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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Theodicy



Sunday closest to October 19

The number one sin of my life is my addiction to reading; the second sin being collecting the books to stoke the reading habit.

I call it a sin fully realizing that is simply a misuse and exaggeration. It is something of an addiction, since I find myself acquiring books that I simply cannot explain why, at the time I feel the compulsion to possess the book, I should need this book. Yet, I know that the books are not a substitute for my relationship with The Holy One. In fact, most often the books are vehicles of communion with God as well as saints and sages of past and present.That fact removes sin from the equation of my self-judgment.

Nevertheless, the addiction is real.

This addiction is acutely manifest in the inability to walk past tables of books on sale, and tables, bins and racks of books especially if the receptacle bears a sign "free".

Years ago I snatched up a book by Theologian and Ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, after having read several other works of his for a Christian Ethics course. The book had a title that grabbed me instantly, although, after I brought the book home and attempted to crack the cover the first time around, it simply failed to capture my attention. Like John the revelator with the seal of the scroll in the Book of Revelation, I felt incapable of entering the content. Unworthy or unready; that might be the question. The fact of the matter is, at the time I grabbed the book, I was probably too close to having experienced some significant losses and was simply not at all ready to explore the content being broached at the time.

The book Naming the Silences is one man's attempt to critique the theological category of theodicy. As I have been digging deeper into components of the healing ministry of the Church, this book now becomes very timely. The subtitle is God, Medicine, and the Problem of Suffering.

Hauerwas tells in the preface that he had, at the time of writing, a desire to write something that could bring consolation, thereby helping people cope with great suffering. Naming Rabbi Harold Kushner as one who has done so, and the psalmists who with poetic ability have been capable of doing so, Hauerwas retreats from that desire, and submits his text to the examination of a more direct approach to the problem of suffering.

Hauerwas contends from the outset that attempts to explain evil such as a parent witnessing the suffering and early death of their child, is a "theological mistake."

The Book of Job is Scripture's inconclusive attempt to explain the dichotomous relationship between the claimed role as Chosen People of God, and their seeming lack of favor, exhibited through the various trials undergone. Even the most righteous person, Job, is not completely shielded from trials, sufferings, loss of property and kinsman; all except his wife.

Hauerwas writes,
"I cannot promise readers consolation, but only as honest an account as I can give of why we cannot afford to give ourselves explanations for evil when what is required is a community capable of absorbing our grief." (xi)
This is hugely important to me. For whosever cares, the reason I engage in ministry no longer has very much to do with any concern for rewards in heaven, when I own body fails me. What I do now is very much more connected with my own understanding that community is absolutely the foundation and gift we experience most fully when we gather week by week in worship, and where we encounter the Holy which sustains us through the trials and tribulations of earth-bounded living.

Community is the place where we can bring our deepest sorrow, disappointments, disillusions, and brokenness. In community we learn of Jesus as the one who suffered, just as completely as we have, and even more so that he could reveal to us himself as God's Son, a companion on the way. Jesus does not take away all the suffering. Instead Jesus suffers with our suffering. Not only that, he asks us to accompany each other through the trials of life since each of us need something more tangible to cling to than the Spirit of God.

We need to grab hold of "clay vessels", and feel the scabs of old scars to know that we are not alone.

We may sing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" hoping to feel a mighty wind within the room, but sometimes the fount that must be encountered is one trapped within us. Sometimes what must flow is the fount of tears; of sorrow, deep and mysteriously arising from within in order to begin to receive the consolation and comfort of God through community.

It is possible to go along through life without a genuine community. But few people go their entire life without needing at some point a place to be known and loved wholly as a beloved child of God, and still flourish.

The Gospel lesson for this week offers us an insight into the community of followers of Jesus. James and john were looking for power and authority to govern a new kingdom. What Jesus offered them was a glimpse into the reality yet to unfold. Jesus does indeed promise them a share in the power, only it will be the power to share in the suffering which all humanity will in one way or another experience. With that suffering they will become more like Jesus, capable of caring for others, as servants to many.

But where and if James and John will receive power to rule...only God knows.

Tough lesson to grab hold of.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In Darkness

Sunday's Scripture

Is nightfall or dawn?

For several weeks now the Lectionary sequential reading from the Hebrew Bible  has been a journey through the Book of Job.

Job is one of the more interesting Hebrew Scriptures in my opinion. Every time I read it, I come away with new meaning, and new places to become awestruck.

Today it struck me how strongly this passage is a direct contrast to the message of Psalm 139. In fact, I would say that Job is in many ways a counterpoint to Psalm 139.

