A comprehended god is no god.

A comprehended god is no god.

A wise saying by saintly John Chrysostom

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Magnificat (A comtemporary translation by John Shea)

All that I am
sings of the God
who brings his life
to birth in me.
My spirit soars
on the wings of my Lord.
He has smiled on me
and the blaze of his smile
no woman or man
shall ever forget.

My God is a gentle strength
who has caught me up
and carried me to greatness.
His love
space cannot hold
nor time age
and all quicken to his touch.

My God is a torrent of justice.
He takes the straight paths
in the minds of the proud
and twists them to labyrinth.
The boot of the oppressor
he pushes aside
and raises the lowly,
whom he loves,
from the ground.
With his own hands
he sets a table for the hungry
but the unfeeling rich
suffer the cold eye
of his judgment.

Our mothers and our fathers
he has held in his arms
and the future grows
like this child within me
for the God of whom I sing
bears us his son.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Here is a beautiful Christmas hymn from Norway.

Please follow the link and be sure to read the words at the bottom of the screen. The soprano's voice and text make this an almost mystical experience. Youtube: Sissel - Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker (My Heart Always Wanders) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27JqZ8eEZlw

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Close to worship

Whenever beauty overwhelms us, whenever wonder silences our chattering hopes and worries, we are close to worship.  - Richard Cabot

The above quote was sent out as part of a project of The Church of the Savior  -inward/outward. Check out their website http://www.inwardoutward.org/ and, if you want, sign up to receive inspirational quotes and essays sent to your inbox.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent

When I was young I dreamed of traveling. I dreamed that someday I would move to New York, D. C., or California. A few years ago I boarded a plane to California for a visit. It was 22 degrees when I left. When I sat down for lunch the next day the temperature had climbed to 90 degrees. It was only a matter of time before I packed my bags and made the move.

There were a few things to get used to though… they go under the heading “you know you’re in California when.” You know you’re in California when you think $4.00 for gasoline isn’t so bad, when 65 degrees is freezing and 80 degrees is getting a little warm, and when the fastest part of your commute is going down your own driveway. I’ve also learned that there are basically two seasons in California – summer and construction.

So we are now in the great season of Construction. Traffic slows. There are pot holes to fill in, cracks to repair, some bridges need attention, and roads need to be widened to accommodate traffic.

I think the season of Advent and Construction have something in common. Advent is also a good time think about road conditions, to slow down, and build up the infrastructure. Today’s lessons ask us to 1) prepare  for God, 2) repair for God, and 3) declare for God.

In the reading from Isaiah we are given the imagery of a great building project, a heavenly highway. If I can paraphrase a little, we can hear Isaiah call to us here in San Rafael, to us here at St. Paul’s, “prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the California deserts and coastlands a highway for our God.”

But what on earth does it mean to lift up valleys and make mountains low. Just what does Isaiah mean by leveling the ground and making the rough places plain? Are we to remove the mountain tops and use the rubble to fill in the valleys and level the roads? The mountain ranges off the 5 and 580 are majestic and awe inspiring. Certainly God doesn’t want to demolish them? And then it hit me… Perhaps Isaiah isn’t speaking about real mountains and valleys.

I believe he’s speaking instead about the heart. Perhaps the human heart, in a sense, is our highway to God. Where the heart is high and lifted up it needs to be made low. When we walk in true humility with God, God lifts us up. Doesn’t it say in Micah that what God really wants from us is to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly before him?

Humility is seeing us as God sees us. We are like roughhewn stones. God wants to build with us but some of our edges need to be smoothed and polished. Our heart needs “preparation.”

Now the reading from Mark echoes that of Isaiah but adds the character of John the Baptist. The Baptizer is sent to us now, in Advent, ahead of Christ’s coming among us, to help us prepare the “way” - ὁδός,n \{hod-os'} in Greek. It means “a well travelled way, a road” and metaphorically our course of conduct – our manner of thinking. We are called to examine our conduct and our thinking in light of God’s return.

I’ll be honest. I think it is important to keep a good Advent as preparation for a holy Christmas, not just by stringing garland and hanging lights, but by looking at our thoughts and actions… to admit where I have missed the mark, and, with God’s help and grace, to change direction… to smooth my rough places out a bit.

