Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Way of Love

12/14/18

When the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, announced the Jesus Movement emphasis on the Way of Love this summer at General Convention, I heard many comments about the Episcopal Church not needing another new tagline. The Episcopal Church is already known for some of our short and sweet taglines: "The Episcopal Church welcomes you!", "We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement", "The Episcopal Church: all of the fun, none of the guilt." As much as the mainline denominations in the United States are worried about decline and decay in their churches, we all know having a new tagline isn't going to save the church.

However, the introduction of the Way of Love made it clear it was not a new tagline. The Way of Love is a journey, started by God millennia ago, continued by the prophets, walked by Jesus, and carried out by the disciples and follower of Jesus throughout the centuries. The Way of Love is simply a new way of designating and structuring our understanding of what we are doing together in churches, what our lives together in community are about. The Way of Love is a way of teaching and talking through the rules of community and fellowship we have already and deepening our personal and communal commitments to following Jesus.

As we follow the Way of Love journey this Advent season, we are given new insight into the journey of faith. Each day we walk together in a pattern of ways, practicing the ongoing teaching of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. As we turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest together, we recognize that our journey towards God is most truly a journey towards and into Love. The greatest Love that has and ever will be. As we journey towards Christmas, we journey towards the miraculous gift of Love through the birth of God on Earth, Jesus. I hope you'll take some time this season to really try to wrap your mind around the sheer impossibility and yet glorious gift God gives to us in his Son Jesus.

Now


firmly planted
grounded in each passing second
whisking by
so much fluff blown in the breeze
unregistered by human thought
caught up in past or future
dilapidated by realization
the now you've noticed
has but passed
and in thinking
caught up in past
there is no moment recognizable
without memory
impermanence is impermanent
all is static fluid


10/24/17

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Advent 2C


Two years ago,
when I moved here,
I experienced a baptism by fire.
For the first time ever,
I hosted my family in MY home
for Christmas.

I don't know how you felt about it, but hosting Christmas in my house the first time for my family was a big deal,
Which made me feel very pressured going into the Christmas season.
I needed to make sure I had multiple rooms all done up properly.
I needed to find all the dust in the house and get rid of it. 
I had the nightmare of my mother coming to my house with the white gloves and running her finger along the mantel and making a face about my house cleaning skills...
I needed to stock all the foods. 
I have two twenty something year old brothers. 
We are talking ALL the food.
I needed to make sure I took care of our family traditions of having a pickle ornament for the tree
and the particular Christmas morning CD we always listen to with the one wrong note in the seventh piece.
I had to buy the right gingerbread cake mold for the gingerbread cake village,
And so on and so forth.

And on top of all that, I had to make sure everything at the church was ready for Christmas too!
I had so much to prepare!
I felt like I had to move heaven and earth to make sure everything was right.

Moving heaven and earth in preparation for God 
is exactly what Isaiah was talking about.
"Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low."
The whole earth moves in preparation for God's coming.
Nothing like that has ever happened!
While John the Baptist was intent on personal preparation for God,
being reborn in the waters of baptism, being washed in forgiveness,
and starting a new life in relationship with God.

The Word of God came to John, son of Zechariah,
in the fifteenth year of Emperor Tiberius' reign,
when John was already out in the wilderness. 
He hadn't yet focused on baptism or the Jordan River when the Word first came to him,
but he already knew something was going to happen,
he was out in the wilderness. 
Unlike Jesus, who is driven out into the wilderness after baptism,
John is waiting in the wilderness for the Word.
When the Word did come to him, he went to the Jordan River,
and he walked around the region of the Jordan. 

The Jordan River is 156 miles long. 
There is an upper stretch of the river, above the Sea of Galilee, 
and a lower region, between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.
While we don't know where exactly John the Baptist was wondering around, 
or where he was typically baptizing,
because the gospels say that people from Jerusalem were going out to see John,
the understood area of the Jordan River is in the lower section, along the west bank of the river,
situated in what is now the West Bank.
The author of the gospel of Luke, draws the connection between the scripture passage from Isaiah and what John was doing.
John was proclaiming in the wilderness, he was telling people to prepare themselves.
While Isaiah called the land to prepare,
John called all the people to prepare,
to prepare their hearts, minds, souls, and bodies,
for the arrival of the Messiah,
the Holy Anointed One of God.