The psalmist writes..

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
While the psalmist wrote with great confidence of always being incapable of escaping from God, Job speaks of his own incapacity...an incapacity to come into the presence of God. Job says,  

"If I go forward, he is not there;
or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.

Have you ever felt that sense of being completely unable to encounter the Holy?


Where do you go to regain access to the Divine?

How do you recover your sense of wonder and  appreciation when it seems that no matter how hard or well you work at being right with God, that you are being unjustly punished?

The story of Job is a drama unfolding both in heaven and on earth.

In Job the Divine Prosecuting Attorney is one of God's servants, not a wayward and disobedient nemesis which Christian literature typically portrays Satan to be. Satan points out to God that it is always easy for humans to sing praise to God when things are going in our favor. Satan, essentially tells God, "sure Job praises you. You've given him everything, Would he still praise you if it all were taken away?"

Now that is an excellent question.

I suspect each of us benefit from spending time reflecting on this very question.

What would be the breaking point for you?


God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me;
If only I could vanish in darkness,
and thick darkness would cover my face!"   

How would you find your way through to a place where you could once again claimthe certainty expressed by the psalmist? 

 For many years I have used the early morning to anchor my day, by engaging in a peripatetic prayer. 

Fewer daylight hours forces me much of the time to begin my route enveloped by the deep blue black cloak of dawn, if I am to have the time to engage my practice completely. I step out onto the front porch, gaze up beyond the overhang of the porch, stare at the street lamp, then to the sky. I round the front walk, stop at the top of the driveway and look out to the east and gauge both the light and the wind before venturing any further. I hope for the tinge of pink which promises sunrise will soon remove the doubt of the darkness which presently envelopes me. In that darkness sometimes I remember back to a time when a loss was closer and sharper, cutting into the place of peace and gratitude which existed before the loss. In those days of remembering , now, as a chaplain, I lift up in my heart to God those I know now are dealing with their own calamitous situations. 

Lord God, giver of life and hope, source of all good that is, and was, and will be, 
equip me for the work of walking into the darkness that surrounds your beloved child. Equip me to speak words of hope, encouragement and power to restore, for you are the one true hope of all healing, reconciliation, and life.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

IN THE VERNACULAR



Once upon a time the most prized possession of many homes was the Family Bible.

Before the Reformations, and the advent of the moveable type printing press, Scripture was kept tightly in the control of a few learned and privileged people. The Church Fathers protected the manuscripts and guarded the mysteries of God, the Faith, and held the keys to the Kingdom of God.

Or so they hoped to make the people believe.

But today marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of William Tyndale, one of the earliest English translators of the scriptures. Together, Both William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale helped break the captivity of God's Word as they devoted themselves to their work of producing an English Language translation.

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging here much recently. For the last two and half months I've been preparing materials for a course for equipping and training laity for work in pastoral visitation and the healing ministry of our parish. The volumes of books I had to read in advance just to select out the reading material for the course consumed massive hours. The course is now into its fourth week. I cannot help but think, that if it had not been for the special calling of Tyndale and Coverdale, a martyrs death being the reward to one, my ability to engage in the healing ministry of the church could quite possibly not be a reality.

Today I give thanks to God for our ability to read the psalms in English thanks to the King of England who authorized an English translation of the work produced by Coverdale.

Today I also give thanks for the continuing innovations and progress of technology. While there are many problems and temptations which have come with the development of the Internet, we've also gained an incredibly powerful tool for the access of information. You and I no longer need to have shelves of books, or reams of paper to track who to remember on the this date in history. At our fingertips we have access to a complete calendar of all the saints. We no longer have to pick up a book to read the Morning
or Evening Prayer .

Is it a small thing to be thankful for?

I don't think so. According to the Wycliffe organization, (named after an even earlier scholar and proponent of a vernacular Bible) there remain 350 million people without access to the scriptures in their own language.

PICK IT UP and READ or CLICK IT and READ!!

Lectionary readings for William Tyndale  and a way to access the Revised Common Lectionary readings used by the Episcopal Church, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of America.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Widows and Orphans benefit



Readings for Sunday September 2

In two more days I will be participating in the single most important athletic fundraising event of my year.