Advent gives me a chance to do that – to clean up the house so Christ isn’t turned away because I’ve become too busy or I’m moving too fast to notice the knock at the door. Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Christ in prayer. Prayer helps us develop longing for our beloved. In prayer we establish our center of gravity – Jesus. All things, according to Dante in Paradisio, seek their true place. Man’s place is God and to rise to Him is therefore natural to man. We rise to God at the same time that God comes down to us. God comes to us if we draw close to God.

Advent is also a time of repair. The second letter of Peter talks to us about the coming of the Lord and what sort of persons we ought to be - leading lives of holiness and godliness. Peter reminds us that “we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.”

Righteousness comes from relationship with God. It has something to do with “right actions”. In Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, there is an understanding that the light of God can be found in the brokenness of the world. God’s people are called to help to “tikkun” - to repair the brokenness and reveal the light and love of God. When we perform mitz-vah (acts of charity) we help repair God’s creation. With each repair, a little spark is released, and creation glows.

In the past few months I’ve tried to catch a glimpse of some of the work done by the parishioners of St. Pauls. I’ve seen sparks of light and hope ignited on Sunday mornings through hospitality of ushers and parishioners, by handing out groceries to those in need at the Ritter Center, by the many discipleship groups that meet to learn how to follow Christ more closely and hold each other up in prayer, by the hard work of the St. Anne’s Guild – they’re a major part of the infrastructure – raising over $4000.00 for the work and mission of St. Pauls, and by joining with seniors at the Fifth Avenue Healthcare Center and helping to lead an ecumenical service. Simply turning pagers, singing the old well-loved hymns, exchanging the peace and a healing touch during the service brings a little bit of “tikkun”, of repair, and kindles the warmth of God’s love where there is often loneliness and despair.

Advent is a good time to ask if God may be calling you to participate in this work of repair.

Peter’s letter goes on to say, “Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish.” Repair involves peace and wholeness, or as our elder brothers and sisters in the faith call it, “Shalom.” God’s peace is one of completeness, of health and contentment. It is found in right relationship with God and God’s creation.

Finally, we are called to declare to others that God is near. Returning to Isaiah, we are given words of comfort. “Comfort my people”, says God. Cry out, in the midst of these troubling times the good news that God is near us. We are envoys of Christ’s kingdom. "See, I am sending my messenger who will prepare your way.”

Mark uses an interesting word in Greek - ἄγγελος,n \{ang'-el-os} “angel”. We are called to be God’s angels on earth. Our message is God’s love.

So this Advent prepare yourselves for God is nearer than we first thought. Help God repair God’s good creation and be God’s healing and health giving hands. And finally, declare to God and everyone you come in contact with the great things God is doing in your life. Amen.

- This sermon was preached on 4 December 2011 at St. Paul's in San Rafael

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sermon for Sunday, November 13, 2011, given at All Saints Chapel

It’s hard to get through a day without hearing something about Occupy Wall Street and its many incarnations. With all the attention, the media coverage, and political pundits pontificating, an important fact can easily be crowded out… in addition to poor economic growth, we now know that a record 46.2 million Americans currently live in poverty.

Let me preface the conversation by saying that it doesn’t matter if we identify as conservative, liberal, moderate, or fed up. As a bumper sticker explains – “God is not a Republican and neither is he a Democrat.” You see, God doesn’t belong to anyone. Everyone belongs to God. Everyone.

What can today’s lessons teach us about poverty and need? The word “poor” appears over two hundred times in the bible. The bible often gives voice to the problems of the poor.

Listen to the Psalm’s heartrending lament:

Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

Who is making this lament? Chances are that many of us have given up a lot to be here in grad school, in order to get a seminary education, and become leaders in the church. Some of us may have even taken a vow of poverty showing solidarity with the least of God’s children.

Some of us have given up well-paying jobs and feel some financial need. That said, most of us are not truly poor. Most of us are living comfortable lives with decent food and shelter. So when we hear this lament, this cry for help, is it for us or someone else?

Who today is experiencing the scorn of those who are at ease, the contempt of the proud , crying out for mercy? It could be the record 46.2 million Americans currently living in poverty. It could be any one of the 1.4 billion or more in developing countries living in extreme poverty. It could be the man in church on All Soul’s day by himself in the pew, trying to hold his head up, weary and looking for warmth and solace.

Today I want to re-focus our attention on the needs of those among us, within our borders and without, living in need of hope. I want, with God’s help, to strengthen the hands of the faithful, arouse the conscience of the careless, and restore the penitent to right relationship.