There are many ways to prepare your heart and mind and soul and body
for God's arrival. 
If you were here last week, you'll remember I talked about having a Rule of Life
a practice designed to help prepare you for intimacy with God.
The first part of the Journeying the Way of Love Rule of Life is Turn. 
Turning means going back to God.
Turning means repenting
apologizing
both to God and to others
Turning
is what John the Baptist was trying to get people to do
He was in the wilderness baptizing with the baptism of repentance
for the forgiveness of sins.
Part of preparing the way of the Lord means straightening out what was once crooked
and we all know that when relationships go crooked they have a tendency to stay crooked unless we put a lot of work into making them straight again.
John has gone down in history for this act,
baptizing people who have repented.
It was a very physical act.
Most people when they visit the Holy Land
go down to the Jordan River and renew their baptismal vows, in some shape or another
However, the baptism that John was giving out was a different kind of baptism then the baptism we do today.
His was solely focused on repentance and forgiveness.
It was a visible sign of forgiveness for those who repented.
They came up out of the water, washed.
Clean. Renewed. Forgiven.

Nowadays we only baptize once.
In the water of baptism, you are fully forgiven and become a part of God's kingdom.
However, we need the reminder of forgiveness much more than once.
We need it over and over and over again in our lives.

Almost every week in church, we are reminded of the forgiveness 
God has given to us.
We say together the Confession of Sins and we hear the Absolution,
because as the people of God we have been forgiven.
We too have been washed. Clean. Renewed. Forgiven.

Yet for all those reminders,
Forgiveness is not easy.
It means letting go to the idea that the people who hurt you owe you something
owe you an apology or their own pain.
It is a hard thing to let go of.
Sometimes we think we have forgiven others, but then
something happens and we realize we still want them to apologize to us
we still want to cause them pain like we were caused.
I struggle with forgiveness, especially when it comes to personal boundaries.
Yet Jesus is very clear on the subject of forgiveness
Jesus gives the injunction to forgive 77 times a day if need be. 
And sometimes it is that many times a day.
Some people grate on us or drive us nuts
when we continue to have those conversations with them in our heads, 
we haven't forgiven them.

John the Baptist, is also clear about repentance and forgiveness.
The people who were baptized by John were people
who had asked forgiveness from God.
They were people who had listened to John and 
wanted to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah.
We too need to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ with repentance and forgiveness.
You need to forgive me for my faults.
I need to forgive you for your faults.
We need to forgive each other for our faults
and we all need to forgive those outside of this community,
our wider communities.
All the hurt and hate
all the pain and suffering
all the annoyance and anger and frustration
we cause and we are caused
it is all washed away by Jesus in God.

As you prepare your house this season,
take a moment to prepare your heart.
As you prepare your baking this season,
take a moment to prepare your mind.
As you prepare your gifts this season,
take a moment to prepare your soul.
As you prepare your tree this season,
take a moment to prepare your body.

Repent! 
And rest in God's gracious forgiveness.

Amen. 


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Resemblance


I see a town, sleeping by a river
I see a festival, celebrating history
I see a street, cute store fronts galore
I see a playground, the future at work
I see the lights, at home in the night
I see the elegance, of architecture preserved
I see the people, community engaged
I see God, waiting for me

10/19/17

John the Baptist

12/7/18

John the Baptist

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Second Sunday of Advent BCP 211)

Because we live in a time after Jesus' first coming, it does seem a little odd to be preparing for him to arrive. Yet, each year we hear and relive the proclamations of John the Baptist who was sent to prepare the people for Jesus' arrival. The coming of the Messiah was not going to be sudden or unannounced, John makes sure to tell everyone he can that the Messiah was coming and time was short to prepare.

Thankfully, this remembrance of John the Baptist and the season of Advent allows us time each year to prepare again for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and lives. When we truly open our lives to Jesus our lives change. Getting our hearts and minds ready to accept and work with the changes Jesus brings is helpful and allows you to move forward with more intention. Listen to John the Baptist crying out to you from the Jordan River this coming Sunday. What do you have to prepare for the coming of Christ?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Reward


the consequences are their own reward
the actions must be chosen carefully

the rust belt resiliency grinds on
polishing the only metal worth the spit

indeed there is no transparency
when the motivations lack symmetry

love gives and takes, holds and lets go
love is its own reward, waiting to be enjoyed

10/11/17

Advent



Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (First Sunday of Advent BCP 211)

Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ, into the world and into our hearts. In the Church we prepare and celebrate this coming of Jesus on three levels. The first is Jesus' birth, and the wider world is good about capitalizing on this. We remember Jesus came into the world as a baby, born and laid in a manger. The second is Jesus' coming again to usher in the coming of God's Kingdom. We anticipate this event in the future. The third is Jesus' coming into our hearts and opening us up to God's guidance and wisdom. We celebrate this in the present, as we know ourselves to be imbued with the Holy Spirit.