On Saturday September 8, I will be down in San Diego to participate in the 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb. The event is a tribute to the men and women who responded to the twin towers attack on September 11, 2001 and died in the line of duty. Men and women who gave their all; a generous act of giving through serving. The money raised by climbers like myself and many professional Firefighters, including the chiefs of San Diego City Fire Department will go to a most noble cause. As the website for the event says
"Funds raised will benefit The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and FirefighterAid (formerly the San Diego Firefighters’ Benevolent Fund,) the 501(c)(3) charity which cares for Firefighters and families through sickness, distress, and death."
This event is a great demonstration of how to live out the commands presented in the opening of the Epsitle of James, a most hotly contested passage among ancients and early reformation theologians. It seems that the reformers didn't particularly like James' letter because the Roman Catholic Hierarchy could use this passage to defend some highly questionable practices...Indulgences being the all round disfavored child of spiritual practices.

This passage from the Epistle (Greek for "letter") of James delivers thought provoking reminders to the followers of Jesus Christi that our religion is not a private affair. On the contrary, James made it clear that the on giving, social engagement, care and compassion for the widows and orphans was imperative to the way of Jesus Christ.

Here it is all marked up:

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 1:17-27


I think this must be one of the richest passages in terms of the "New Testament way of life". The richness is so vast that I hardly know what to do.

And yet, I know EXACTLY what to do.

DO that which will provide care and concern for the widows and orphans.

I know that everyone cannot give large sums of money. But each of us can give something. 

Now, if you happen to be someone who really only likes to read the red letters of the Bible, I hope you will
focus on those lines above and consider, what does Jesus have to say to me in these sentences.

Do you have difficult controlling  your temper? Is your tongue your worst feature for your inability tame it? Does that explain why you find yourself so at odds within any form of community? Can you even honestly reflect on the red letter passages or are you arguing with me even as you read this passage?

The Christian life is not easy, and those who follow the path of Christianity cannot in honesty claim any complete perfection early on in their life. But the way of Christianity does provide a place for honest self assessment and opportunity for personal growth and transformation by the Grace and power of God.

Sending up prayers that you find your own community, a place to grow into the likeness of goodness and wholeness. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

God's creatures

Readings For Sunday August 28, 2012

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
(Collect- Book of Common Prayer)

I have to say, there seem to be more occurrences of things to distract me during worship lately than I can remember experiencing in a very long time.

Last Sunday morning, seated as I usually am, in the special area of the church up front which is called the chancel we were in the midst of reading the following psalm.

Psalm 84 or 84:1-6 Page 707, BCP

Quam dilecta!

1
How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
2
The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
3
Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you.
4
Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.
5
Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *
for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.
6
They will climb from height to height, *
and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.
7
LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; *
hearken, O God of Jacob.
8
Behold our defender, O God; *
and look upon the face of your Anointed.
9
For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
10
For the LORD God is both sun and shield; *
he will give grace and glory;
11
No good thing will the LORD withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.
12
O LORD of hosts, *
happy are they who put their trust in you!

If you are not a "regular" at attending worship in a traditional church, sitting in the chancel is to be sitting in a highly public position... just to the side of the altar at the front...ALL EYES ARE ON YOU.

In our parish the altar is covered to the floor. The covering is magnificent brocade, a very elegant royal appearance for the place of Consecration of the special bread and wine which become a spiritual  "meal" shared by the community gathered. Imagine the importance of the day being something like a State dinner held by the President of the United States.

And as I glance down to my feet, I see scurry by a very large insect...LARGE and BLACK and FAST!!!

Two others were sitting on the pew with me, IN the FRONT of the sanctuary, and we each have taken notice on the same thing...the insect is moving with great speed toward the altar! A bit of horror rose within me. Where did it come from?? Where would it go? Surely not onto the altar....with the chalice and paten, although it was veiled...oh surely not to those items which had been dedicated for the sole purpose of consecrating the Eucharist!?!

It struck me just then, that the temple, and sanctuary which the writer of the psalm was referring to was built without glass panes, and screens. The birds could fly into the temple unimpeded. Sparrows and swallows, eagles too for that matter, if any of them had a mind to do so. Which led me to think, maybe that is something to MARK down in your Bible: Sanctuary's of the present day are so much cleaner, neater, contained and protected from all sorts of messy stuff.

For one thing, the temple in Jerusalem was the principle place for animal sacrifice. Not only the Jews, but all the cults, of other people groups used animal sacrifice, each having their own designated temple for paying cult to the God/dess. A few cults that surrounded the children of Abraham even engaged in human sacrifice. Archeological evidence gives good indication with high probability that every Roman and Greek cult conducted some form of animal sacrifice. Which animal was sacrificed depended upon the purpose of the sacrifice.Pig, cow, sheep, goat, pigeon, dove, any of these might be the designated offering.^ Animal throats were slit and the blood drained out as part of the sacrifice. Now, if you have ever watched what happens in the summer when food is left out, you know that the insects, flies and ants in particular, quickly come to clean up the mess. Pesty and annoying as they may be, they too have a calling and purpose in the Creator's master plan.