You who faithfully serve the common good, your works are evidence of your love. You have been faithful in seeking justice, making strangers friends, setting up homeless feeding programs, serving at food banks, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting nursing homes and institutions. You have responded to these cries for mercy. You know that the Lord requires justice, kindness, and humility. You don’t boast, and probably believe you are not doing enough. You do realize it is both privilege and obligation to love.

When we serve, we see ourselves and Christ reflected in a mirror, ministering to others ministers to our own need for connection and meaning. Our own problems often diminish and our outlook on life brightens. May God continue to strengthen us.

Perhaps some of us have worked hard in the past. Years ago I was part of a team that helped start a homeless breakfast program, but after a while I got involved in other things. I was tired. I got distracted. I confess I sometimes need a wakeup call from God.

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, God pricked Paul’s heart to sound an alarm. The Thessalonians had done great things, but after a while they found themselves sidetracked, perhaps they were tired, distracted from God’s work for them. So Paul tries to arouse them:

… let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

Paul invites us to get off the sidelines and get back into the game… to fight the good fight. That’s what the armor is for… the work of God. We can all do something. The law of love compels us forward.

In another place, Paul explains that putting on the armor of God involves living honorably, not focused solely on our own good, not spending time quarreling over politics or pointing fingers, but to do something to make someone’s life better. Paul asks us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. In faith, to reach out as Christ reached out… to use our hands to restore hope to the poor… letting love arouse us when we are careless, and restore us to right relationship… reminding us of the good we have done and the good we have left undone.

Paul reminds us that when we wear the breastplate of faith and love, we will need the helmet the hope. We all need hope. It saves us from despair, from thinking our contribution doesn’t matter. Robert Kennedy once said that “Each time we stand up for an ideal, or act to improve the lot of others, or strike out against injustice, we send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Hope allows us to be generous when we ourselves live in fear of foreclosure on our own dreams. It’s said that generosity is a sure sign of the kingdom of God. God is present in generosity. God is present in hope. God is present in our love. Amen.

Monday, September 5, 2011

My heart's destination

Last night I dreamed a series of dreams that involved a swirl of activity and effort. I'm actually tired from all the running around. This might have something to do with the swirl of activity that took place last week helping to get the sacristy back in order for the upcoming term and in helping with the orientation of the entering class. The semester officially begins on Tuesday, September 6th.

I'm excited for the upcoming school year and enjoyed seeing all my old friends from CDSP and the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) over the past week. The entering class is full of excitement and idealism. They are smart and eager to begin.

I mourn the fact that the friends I made in the former graduating class have moved on and their voices will not fill the chapel, refectory and halls of CDSP. I hope to stay connected to as many of them as possible. I was able to show my support to my good friend, the Rev. Irene Tanabe, and go to her ordination at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle. She may be a new priest, but she is already making a difference in her community. Brava Irene! God knew what she was doing when you exprerienced your call.

Spending some time with Irene in her home and amongst her family and friends showed me the extent to her hospitable nature and welcoming spirit. Irene invited me to sing at the service and, though I expected to sing just one song, I sang If with all your heart you truly seek me, from Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio, Elijah, and Panis angelicus, written by Saint Thomas Aquinas with music  by Cesar Frank. The words were written for the Feast of Corpus Cristi and are the penultimate strophe of the hymn Sacris solemniis.

Here is the English translation -

The angelic bread
becomes the bread of men;
the heavenly bread
ends all prefigurations:
What wonder!
The Lord is eaten
by a poor
and humble servent.

What is sometimes overlooked is the very last part of this beautiful hymn. Read on...

Triune God,
We beg of you:
visit us,
just as we worship you.
By your ways,
lead us where we are heading,
to the light
in which you dwell.

This captures where I am today: I'm in motion. I'm excited to begin classes and Field Education with Fr. Christopher Martin and the good people of St. Paul's in San Rafael. I'm excited to make new friends. I will miss my partner and those whose journeys have taken them to new places of pilgrimage. Yet, I pray that in worshipping the living God, the relational God of Creation, Sanctification, and Redemption, my path will continue to be illuminated. My heart's destination is "to the light in which you dwell" - the radiant heart of God. I pray we find ourselves there together.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sermon for 17 July 2010 given at St. Thomas the Apostle – Hollywood

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our strength and our redeemer. +

I want to thank you, Father Davies, the Vestry, my Discernment Panel, all of you, for your help this past year. Your daily prayers and your financial support have helped me make it through my first year of seminary.

I’m afraid I brag a little about St. Thomas – our liturgy, Father Davies’ sermons, our music, and the warmth and love found in this place. I can echo Jacob in our first reading, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven.”

