Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas Hymns and Praise

"Dear People of God: In this Christmas Season, let it be our duty and delight to hear once more the message of the Angels, to go to Bethlehem and see the Son of God lying in a manger. Let us hear and heed in Holy Scripture the story of God's loving purpose from the time of our rebellion against him until the glorious redemption brought to us by his holy Child Jesus, and let us make this place glad with our carols of praise."
(A Bidding Prayer, BOS 39)

During these twelve days of Christmas, we cannot too often hear the story of Jesus' birth and entrance into this world. God loves us so much that he gave his son to be with us, and that is good news we need to hear over and over again. This coming Sunday, we will hear the story in nine lessons and sing joyously in praise of what God has done for us. In contrast to that beloved Christmas carol, the Twelve Days of Christmas, where the true love gives bounteous material gifts each day of the season of Christmas, our True Love, God, gives us abundant Love each and every day. Not just in these twelve days of the Christmas season, but every day of our lives. Such Good News deserves a festival of singing and praise.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Victory

it hardly seems like victory
the giving up of love
yet constant stories, epics, tales
repeat the lesson again

in order to love, you have to set free

you can't love a child by smothering
you can't love a cause by keeping it
you can't love a passion by controlling it
you have to let it be

victory is in the gift

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Fourth Sunday of Advent, BCP 212)

The Collect for this coming Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, has a very optimistic view of our spiritual lives. It assumes that God visits each and every one of us each and every day and that the openness we have inside of us for God can be compared to a mansion. Granted, it is the Church's and mine own personal belief that God does visit each and every one of us each and every day. Unfortunately though, I'm not sure all of us have mansions waiting inside of us for God.

Mansions are huge. Monstrous affairs with high ceilings, lots of extra space, lots of windows and light and freedom of movement. Most of us don't live in mansions, let alone have mansions inside of us. Sadly, many of us don't have that much space inside of us at all for God. We are crammed so tight with worries, regrets, sorrows, and concerns, we have a hard time bringing any light in or moving freely in our own lives.

Thankfully this season of Advent gives us time to prepare and clean out our lives, our hearts, our minds, and our souls, so we can have a mansion waiting for God. God comes to visit us each and every day, not just on Christmas. Let us prepare a place for Him in our lives. 

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?