And there I am sitting in worship with that insect, a cricket or beetle of some sort, wandering around exploring, looking for morsels to munch and I've lost my place in the reading of the psalm for two or three verses. Then I finally return my attention to the congregation in it's reading, and pick up my place in the text

 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

Too often I hear people claim they have no need for the church. They can talk to God anywhere. {TRUE- God is not contained within the walls of the sanctuary}. They are, they claim, perfectly fine with being "spiritual and not religious."  And yet, many of these people are the same ones that will tell me when they are in the hospital, and suddenly confronted with a diagnosis of cancer that they have no one to call on to help them in their crisis and have no clue where to begin to work through the issues of this news. These are the ones that I see who are near panic, feeling bereft and without bearing. In their desolate valley they cannot easily find a place of springs. That is the time when the community of followers of Jesus begin to display their spiritual gifts; prayer, compassion, mercy, patience all are drawn out of the followers of Jesus on behalf of another companion of the way. Every time of gathering for corporate worship becomes a time of gathering and collecting as well as depositing and connecting.

Gathering together we share in praise, prayers and concerns for those who are unable to be present in worship. We see and learn from the scripture, the sermon proclaimed, and the announcements (yes even those little pleas for time, treasure, and talents) how the kin_dom of God is unfolding and surrounding us. We receive also food for the soul in the Eucharist, the bread of life and the cup of salvation which carries with it the mystery of the presence of Jesus Christ.  Strengthened inwardly, we are fit to return to the rush of our daily routine.

When that insect was searching high and low, I began to react in a most orthodox way, with slight horror at the thought that it was going to find its' way right to the bread of life. Do insects have greater appreciation for the opportunity to receive the sacrament and share in the offering of praise and thanksgiving to the creator?  Would it be a travesty for that insect to come under the veil? What should (or could) I do without drawing more attention to the situation?

The answer came to me: Do nothing immediately. If the opportunity is presented, get rid of it.

It is all well and good to give oneself an occasional break from gathering together in worship. But in my own experience, if I begin to "forsake the gathering" it is a pretty short step into neglect of my relationship with others in the community for whom I have been called into relationships of commitment, care and concern.

It is nice to stop, and take time to appreciate the beauty which surrounds us, and notice the activity of all creation. But if we fail to learn the lesson of the bees, productivity does not occur in isolation. The product of our labors is best appreciated in community, for community is where the burden of the weight of the yoke is
best distributed. This is not a principle unique only to Christianity. Each of the great world religions share a common understanding that community is integral to the pilgrim's path. Very few indeed are the true and blessed hermits in any tradition.




If you really want to know what happened to the insect, all I can say is that I have made proper confession.


^ We offer pieces of paper with dead presidents on them, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, with words engraved "In God We Trust", or checks with scripture verses to remind the receiver of our great spiritual anchor in times of distress. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Invisible Mother


A Mother’s Request;
a preacher’s complaint
Matthew 20: 20-28

Sometimes, as someone who reads scripture with a focus for how the message will preach, I find myself caught up in my own line of questions to ask and explore within the text during someone elses' sermon. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often. When it does, I ask whether this is actually a prompting of the Holy Spirit, and try to return my focus to the preacher. The worst experience of this phenomenon is when I become internally argumentative with the preacher.

Here is one of the ways it starts for me:

First the lesson is read within the context of worship.

Shortly thereafter, the preacher begins. I’m listening and focused on what they are saying right up to the point when the preacher refers to a fact of the text, but the reference is inaccurate. A detail is overlooked or credit for action attributed to the wrong character of the text. Sometimes, the story teller is confusing two different versions of the story. This particularly frustrates my own interpretive sensibility, because each of the writers of the Gospels have, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, seen fit to emphasize particularities to address concerns for their own community. As inheritors of the multiple versions, we are allowed to find meaning for our present context. Maybe this sounds petty or an overly sensitive reaction, but the truth for me is that when the text tells me “the mother of” said or did something, I believe that it behooves us to honor the storyteller’s rendition and at least consider what that woman said, and what motivated her to speak in public. Further, we should ask why the Holy Spirit inspired differences in the account. I want to know if this creates an important difference which speaks to the people of present age. I ask myself: “What is the good news for the people of today?”

Okay, so here I am, on my meager feminist hermeneutical soap box. Read on if you are brave of heart.
 
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to someone preach, midweek.  