Recently, an artist friend of mine told me that he had once considered becoming a Roman Catholic priest. He was encouraged by his priest, went through all sorts of interviews, attended various trainings, and at some point, he was told that he would have to undergo some psychological tests.

My friend’s mentor let him know that, among other things; he would be given a blank piece of paper and instructed to draw a house. “Whatever you do,” said the mentor, “don’t draw the house with a closed door.” “Why not?” asked my friend. Apparently this test was once used to root out those “unfit” for ministry. To them a closed door might signify secrecy, fear of rejection, and that my friend might be hiding something... that he was gay.

On the way to the Psychologist’s office my friend decided what he would do on the test. He was given a pencil and clean white sheet of paper. He carefully drew a beautiful country home with details inspired by medieval churches and cathedrals: Oriel & leaded glass windows, grouped chimneys, pinnacles, battlements and shaped parapets. When it came to drawing the door – he created massive double doors… one door open and one door closed!

The door is an important element of any building - a symbol of passage. Doors can represent places of metamorphosis. We wait behind some doors in the dark, not knowing what to expect, until the timing is ripe, until we are made ready.…

Today’s Psalm makes it clear that even when we are completely in the dark, God is there with us, to lead us, to hold us:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 0 even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

The Psalmist is aware that metamorphosis can be scary. Often, when it is darkest, God is at work preparing us for the next stage.

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

The Rt. Rev. Richard T. Loring, late Bishop of Springfield, in an Easter sermon, suggested that we live three lives, yet one life. Our first life is in the envelope placed in our mother’s womb. We are warm and comfortable and fed. We know nothing of the life to come. Had we the ability to think, we could not even imagine the use of another life.

Bishop Loring asserts this first life exists as a preparation for the next. We grow eyes, ears, a tiny mouth, hands and feet, lungs to breathe with, all of which are useless while we live in the envelope in the womb. God creates the wonderful miracle of our body because we will soon need it.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

Without our permission or desire we are suddenly compelled to leave the warm body of our mother in a way that is hard and painful, and that may seem like death. The envelope that was home, nourishment and protection, is discarded.

Now what is the purpose of this second life? Similar to the first, we are meant to develop the instruments that will be needed in the next. In this second life our soul unfolds. Echoes of our creator ring in our senses. What happens if we listen? Mary Oliver, in her poem, The Summer Day, suggests that the act of paying attention is the essence of prayer:

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean –

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

In Baptism we are sent into the world in witness to God’s love and encouraged to grow into the fullness of God’s peace and glory. It would appear that many of us are still like children stumbling toward God. Our attention span is short.

To grow spiritually is to pay attention to the Spirit - for all who are led by the Spirit are children of God.

We, all of Abraham’s children, look for the glory yet to be revealed. All of creation groans in labor, you and me included, inwardly groan as we wait for our adoption.

Rabbi Rosove, at Temple Israel, speaks of Tikkun. Tikkun is the Hebrew word for repair, restoration. This is our great hope. God will come and restore… Shalom to the earth and to us... wholeness and complete peace… this is our inheritance as children of God. Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of heaven as present and yet to come.

Matthew writes of the kingdom of heaven in terms of someone sowing good seed in his field. I don’t believe this story is about a few people who call themselves righteous going to heaven and others called evil burning in hell.

This is not in the heart of God and the world is not so black and white. We are not so black and white. We’re complex creatures. Everything God created is good and created with purpose.

I invite you to think of your heart as the field in which soul unfolds… where wheat and tares grow. The wheat and tares are two sides of a coin. The wheat is our conscious self, the tares are our shadowy interior. God doesn’t root out the tares because they are part of us. Instead, we are meant to bring our shadows into the light. Others can help us as mirrors. Mirrors raised in relationship allow us to pay attention to our shadows, examine them, and struggle with them so we can grow whole. Restoring our soul brings relief and releases creative energy.

We co-create the kingdom of heaven with the Holy Spirit… not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves in service. These past few years I’ve been blessed to be a Lay Eucharistic Visitor. I trust that God is with me as I walk through doors and share burdens.

I recall visiting someone in a nursing home; I’ll call her Joy. She was very sick… and missed her family. One day she told me she was going to die. It was hard to understand her because of a tracheotomy. I asked her if she feared she was going to die. “No,” she said, “I know I’m going to die today.”