The gospel passages we will hear this season on Sunday mornings will be Jesus and John the Baptist talking about what it means to get ready and when to get ready. This coming Sunday Jesus reminds his disciples to be ready at all times, because we do not know when Jesus will come again. Indeed, we know Jesus has come, will come, and comes into our hearts over and over again everyday. Our daily lives are full of the gifts of the coming of Jesus. The season of Advent reminds us to be prepared for Jesus and to pay attention to his coming, in every way in which he shows up.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Giving Thanks


11/16/18 

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Thanksgiving Day BCP 246)

Less than seven days until Thanksgiving!! Its go time! Preheat the oven! Prepare the pie crusts! Bake the cookies! Thanksgiving in contemporary culture seems to be a day simply about the food. And increasingly, it seems like we have to rush through the food to get to the Black Friday sales... starting on Thursday.

It is important to set aside regular times to be thankful. Given all the gifts we are given, by God and our communities, we could really be setting aside a day a week to honor them all! However, setting aside one day to share with your family or friends how truly thankful you are is good for the soul. Perhaps this year, before you dig into the deliciousness, take a moment to each share something you are grateful for, to give thanks.

I know I am thankful for each of you. I am grateful for our caring community, especially for the ways in which you have all worked with me through my broken shoulder. I am thankful for the Shepherd's Green Community Food Pantry and all its volunteers. I am thankful for the many ways in which we connect St. John's and Grace with the wider community of Franklin. I am thankful for the time and effort you each give to make our community a safe and welcoming place. I thank you!

Music


the soundtrack of a lifetime
simple settings in the background
a table here, a chair over there
the carpet pathways carrying

the melody of daily routine
the patterns only we can see
punctuated by the harmonies
of the intersection of our lives with others

10/6/17

Friday, November 9, 2018

Savor

Savor

the bridal veil of spiderwebs

trailed behind in the flow

air artfully streaming

in the curved aerodynamic symmetries

glinting in the sun

9/26/17

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Invitation

Illness is an invitation
Into another way of being
Coming without fanfare
Or even cream colored paper
Yet you stand invited nonetheless

An invitation like so many others
Giving pause for preparations
Bringing worry as to wardrobe
Unprepossessing all the same
A chance to look at life again

All Souls Day


Aka the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.

"O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that in the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen." (Holy Women, Holy Men, p. 665)

In the official calendar of church feasts, November 2nd is the day of remembrance and celebration of all those saints whom me have known and love but aren't known to the wider world. All Saints Day (Nov 1) celebrates the official church Saints, the ones known by everyone, like St. John, St. Patrick, St. Lucy. All Souls Day is for our local communities, for us to remember those who have walked among us who have been faithful followers of Jesus.

Every year we lose church members, friends, family, who have been for us examples of Godly life. We remember them and the ways that they have influenced us to be better disciples. Our remembrance of them also calls us to be role models and faithful teachers and mentors of those around us who are new to the faith or struggling in some way in their lives.

Here at St. John's we remember all those who have touched our hearts and lives who have gone to be with God. The names of Jane Judson, Linda Trikur, and many others will be read in church on Sunday as we take a moment to give thanks for their lives and their contributions to our community.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Diocesan Convention






Today and tomorrow myself, Deacon Dave Betz, Kaycee Reib, Jeanne Reib, and Kelly Bruckart will be heading to Niagara Falls for Diocesan Convention in collaboration with the Diocese of Western New York. This may be a historic moment for the two dioceses as DioWNY will be voting on whether to have our Bishop, Sean Rowe, as their bishop as well for the next five years.

The understanding of the proposal for the two dioceses is collaboration during the next five years in order to build new creative and mission driven ministries to help both dioceses. If you haven’t already, take a moment in the next two days to look at the website Rust Belt Episcopal (https://rustbeltepiscopal.org/) where you can find lot of information about what would change if the vote is yes and why we are looking into this possibility.

Also, please keep us and all who travel to Niagara Falls this weekend in your prayers as we go to do the work of the diocese for the next year. Elections, budgets, and a Drug and Alcohol Committee proposal are all on the table as well.  

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Revelation

a simple inquiry of jest
sarcasm is at best taken seriously
you've found the deepest secrets
unlawfully held

the flash of insight, nigh improbable
is garnered at the end of every foresight
who wrote the conclusion?
wait for the revelation

Living BIG



In today's world, there are plenty of advertisements and commercials which try to tell us how to live our lives. If we don't drink Coca Cola, or use Lysol wipes, or get our cars checked at Auto Zone, then the commercials tell us that we are not living our best lives. Fortunately none of those things are true. Living our best lives has little to do with where we shop or who checks our cars, but with the wellness of our souls and bodies. Naturally, having a healthy and balanced life is not always easy. Jesus calls to us over and over again, through scriptures, other people, events in our lives, and what he calls us to is living a servant and selfless life. Thankfully, there are lots of supports in our community to help us all live the kind of lives Jesus calls us to.