The text came from the Daily Office lectionary; Matthew 20:20-28.

There is a parallel passage found in the Gospel of Mark 10:35-45.

Mark says nothing about the mother of Zebedee’s sons coming to Jesus with a special request (neither does he say that the father came asking for special priority and power). Mark had his own set of issues he wanted to convey to the community for which he preserved the history.

MY RULE: The preacher has a responsibility to deal directly with the text assigned. Preachers need to be both student and teacher of scripture. Preaching should not be primarily about our own story. In fact some homiletics professors will advise that the sermon should NEVER be about the preacher’s life. It needs to be about the challenge and gift of God for the people of the present age. Claiming that the scripture is the Word of God assumes that preachers should expect to encounter the Holy Spirit bringing counsel to the church.  When there are differences in accounts, I am of the opinion that the best way to deal with this is a straightforward clarification of the difference between two versions.

Matthew’s account, with the “mother of Zebedee’s sons” coming to Jesus, kneeling before him and asking a favor of him brings up in my mind parents of every community, “church going” and “non-church going” who want the very best for their daughters and sons. It also brings to mind my own mother, who, even in her last days of life, still tried to figure out why in the world her daughter persisted in working without compensation for non-profits and the church instead of pushing for just compensation in relationship to the degree she held.

For just a moment I see the Holy Spirit using Matthew to speak both to and beyond his context, to raise an issue that persists to the present day.

Parents always want their children to do better than they did. We hear immigrants talk about the American Dream and hear great stories of success with great triumphs over adversity. Horatio Alger may have branded the rags to riches story as iconic of life in America, but here, in Matthew’s account, the Holy Spirit has spoken a huge caution. Jesus did not call people to be his disciples so that they would become powerful, rich and famous. Jesus called people to be reconciled with God and to demonstrate their love for their neighbors in their service to one another.

Followers of Jesus Christ, as they grow deeper into the heart of God, seem regularly to find themselves working without regard for acquisition of riches or power. Conversely, their fellow church members and neighbors with regularity gladly accept the service with little regard for the needs of the servant. Deeply faithful servants do endlessly without becoming embittered. What makes them capable of such selfless giving must be by the grace of God, acquired through spiritual practices and devotion. Some say it is love and devotion to the divine spark resident in others. It is something to strive for if one takes the words of Jesus to heart.

I have yet to hear a male preacher take this text and begin within the sermon to acknowledge that contradictory challenge for parents of the present age. Well, really, I haven’t heard a woman preach on this text so I can’t claim that a woman would have raised up this point out of the text for the present age either. But this is where I hear the Spirit leading me to “speak”.

Perhaps, therein lies the ultimate challenge for the present age. Can working for the church honestly be embraced by families, given that being a faithful follower of Jesus with a church vocation seems less and less to frequently to provide a reasonable living wage? Are we American Christians capable of putting aside the cultural expectations of success and seek instead the spiritual expectations of God? Which loyalty will we adhere to as primary?

There is a hymn which I picked up into my own rule of life.

Freely, Freely you have received,
Freely, Freely Give.
Go in my name and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.

But, I have to admit, that since 2009 I have begun to be fully tested as to my loyalty to this principle, and that is because the nation’s economic woes have really pressed upon our household. 

How I treasure the words of one who tells me they “are holding me in the great heart of God as you seek right livelihood.” I also pray that my mother, God rest her soul, is now petitioning on my behalf, but not for a seat at the right or the left hand of Jesus. I am simply hoping that she is petitioning for a stirring in the hearts of people who decide who shall and will be called to positions which provide just compensation for doing good and faithful work that brings glory to God.




Sunday, July 1, 2012

Death and mourning

Sunday July 1

I entered worship this morning without glancing at the news.

If I had done so I would have learned that once again violence had disrupted worshiping communities in other places. In Kenya, two congregations were the attacked leaving 15 dead and 40 injured.
For all the survivors this day, this alternate lectionary reading, reminds us that death is not created by God.

God did not make death,
And he does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.
 
God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.
 Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24

And, at the same time, I think that we can imagine the call of all that mourn being something like the experience of the psalmist when he wrote this:
Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
         If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?
For there is forgiveness with you; *

therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, wait for the LORD, *
for with the LORD there is mercy;

With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
Psalm 130
I am almost completely at a loss for words at the present.

I feel outrage, and anger at the murderers. Evil continues to violate the goodness of God's creation. What did these innocent ones do to deserve such violation?

Nothing other than enter a sacred space and take time to come before the Lord in community for prayer...

NOTHING but gather in one place to re-member the Christ's body for strength and inspiration to serve for the glory of God. . .