I believe it’s possible to know. I reminded her that the staff had finally been able to reach her sister and that she would arrive the next day. She was so weak. Didn’t she want to see her? Again she told me that she was going to die and tears came down her cheeks. I respect the beliefs of those I encounter. If we pray I ask them what they want to pray for. I asked her if it would be OK if we prayed for her live one more day. She whispered, yes. We prayed together.

The next day I went to her room, not knowing what to expect, I stood outside the door. The nurses where changing the bedding. I didn’t see her. Then I saw her legs. When I entered the room, I saw her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. The look on Joy’s face was like the shining sun.

We all have doors or portals to discover. James Joyce said that “A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are portals of discovery.” We make no mistakes; our errors are volitional and are portals of discovery.

Jacob was running from his past, his relationship with his brother was heavy on his heart. In the dark morning hour he discovered that the God of Abraham is not some distant deity, but the God of Jacob – very personal and intimate. God entered the portal of his dream, not to berate him for cheating his brother, but to be his God. Listen with Jacob to what God said, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will not leave you.”

So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


Friday, May 6, 2011

Prayer in the Church

In reading about the development of the Daily Offices or services of public prayer in the church I came across a quote by Robert Taft that gave me pause. Sometimes I hear that people don't feel they get anything  out of going to church. How many times have I heard someone say that they are spiritual but not religious. Taft writes, "In our age of narcissistic individualism one often hears people say they "don't get anything our of going to church." What one "gets our of it" is the inestimable privilege of glorifying almighty God."

Though I enjoy this snarky comment and believe it to be true, it is symtomatic of people's need for relevance. It also points to the casualty of individualism - community. Religion is a good thing. Realignment is as important for people as it is for their car. We have a need to be aligned or allied with one another in a community of faith. The problem with sola scriptura is its disregard for relationship, relationship to Trinity, to our past, early church leadership, to the current moving of the Spirit, and to one another. I may be preaching to the choir, but we need each other. We need to be there for each other. With Christ, we are a temple, not I'm the temple, but we are each a stone in the ediface of God's kingdom. I pray that we can find the love and humility to allow all people to find themselves united in the great work of the church, the prayers and praise to almighty God.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thoughts on the movie - Of Gods and Men

All I wanted to do after seeing the movie, Of Gods and Men, is be quiet. It took me by surprise. The story is about a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community. The majority Islamic community and the monks are squeezed between a corrupt government and  Muslum extremists. The movie captures the silence of their existence on the hilltop and the articulation of faith as lived in service and love towards their neighbors.

As I sit in my dorm room, I can't get the images and themes of the story of the monks' sacrifice out of my head. The story, however, is not about death; the story is about life itself. It is not so much that the monks died for their faith, but rather they lived in faith. In the midst of extreme poverty, death, fear and uncertainty, they strived to live. They chose to leave the comfort of family and home. They chose to take up their cross and die to themselves. Though they lost their former life, they found a new life as brothers and in living out the gospel imperitive to love their neighbors in Algeria.

The story is also about hope and incarnation. The generosity of the incarnation lies in mystery of its multiplication. God comes down from heaven to dwell among us and in us. In the waters of baptism we are born into new life and God makes our hearts a dwelling place. We are called to express Jesus incarnate to the world. We are also, each one of us, the incarnation. With God's indwelling Spirit we re-present Love to a world in need of it.

Psalm 82, in verses 6-7, suggests that we are gods and children of the Most High. Though we share mortality with humankind, we also share in the divinity of Christ. His presence among us and his words inhabit the same space we do. We are also told by Paul that we are the temple of the Spirit of God. We, like Mary, are to become vessels bearing God to the wounded and forgotten. We are, then, theotokos and ambassadors for and of Christ.

I have to admit that I don't always feel this way. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, my selfishness, pride and lack of faith cloud my witness. Though I pray for transparency, I can only guess what others see. The amazing truth, though, is that we are all God's chosen people. God chooses you and me to be there for each other in God's name. Like Mary, I say, yes to God each day. Yes, yes, yes!

In a prayer crafted by Cardinal Newman, used daily by Mother Teresa and the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, the desire for transparency is clear:

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us, and be so in us, that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus. Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others; the light O Jeus, will be all from you, none of it will be ours; it will be you, shining on others through us. Let us preach you without preaching, not by words but by our example, be the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do. The evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. Amen.