Currently, the Vestry is doing a book study on Brene Brown's book, Rising Strong. In this book one of the topics Brown discusses is what she calls Living BIG. It's a mnemonic for trying to live with healthy Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity. She says, "Living BIG is saying: "Yes, I'm going to be generous in my assumptions and intentions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what's acceptable as what's not acceptable."" Jesus is such a great example of someone who naturally lived BIG. He kept his boundaries and was clear with those who followed him what was acceptable and what was not. He kept his integrity in the face of Roman and Jewish persecution, torture, and death. He was generous with those around him, finding compassion and love in his heart for them.

Living BIG is one way to remind yourself throughout the day to follow Jesus' example and live the life God is calling you to. In our world, it is so important to keep healthy Boundaries, to keep our integrity, and to be generous with ourselves and others. How are you living BIG today?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Healing


"May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength.  May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen." (BCP 460 For Health of Body and Soul)

All of us who have had surgery or serious illness lately can share in the knowledge and wisdom of trying to listen to our bodies. Healing takes a while, much longer than most of us want to admit. In the mornings we wake up with grand ideas about what we would like to do, even if it is simply get out of bed or lay on the other side, but we must face the fact that that is not going to happen. Thankfully, our bodies do have their own wisdom about what is okay and what is not.

Certainly for me, this time of physical brokenness reminds me of how long true healing does take. It takes three months for bones to be knit back together in a healthy body. It can take years for a broken heart to mend. And in both situations, what is healed is not exactly the same as what was before. God walks with us no matter what kind of brokenness we live with, physical, emotional, spiritual. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Social Media Sunday


Say Cheese!

This coming Sunday is Social Media Sunday across the Episcopal Church, and in some other denominations. What is Social Media Sunday? It is a day for churches to highlight their gifts, members, and worship together by posting on social media websites to share the Good News of Christ with the world. Using the hashtag #sms18, churches all across the country will be sharing who they are with pictures, posts, and video.

Here at St. John's and Grace, we have lots of gifts, members, and worship moments to share. We are going to participate in Social Media Sunday in a couple of ways. First, during the announcements time during both services, I will take a selfie of the congregation to post on our social media sites. Second, we are going to remind and encourage you to post on your social media sites about your time at St. John's or Grace and share your experience with others. Third, we are going to have a laptop in the Parish Hall open to our social media websites for you to see where we are online and how you can participate in our community online.

I hope you'll join me in sharing the gifts we have at St. John's and Grace with the larger community around us!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Busyness

This always happens to me when I go on vacation. I get relaxed and restful and then I look back at what I normally do all in one day and I am amazed. How can I manage so much in one day!? Why do I fill up my life with so much busyness? Unfortunately, it is not an atypical way of living these days. Our American society puts such an emphasis on busyness and filling our time with activities, we sometimes forget why we do what we do. However, the why of what we do is very important.

As I am on vacation, I always at some point reflect on my normal life. Why is my routine the way it is? Do I want to do all the things I have on my schedule? What can I let go of? How do I want to allow myself to rest in my normal life? As most of us have started back into the fall rush of activities and work, take a moment to reflect on your schedule, on your busyness. Why do you do each thing? Is there a purpose? Are there things on your schedule which are simply busyness? How could you let some of them go? God calls us into rest and calmness as well as activity. God gave us the best role model of taking time off ever, God's self! Right there in the beginning of all time and space, God rested. Even Jesus rested. We hear of him falling asleep in boats, and going home for dinner, and taking time away to pray. When are you resting today?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Stewardship


"The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord." – Psalm 24:1

We have many many possessions. We think we possess them. However, everything in the world belongs to God, and we are only stewards of them. We come into this world as we leave this world, with nothing except ourselves. We cannot change our eternal lives by storing up possessions. In reality, the more we have, the more we are possessed by our possessions.

As we come into the season of our Stewardship campaign, it is good to reflect on how much God has given us and how much of what we have is a gift. In the Jewish tradition, the understanding of what we give back to God is very clearly spelled out. We are to give God, through the Temple, the first tenth of all our harvest, our income, and our gifts. Yet, when Jesus comes and teaches the people, he doesn't specify how much or what percentage we are to give. He teaches that we should share out of a thankful heart. For those of us who are stable in many ways, this can be an easy thing to do. However, for some of us the struggle is real in figuring out how to give in thanksgiving, while still making sure all the bills are covered. Thankfully, we are a community and there are many ways of giving and sharing.