I remember that these newly martyred join ranks of thousands who died because of their devotion to the Living God, the one true God who sent the eternal word, the co-eternal son, to live as a human to bear testimony to the love of God.

And then I remember the words of Jesus on the Cross, "Father forgive them."

I do not want to forgive the hatred that reaps death and mourning.

But neither do I want vengence...

all that I desire is peace and healing for the broken hearted.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On the sea


Revised Common Lectionary for June 24, 2012


I preached on Sunday.

That said, lots of effort went into 
inwardly digesting 
the 
lectionary readings 
for two weeks
simultaneously. 

So forgive me for not posting anything sooner.

While I was preparing to preach
I was looking for some music that connected with the emotions of the texts. 
I came across this video.




 



 "Fear not! You've got friends."



Now, if you haven't read the passage from the Gospel of Mark, read it now.

Jesus was frequently reminding the disciples to have faith which usually conveyed a meaning of trust in God.
The psalm for this week speaks about the difference between those who trust and maintain reverence for God, and those who follow their own ways. Yes, the psalmist calls them "wicked"  and ungodly.


The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed, *
a refuge in time of trouble.
Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, *
for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.
Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion; *
proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.
The Avenger of blood will remember them; *
he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.
Have pity on me, O LORD; *
see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gate of death;
So that I may tell of all your praises
and rejoice in your salvation *
in the gates of the city of Zion.
The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, *
and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.
The LORD is known by his acts of justice; *
the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.
The wicked shall be given over to the grave, *
and also all the peoples that forget God.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten, *
and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; *
let them be judged before you.
Put fear upon them, O LORD; *
let the ungodly know they are but mortal. 
Psalm 9:9-20
And while I was preparing last week this song came to mind.








 





 The disciples were annoyed at Jesus for sleeping while the storm rose up around them.
Jesus was annoyed at their failure to grasp the significance of the power which had already been imparted to them. But, to be fair to you, if you are new at reading the Bible let me explain. To follow the stories of any of the Gospels so that you keep them in their context, you really must read the entire Gospel from beginning to end. The gospel was originally composed for use in a public setting, as a dramatic biography for the people. The Revised Common Lectionary serializes the Scriptures which makes it manageable to read through the Bible over a three year period.

Anyway, Jesus was in the back of the boat resting, and trusting in the skill of the fishermen he invited to follow them. And I think "Why would a carpenter need to keep an eye on the work of fishermen while on the sea? Who would be better trained to handle the work? In the end, Jesus knows how to tap into the power of God, where the disciples have not yet grasped the significance of their own commissioning. They wouldn't until after Jesus was crucified, buried, and risen.

We are more fortunate than the first disciples only because we have the advantage of knowing the end of the story. They had to live the experience to its end without that.

When I was watching Pete Seeger play, I was struck by the sense that most of the people listening displayed very little emotion. It was not until the end of the video that I realized they were always staring at his back. They lacked an ability to make eye to eye connection. As we travel along, on the sea of life, need to connect with others face to face to be what God has created us to be, bearers of the image of God. I suppose, because Jesus was at the back of the boat, and the other men would have faced the  bow of the boat as they made their way across the lake, it was just natural for them to fall victim to their own fears. When I look someone in the eye, I am reminded of the presence of God dwelling in others. It becomes a sacred space of connection.

As you go through the week, think about the people that particularly convey a peaceful presence.
Are you feeling anxious?
How might you resolve that anxiety by leaning more heavily into a spiritual practice within a community instead of doing it alone?

May you be blessed, 
May you be at peace, 
May you be filled with hope and compassion


You can find all the Scripture passages in the Revised Common Lectionary at the link below.

Revised Common Lectionary for June 24, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Weeds



"Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples." Mark 4:26-34

Living in Southern California almost my entire life, and hearing the passage from the Gospel of Mark in last Sundays' assigned lectionary creates a ready image. The landscapes of our state often have vast patches of mustard. While there is a quaint bidding that says "may all your weeds be wildflowers" I have yet to encounter someone that delights in the presence of mustard growing in their own gardens. Perhaps it seems better than dandelions in the lawn, but not much.


This may be an apocryphal story, but I recall reading in a book about the Missions of California that Fr. Junipero Serra and the other Fransican friars would scatter mustard seed along their route from one completed mission, on to the next location, as a way of creating their own yellow road. I laugh at that thought today because I see the incredible ability of the seed to go in all directions. I wonder, how did they really follow that trail after the third or fourth season, with the wind scattering the seed to the four corners.