Silence. It is golden and of great value. In the silent night Christ is born. In silence we can be still and know God. In silence upon my bed, in the stillness of chapel, in the silence of joy that cannot speak, there is Emmanuel. In many countries, I'm told, silence means assent. If we do not dare to pray, if we fear our dross must needs be burned before Christ can be seen, if our mouth is too weak to share God's praises, let our moments of silence be a "yes". I pray that in my own way I reflect the love of Jesus, that the triumph and pain of my own experience may reflect, however distorted, a ray of God's love. Like imperfect diamonds, in need God's cutting and polishing, may our light shine! O God, shine in our hearts the brilliance of your love! Yes, shine brightly, Lord. Amen.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Remembering The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we celebrate the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. The collect for the feast of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. is as follows:

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Certainly this is a worthy prayer for all of God's people to meditate upon. How do we resist oppression in our own day? God will lead us, but are we willing to follow? In a reading from Justice Without Violence, by Martin Luther King, Jr., we are encouraged to think of those that oppose freedom as friends.  Mr. King writes, "The ultimate end of violence is to defeat the opponent. The ultimate end of non-violence is to win the friendship of the opponent." Those are heavy words. I've often found myself trying to argue my case, trying to convince my opponent, and hoping to win the argument. Could this very action be a form of oppression that an opponent naturally recoils from? We are called, according to Mr. King, to reconciliation. When I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, Bishop Borsch encouraged those present to be ambassadors for Christ and work for reconciliation. Mr. King suggests that the aftermath of violence is always bitterness, but the aftermath of non-violence is redemption and reconciliation.

How is this transformation possible? How can I love my enemy? How can my enemy become my friend? It was suggested in a student sermon today that it is the working of the Holy Spirit that makes this possible. The cool breath of the Holy Spirit can melt my anger at injustice. Blind rage cannot answer injustice. It is not possible to rid the world of the opponent, but it is possible to win friendship through love and understanding. This work, this hard work, seems unnatural and contains much that I find distasteful. How can I forgive those who deny my rights? How can I sit back and let others walk all over me and those I care for? However, we are not called to be doormats, but to open doors of dialogue. We are called to a ministry of radical inclusion. Those who differ from us are important to us. Every "body" is needed to complete the puzzle and help us make meaning. Therefore, we must not only pray for the conversion of the world, but for the conversion of our own hearts. We must neither house the perpetrator and oppressor within, but we must not shut the door of mutuality and hope. All things are  possible with God. All hearts can be warmed by the flames of charity. Use my hands Lord. Use my tongue. Ignite my heart with imposible love.

Ignite in us, O Lord, the fire of your love, and the flames of eternal charity. Amen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Do I need Lent?

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I know some of my friends chide me and laugh to themselves, make jokes, roll their eyes, and think of it in terms anachronistic, but deep inside each of us, along with shadows of mortality, there is a desire to live full lives. The question I pose then is what is fulness of life. Does it exist mainly in actions,  hurried schedules, hours spent busily digesting social media, following trends on twitter, taking pictures with our camera phones, and uploading them for all to see?  I know that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities. It is a matter of perspective, perhaps intention, and balance. Lent is an opportunity for rebalancing. It is a calling to attention. It is a calling home to oneself and clarity. No matter if it is called Lent or simply opportunity, it is a call to examination of priorities and valuation.

I know I need Lent, might you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

We're all blessed

Just minutes after I thought of Googling the word "blessed" because I half expected to see my name pop up (since I was having such a good day) the phone rang and took me down the rabbit hole.  It is still true, I have more than I need, enough of enough, and love having spiritual growth spurts, but that does not take away the fact that life is difficult.  Nonetheless, life is dear.  We are all blessed beyond measure.  That's just how God rolls.

My dear friend, Fr. Mark Stuart, has come out with a book titled Grief Transformed: A Miraculous Story Of The Healing Power Of Love Between This Life And The Next.  I read it during the course of one evening and couldn't put it down. Mark is grieving the loss of his life partner.  He has a fresh appreciation for thinking about eternal life and how thin the line is between heaven and earth. During his grieving process Mark found solace in the fact that love is bigger than death and true love has an eternal quality.  If you have experienced the loss of someone close to you, or know someone who has, this story is uplifting and surprising.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

My grades were just released: an A and some B's, but the exciting part was the grade in Hebrew.  I got a B and worked hard to get it.  I've never been so proud of a B before, but to tell you the truth, this one feels pretty good.  And to top it all, the Packers just won the game this afternoon and are going to the Super Bowl.  The Bear's third string QB was amazing and actually had me worried.  He'll be someone to watch!  Good game Bears!