I hope you will take the time to think and pray about your giving this year. Being a good steward requires intentionality as well as action. What do you have to be thankful for and how can you share that gratitude with others?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Rescue


disjointed manifestations
of love, of broken hearts
survivor's guilt in trade

I speak of which I know
to give, one must receive
I was rescued first, indeed...

there is no mistaking the need
the chain wrapped around our heads
linking me to you and you and you...

9/10/17

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ephphatha. Be opened.


Ephphatha. Be opened.

Ephphatha is a funny word to our ears.
In Aramaic it means to be opened.
Aramaic was the language Jesus spoke most of the time.
It is characteristic of the gospel of Mark that we hear the words Jesus used,
instead of being translated into Greek and then English.
There is an understanding in Mark that the words of Jesus are powerful.
Words do have power, that is true,
though not in the same way as some people in the ancient world understood them.
They weren't magical.
However, it is interesting that Mark was concerned about representing the words Jesus used.

Ephphatha. Be opened.

The woman in the story from the gospel passage was certainly ready to be open.
I imagine that by this point in her life, she was at the end of her rope
with trying to help her daughter.
I'm sure over the years, she had tried everyone.
The physicians, the local healing woman, the priests,
and nothing had worked to this point.
She was probably open to any idea that would help her daughter.
Even going to some itinerant healing rabbi of the Jewish people.
She was open and determined to help her daughter out from under the oppression of an unclean spirit.
So when he, Jesus, degrades her by metaphorically calling her a dog,
she still doesn't let that stand in her way.
She responds in a way that even opens HIS eyes.
There was certainly a natural order to whom got fed first,
adults and children, then animals.
But even still, there is something available for the animals.
And her openness, her faith in her daughter's ability to be well,
her faith in the idea that this man, this itinerant Jewish rabbi,
could save her daughter
allows for a miracle to happen.
She is open. He is opened.
Her daughter is opened to a new life in the world without the demon.

Ephphatha. Be opened.

The deaf man had been closed off to the sounds of the world
ever since he was born.
Hence, he had an impediment in his speech,
he tried to make the same sounds, the same shapes he could see other people's mouths making,
but he couldn't hear them properly,
so he couldn't say things properly.
He was closed off to the conversations going on all around him,
all the time, cut out from the world of sound.
Yet, he has some friends, some family,
someone cared enough about him to think of him when they heard about Jesus,
about this healing rabbi who was traveling in their area,
and they bring the deaf man to Jesus.
They must have cared a great deal about this deaf man,
because whoever it was that brought him,
begged Jesus to heal him.
Jesus didn't heal everyone who was brought to him.
He healed many.
But there was no shortage of broken and hurting people in the ancient Judean world
and he only had so much time.
But their faith in him, their faith in this deaf man's openness to hearing,
convinced Jesus to take him aside and open up his ears,
to open up his tongue,
so that he could communicate with the world and be open to the sounds around him.

Ephphatha. Be opened.

When I was working as a seminarian in a church in Chattanooga Tennessee,
The diocese was going through the conversations around same gender marriages.
The church I was working at had many vocal people on all sides of the conversation.
The matriarch of the parish, one of the oldest female members of the church,
was violently opposed to the idea.
Mostly because of some traumatic experiences she and her family had had in the past.
Another member, one of the Vestry, was a partnered lesbian woman,
who wanted to have a family and raise her children at that church.
Needless to say, there was a lot of high emotion around the issue.
So the rector held an open parish conversation evening and a good portion of the congregation showed up.
It was a long evening
spent listening to many different opinions and stories and feelings,
unfortunately including some yelling and some tears,
but throughout the whole evening, we sat and we listened.
We tried to be open with each other.
We hear each other stories.
And some healing happened.
I won't say that everyone was happy after that evening.
Certainly some people were not.
But I can say that the life of the congregation was strengthened.
Was opened.
People were more open with each other after that day,
they had shared their stories and shared their lives with each other.
They were more open to the experiences of the other.
One sign of that, a few months later, when the partnered lesbian Vestry member announced that she was pregnant,
the matriarch of the parish, threw a baby shower for the Vestry member.
We were all opened to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
We were open to the faith that we can still be one Church,
even if we don't always agree.

Ephphatha. Be opened.