If the image now has you scratching your head and wondering how in the world Jesus would have meant the disciples to act within this kind of kingdom, it should. Using parables for teaching in that time was typical. In Jesus' case, its' use allowed the teacher to separate out those who were touched by the Wisdom of God from the average ben Judah, who thought in strictly literal terms. The added bonus was that it created a protection against the authorities picking up any scent of a trail of subversive behavior. While Jesus never took advantage of his ability to motivate his followers toward direct conflict in arms, Jesus was all about challenging his listeners to engage in self examination. In response to his understanding of God's authority over him, Jesus was trying to teach his followers about the enduring and ever increasing presence of Gods' Kingdom.

God, everywhere, and the Kingdom of God ever expanding!


This was revolutionary thinking for the age; truly a revelation about the nature of God and the relationship between humanity and the Creator of all things.


As I think about the nature of Mustard, and the mustard seed there are several points to hold in mind. The mustard plant itself, although Jesus describes it as becoming "like a tree", is in actuality just a simple annual. with a very short life span. It sprouts, puts out flowers, is germinated and quickly forms seed. The plant itself dies; its' "fruit" is never seen by the plant, nor are the future generations ever known to other generations. Jesus never used the image of a tree for the kingdom of God. While a tree puts down strong roots and has the ability to see the next generation at least begin the transformation from seed to tree with fruit, the mustard plant operates blindly, repeating endlessly a cycle, but never the same mustard plant, just yet one more new generation. It does so not knowing what will come after its' passing into the earth.
This is a solid spiritual truth. Except for the fact that we have longer spans of life, still we have no way of knowing the length of our days, nor with absolute certainty what lies beyond our final breathe. The spiritual life of a religious person requires the ability to follow a path through life that is often filled with mystery, and uncertainty; there often feels like some incompleteness for those who are programmed to measure quantifiable results. Such a path rubs against the dominant paradigm of the present age. We want fast, and certain results, no error, no mystery; only quantifiable results.


Our well developed abilities to intellectualize and investigate using scientific methods bumps heads with the spiritual path.  Yet, in this present period of great economic uncertainty and global change, in this VUCA world, we all would experience greater serenity if we would abandon attempts to measure and quantify results in the short term, and appreciate the prospect of a much longer and fully retrospective view. 


Since parables point to allegories, the mustard represents the disciples being an ever expanding citizenry of the kingdom of God.


When my children were growing up they always seemed to get a kick out of quoting lines from movies, shows, and commercials. With a very proper stiff upper lip British accent they could be heard "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" at the oddest times.

They didn't even like the mustard, but they enjoyed hearing their own voices rattle the imaginary marbles in their mouths as they mimicked the gentleman in top hat and morning coat.

Next time you and I are trying to measure our productivity in the Kingdom of God, perhaps we should try to muster up the image of Jesus saying to us  "Pardon me, pass the Grey Poupon!"


Monday, June 18, 2012

Community and purpose

Revised Common Lectionary June 17, 2012

There are a lot of great places to go with the lectionary readings this week.  If you go to the Hebrew scriptures you can catch up on Saul, the "people's king" and God's displeasure which leads to a plan to replace Saul..it's a good story to spend time on, no dispute from me.

But, since the theme of community was where we ended last,

I
think
this 
is
 the 
compelling 
place 
to 
rest in reflection:

"We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:6-17)

There is no way anyone can miss the lack of singularity in this message that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. He with others...to a group.

The letter establishes a new way of thinking about living, and a new understanding that the human body is actually inhibiting the spirit/soul from being completely united with God...BUT, that while in the body, there is purpose to being.

I am absolutely certain that every last person has a purpose, for which God has equipped them to fulfill.I am not certain that God went about preordaining that purpose for each and every last person at the very beginning of our lives or as some say "from the foundations of creation." My doubt of such meticulously laid plans is grounded in my firm belief that God is not a puppeteer, manipulating humanity individually and corporately. It is further grounded in my experience. My life, has been so filled with places and events, people and opportunities which I am quite sure God would not have mapped out my intersection with at the foundations of the world. But I have been equally certain that Triune God has been working within the encounters.

In fact, from the time I've spent reading scripture, I am firmly convinced  that part and parcel of being made in the image of God is the innate ability to think and freely choose from a vast array of options. Often the options have all been of equal value...like when weighed in prayer. A word of direction felt on several occasions of discernment has been repeated "Go or stay,  but study peace."


