chapter we heard Deacon Dave read this morning,
Jesus prays for his disciples.
He prays that they are protected,
that they know the truth about God,
that they are one together in love,
and that they go forth into the world to share their witness.
Because Jesus loves his disciples,
he prays for them, over and over again. 
He acts out his love for them in his prayers for them,
putting love into action. 

In the last portion of the chapter,
Jesus prays for the world,
including us.
He prays for all those who will believe in him because of the testament of his disciples,
which ends up being us at this time.
He prays for unity and that love will be shared throughout the world
through all those who believe in him.
Jesus puts his love of us into action in prayer as well.
Through the love of God, inside of him,
he can pray for people he loves throughout time and space.

Jesus sets us a wonderful example in John of how to pray
for ourselves,
for each other,
and for the world.
Jesus shows us how to put the love of God given to us
into action through prayer.

One of the hallmarks of a truly Christian community is their prayer for each other.
Thankfully this is not a new idea for you all here at St. John's.
I know well the prayers you have for each other,
through week day Morning Prayer and the rotation of the congregation prayed for daily,
through the number of Daughters of the King messages I receive daily,
praying for community members here, in Grace Lutheran, and in the wider Franklin community.
Prayer is embedded in this community as a way of sharing the love of God
and putting faith into action.
Practically anyone can see the love you have for each other 
in the service and prayer you give each other. 

As another example, the Book of Common Prayer
highlights this desire for prayer in the community in the service of baptism.
Not only do we vow in the Baptismal Covenant to continue in the tradition of prayer,
but we also pray for the person about to receive baptism immediately before they are baptized. 
Even before they become an official member of the body of Christ in baptism,
the community is already praying for them. 
Today, as we baptize Judson (at the 10 am service),
we acknowledge him as part of the community 
and start
what will be lifelong prayers for him
in this community. 
We act out the love of God for him, through us,
through our prayers for him and the love we show him.

When it comes to community prayers,
I have taken on my own practices of praying for this community.
Each week I move through our membership, praying for a family or couple or individual 
and sending them a card to let them know I am praying for them.
Some of you have probably already know this, having received a card already,
while some of you are still on my list for the future. 
Every prayer request which comes in,
either the DOK email chain, or into the church office, or spoken to me personally,
goes onto my personal prayer list, prayed each day in Morning Prayer.
No need to wonder, when I say I'll pray for you,
I pray for you.
And even sometimes when you don't ask or I don't say it,
I even pray for you then. 
God has poured a lot of love into me, 
and I pour it out in service of the church, 
loving you all and praying for you all. 

Prayer is part of the glue of Christian community. 
One Episcopal theologian who wrote about prayer was Leonel Mitchell.
He wrote a book called Praying Shapes Believing, 
a theological commentary on the Book of Common Prayer. 
In the book he sets out the basic idea 
that how we pray is really what shapes our beliefs.
He also talks about how the reverse is true,
what we believe affects how we pray. 
If we only ever pray for certain people or certain situations,
then even if we started with believing that God cares about other people,
we start to believe that God only cares about those types of people or situations which we pray about. 
He also says that the act of praying,
especially with repetition,
cements ideas in our hearts and minds in ways mere memorization cannot do. 
Putting our faith into action through prayer 
helps us to experience and understand the love of God 
in ways we might not otherwise be able to do.

While prayer isn't always easy,
it is an action worth all the love and commitment we can put into it.
I am grateful to have landed in a community so strong in prayer
and my hope is that we will continue,
so that everyone in Franklin might know us
because of our love and prayer for each other.

Amen.