Jesus calls to us.
Here and now.
Ephphatha. Be opened.
In whatever struggles we are experiencing,
long term ones like the deaf man or the woman with the demon possessed daughter,
short term struggles, like an illness or a bad situation, or community conflict,
be open to God.
Sometimes being open to God, being healed by God, doesn't mean our troubles go away.
Sometimes being open means instead
being open to the opportunities and lessons
present in the situations in which we find ourselves.
We all have moments in our lives when we act deaf or blind,
we all have moments in our lives when we don't seem like ourselves,
instead being possessed by anger or fear or ignorance.
Jesus is waiting for us to ask, to admit we need help,
and then with compassion, he will open us up.
Ephphatha, be opened.
And we will see, we will hear, we will find our hearts moved.

It is a funny ancient Aramaic word, Ephphatha.
Try to say it with me: Ephphatha. Ephphatha.
It has a lot of "h" in it. A lot of breath.
Ephphatha.
Breath is the opening of the Holy Spirit.
Be opened to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Take this word with you this week, Ephphatha.
Where does Jesus need to speak this word in your life?
Be opened my friends.
As we start our new program year,
as we go back to work or back to activities of the fall,
take Ephphatha with you.
What needs to be opened to God?

Ephphatha. Be opened.
Amen.



Thursday, September 6, 2018

Rally Day 2018 God's Work. Our Hands.


This coming Sunday is Rally Day! The Sunday in which we kick off our program year at St. John's and Grace. This year we start the program off with a Community Service Project; we will be making Care Packages for the Homeless. The list of items we need is below. We start off the year remembering Jesus' service to those in his community and his care for all those around him. We follow in his footsteps and we offer our gifts and services to those in need in our community. In doing this community service project, we also allow the members of Grace Lutheran to participate in the national Lutheran "God's work. Our hands." day this Sunday. In Jesus God promises to be with us always and to help us in times of need. However, sometimes we have to be the hands which do God's work. St. Teresa of Avila wrote,

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

We celebrate today by sharing the gifts we have through God by doing God's work in this world in caring for others.

Paradox


the terrifying passionate tension
of loving and hating in the same moment

the mind boggling twist
of light, both wave and particle

intercepted as both sound and sight
the shaking aftermath of rage

I give my body to the night
the darkness which is not judgment
but rather thought

9/7/17

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Proper 17B


Human relationships are complicated.
We can leave that statement as fact just the way it is.
Most human relationships fall into one of three categories,
though even these broad categories don't always catch everyone in our lives.
We have acquaintances,
we have friends,
and we have "family".

Acquaintances are those people we know through social events, 
through work, through groups
and we only talk to them in those contexts.
We don't usually go out of our way for acquaintances the way we would for friends or family,
but we could chit chat with them in some capacity.
Our relationships with them are characterized by the social laws and rules of the context in which we know them.

Friends are those people we spend time together with on a mutual basis.
We like them, we know something more about them.
We might share funny emails with them or call them occasionally,
We would know if they became ill or lost their dog.
Our relationships with friends are characterized by trust and mutual respect.

"Family" is not necessarily just those we are blood related to.
Family are those people we couldn't live without.
The people we talk to every day because we want to talk to them everyday.
The people who we love deeply and are bonded to,
the people we would do anything for.
Our relationships with family are characterized by faith in them and by understanding.

Of course, some of our blood family might only be acquaintances or friends,
some of our friends are more like family,
yet typically most of the people in our lives can be categorized in one of these genres.

One of the biggest questions Jesus poses to the people listening to him
is where is God in your life in these categories?
Is God an acquaintance? Is God a friend?
Is God part of your family?
What kind of relationship do you have with God?

This is the argument we see Jesus and the Pharisees get into today in the Gospel of Mark.
The Pharisees and Jesus have very different understandings of what our relationships with God should look like.

For the Pharisees, relationship with God was determined by the rules in the Torah.
Orthodox Jewish practice has always been very strict about rules around the body.
These bodies of ours are not clean, not polite, not pure
and so there are rules to keep us as close as we can be, despite our weaknesses.
The Pharisees were one of the major groups of devout Jewish men in the first century
and they were the rule followers.
They stuck to every rule they could find in the Bible and the tradition
in order to stay as pure as they could be.
They were letter of the law men.
Cross every t, dot every i.
This is why they get upset with Jesus' disciples when they see what they are doing.
They are eating without washing their hands!
Their hands are dirty!
The disciples are breaking the rules, they are eating with their hands dirty.
(Miss Manners would also not approve.)
Hands must be washed before eating.
Naturally there are some very good reasons for this rule.
Washing your hands before you eat
helps keep dirt, germs, and other toxins outside of the body,
so that they don't contaminate us.
Yet, when Jesus is confronted with their lack of discipline,
he takes the situation to a higher level.
All the Pharisees are complaining about is that their hands are dirty.
Yet, the real gist of the matter has nothing to do with dirty hands.
While the Pharisees are worried about the disciples not following the rules,
Jesus doesn't really care that much about following human rules.
Jesus is more interested in their relationship with God.

I don't know if you've noticed this before,
but Jesus is all about relationships.
I mean, we are talking about the man who prays to God
and effectively addresses God as the Aramaic version of Daddy.
He habitually talks about God as his Father
in a very personal way.
He shows a deeply personal relationship with God.
And he wants his disciples to have that kind of relationship as well.
When he teaches them to pray, 
he starts with "Our Father,"
he wants them to have deeply personal relationships with God as well.
Its always about relationships with Jesus.

In their adherence and strictness for the rules,
the Pharisees betray only an acquaintance relationship with God.
they are stuck on the rules and regulations of the context of the Temple,
showing no great relationship with God in their hearts.
It is, of course, a generalization to say that this is the way all of the Pharisees were,
however, as a group, this is the way they are portrayed. 
This is what Jesus laments in his quote from Isaiah (29:13 LXX).
The Pharisees put the rules created by humans
ahead of having a relationship with God.
They go about their lives, fulfilling the rules, but not knowing God in their hearts.

This passage begs a question of us then,
where are we in our relationship with God?
Is God an acquaintance?
Is God a friend?
Is God in your family? Is God in your heart?

No matter where we find ourselves, 
thankfully we are in relationship with God in some way.
Always open to us are the steps forward,
the relationship building practices and invitation for more.
If rules are useful, healthy, and good for your relationship with God,
then they are there to help you.
If the rules get in your way of your relationship with God,
then they don't matter as much.
What Jesus wants for us is to follow the two greatest commandments,
to love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength,
and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Which are no small feat on their own. 
Loving God can take a long time to learn to do.
Not that anyone would admit to not loving God in a church,
but in the real way of love, not all of us are there in our relationships with God.
Many of us have been hurt, many of us are scared, many of us are uncertain.
It is enough work to try to love God and love our neighbors,
with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, 
which are only two of the six hundred and thirteen laws in the Hebrew Bible. 

Have no worries,
God is waiting for you.
Waiting to take your relationship to the next step,
wanting for you to know Him more fully.
How can you step closer in relationship with God today?

Amen.






Thursday, August 30, 2018

Listen

"Mom!
How do I know
when the chicken is done?"

"When it sounds done."

9/5/17

Prayer Walking


Some days the things I most need to pray about, I am way too anxious about to sit still and pray about. Thankfully, I don't always have to sit still in order to pray. One of the great traditions of the Christian faith is prayer walking. Prayer walking is a large genre of different kinds of prayer done while moving. One form of prayer walking is pilgrimage, another walking a labyrinth. While those are two very specific types of walking prayers, there are also examples of less structured prayer walking which can be helpful on a daily basis.

One way of prayer walking is by walking around a location which is the site of concern. If you're anxious about a work problem, then you can walk around your office space or work conference room praying about the situation. If you are having problems at home with a family member, walk around their room or the room in which you tend to fight and pray about the relationship. Many times communities do this in an organized way. When social issues crop up around schools or local governmental groups or so forth, prayer walks are created to walk into those spaces and pray for them. This brings prayer to the space and public recognition to the situation.

Movement tends to focus our thoughts in different ways than sitting still does. Sometimes the location allows us to see new things or situations from different perspectives which allow us to pray for them in new and different ways. What areas of your life need prayer? Walk in prayer, or invite someone to walk with you, with Christ, knowing that God is with you wherever you are.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Belt of Truth and the Pants of Patience

This past Sunday, the Epistle reading in the Revised Common Lectionary was from the book of Ephesians, Ephesians 6:10-20. Since this passage is paired with the Bread of Life discourse from the gospel of John, the number of times one preaches on it is few and far between. This passage is rather well known for a passage from Ephesians, because it talks about putting on the armor of God. The author of the passage outlines some items of clothing which followers of Jesus should put on in order to fight against the spiritual forces of evil in this world.

Belt of Truth
Breastplate of Righteousness
Shoes of Peace
Shield of Faith
Helmet of Salvation
Sword of the Spirit

It sounds lovely. But there are a few things I noticed about this passage this past week. While there are some very good reasons for the pieces of clothing mentioned, I realized that if I drew a diagram of the armor of God, it leaves some portions of my body rather uncovered. It also leaves out a few aspects of the faith I would really love to have with me when dealing with the world, especially any forces of evil.

So in an exercise of imagination, I thought I would fill out the outfit to fill in some of the gaps and bring in some other aspects of the faith that might be helpful in dealing with the world.

Underwear of Kindness
Pants of Patience
Socks of Joy
Shirt of Self Control
Cape of Love

Now, we are properly covered and protected!
And looking extremely awesome.
(Did I mention the cape?)

Naturally, taking peace with you every where you go or being wrapped in truth are strong Christian practices. However, even closer than our belts, we need to be kind, both to ourselves and to those around us. I imagine the Pants of Patience being the comfortable pants you have which also make you feel good (a rare find indeed), which remind us to remain patient in every situation, relying on God's time and not trying to force our own. With the Shoes of Peace, I think we need to wear Socks of Joy, that way we can sustain and share God's Peace. The Shirt of Self Control goes under the Breastplate of Righteousness, keeping us in line so that we can shine with righteousness. And of course, the most epic piece of any well armored soldier, the continually in the way, yet awesome looking Cape. God's love is like that, confusing our normal everyday notions of who is in and who is out, flying around us without control, and yet the most amazing gift we will ever receive.

Fully clothed in God's gifts of grace, we can face any situation throughout our days. From spilled coffee, to sick children, to angry bosses, God goes with us.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Love - a sonnet

in error of my enamored plight
I wrapped my arms around a tree
waited until love came into sight
and paid the Devil's cursed fee
with jolly glee he brought a rose
which smelled of sweetest delight
yet still I looked for other beaus
hankering for an ungodly fight
Satan's lowly curse had me consumed
the blackest poison I had subsumed
yet still true Love came as a knight
and turned my darkness into Light

8/22/17

Breath Prayer

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

How can we possibly follow Paul's suggestion to pray without ceasing? Typically there are only two things we human beings do without ceasing, our hearts keep pumping blood and our lungs keep breathing air. Early in Christian history followers of Jesus put together this injunction to pray without ceasing with the unceasing nature of breathing and started the tradition of Breath Prayer. Very similar to some eastern breathing prayers and exercises, Breath Prayer focuses on your own breathing.

To practice Breath Prayer, choose a quiet spot to sit or kneel comfortably and a phrase to repeat. Many people use the Jesus Prayer while practicing Breath Prayer, although there are many other good phrases or prayers that could be used. A good prayer for Breath Prayer is made up of two parts, one to be said while breathing in, and the second to be said while breathing out. In this way, breathing in and breathing out, you repeat the prayer phrase over and over again, letting go of other thoughts and allowing your body and heart to pray.

Breath Prayer is a wonderful practice to bring you back into mindfulness of the present moment and the presence of God in your life. While it is nice to practice it in a quiet space, Breath Prayer is a portable practice, available while you're stuck in traffic, while you're in waiting rooms, or even while waiting in line at the grocery store. Taking a moment to focus on this unceasing habit of your body, breathing, reminds us of the unceasing love of God for us. Just as your lungs keep working throughout the day, Breath Prayer can work with you and through you throughout the day, keeping your heart close to Jesus.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Balance

the blue sky poised
to take possession of the sea
God separated the great waters

the lofty mountains poised
towering over the rustic valleys
God separated the distant lands

the hunting soaring eagle poised
high above the community of rabbits
God separated and named equally

8/8/17
(This pairs nicely with my reflection for church this week, here.)

Care of the Earth

"The sea is his for he made it, and his hands have molded the dry land." Psalm 95:5

All the way at the beginning of the Bible, at the very start of Genesis, God lays out how human beings are supposed to be in relationship with the earth. God asks the first human beings to care for creation and to be good stewards of it. We are not simply in charge of everything around us, able to do as we please in our environment. We are to care for it and treat it well, in order that it may flourish and might be passed along to the next generations.

In today's society, taking care of the Earth is seen as only something certain kinds of people do. However, taking care of our environments is not simply an environmental issue, but also a justice issue. Many times when the environment is not taken care of, it is in areas that greatly affect and damage the poor and needy, those who are already struggling.

Currently St. John's and Grace have two opportunities for you to help in caring for creation. We have adopted a stretch of 417 which we clean up a couple times a year. We pick up all the litter along the side of the road, to help protect the land, grass, trees, and water along 417. We also have recycling bins throughout the Parish Hall for recycling plastic and cardboard which helps keep those items out of landfills. There are many other ways we at St. John's can help care for creation, on our own and as a community. We can teach our children and grandchildren to garden, how to conserve energy, how to choose products which are not full of harmful chemicals, and how to recycle and share our personal goods. Jesus calls each of us to care for the world around us, including the dirt, rocks, trees, and rivers.

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?