Being "in Christ" has brought me deeper and deeper into community which includes marking auspicious occasions as well as somber realities of parting ways through the passing from life in the body to eternal life. I've experienced the sense of never having been separated from a dear friend in spite of a great distance created by too many miles between our residences and too seldom having the opportunity to be in the same room. When I read Paul's letters, like this one to the "people called out", aka "the church" in Corinth I sense that what I've known is similar to what Paul desires to express to the recipients of his letter.

The places to begin to wrestle with this passage then is a basic question of life:


What is your purpose?


Now, going deeper, how did you discover that purpose?


Was it discerned within a community, or your own independent decision?


Are you living it out faithfully or have you  dropped the ball?

Paul's purpose, along with his partner(s) was always to point the way to God through the testimony of Christ, died, resurrected, and receiving all into himself. Christ Jesus is the new point of view, the new reality, and in Christ all are being made into something entirely different from the human existence.

May you find yourself more deeply rooted into a community of faith, and experience the joys of being focused on those who are outside, not upon your own self.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Obstructionists


About those obstructionists...

We’ve all heard the saying that mans’ ways are not the same as Gods’ way.
 Growing up in the Episcopal Church I learned a song that seemed to encapsulate the idea.

God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform:
He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines, with never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs and works his sovereign will. 
(The Hymnal 1982, 677)


I believe that mystery is what draws people into relationship with God.
Something felt, either as present or absent, draws people to find and name this experience and in that searching, we discover God has been the source of the experience. 
Samuel had it, but apparently, the people lacked it. 

Until this is discovered personally there are countless numbers of ways to divert our attention from the one true source. This was the case when the descendents of Abraham told Samuel to demand of God a king.

To those of us who connect within the realm of God, perceiving the movement of the Holy Spirit beckoning to explore innovate and manifest the kingdom of God in the present age, obstructionists are what we have to learn to deal with. 
One of the ways we typically deal with the experience of obstructionists in our lives, is simply to withdraw from them. We go it alone for awhile; retreating into solitude, or independent lone ranger mode. 

Some retreat is healthy, even necessary. But that does not seem to fit the pattern of the Kingdom of God. 

What comfort then, can we find, in the face of obstacles to a particular mission?

Perhaps the only comfort we can take from the experience is that we follow in a long line of disciples who have dealt with the same experience. And, the pattern was first established in Jesus’ own life. 

During his incarnation, Jesus managed to put up with every manner of obstruction, resistance and ignorance, yet still remained faithful to the very end of his life to the relationship of love for neighbor and God.

The Gospel story for the week sets the pattern for faithful discipleship.

In the face of ridicule, doubt and attempts to “rescue” him from his “insanity” Jesus remained steadfast and determined. He identified a new source of social cohesion, the community of those who persisted in loyalty to God.
 
To those of us who connect within the realm of God, perceiving the movement of the Holy Spirit beckoning to explore innovate and manifest the kingdom of God in the present age, obstructionists are what we have to learn to deal with.
  
In the grand scheme of things Jesus was not calling people into a pattern of living isolated and independent lives. Jesus was calling people into a new community, larger than family tribe or empire. Jesus was calling people back into the wholeness of living always aware that God was present, presence and sustenance.

The problem for followers of Jesus’ way today is that we are always reminded of a national identity that exists within a global economy. Neither of these cheerfully submit to the idea of a spiritual realm of one human community. Independence and liberty, freedom to seek after ones own self interest are the preeminent story line for many nations but especially for Americans. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not simply a path to personal salvation. It is a path to a new community. Bringing that community into the fullness of being is the challenge which obstructionists seem impervious to help achieve. 

Our task is to seek out places where the community of God is unfolding, draw strength and offer strength to each other and persist faithfully in bringing forth the just and loving reign of God where all are welcome, loved, respected, and allowed to develop into the fullness of Christ.

Monday, June 11, 2012

God, rejected

Readings for Sunday June 10, 2012


Reading the passage from the book of Samuel we learn about one of the times of transition, a time when the people who had been delivered by God from captivity into a new land, wanted a new way to be governed.  These difficult people were always telling God that God’s way wasn’t sufficient for them. Every generation offered a repetition of the same line, just with slightly different twists. Here they are now, wanting to be “just like all the other people.”

As a judge Samuel did everything within his power to resist this trend, but in the end God gives Samuel the go ahead to their request. There was only one condition that God placed upon Samuel...

“Now then, listen to their voice; only-- you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them."

SO here’s the big question that comes  up out of the text for me: sorry if I personalize to include you. How often do we go around rejecting God’s way?

Or….

How often do you feel that someone else is mucking up the path that you feel absolutely certain is God’s way?

Obstructionists, for one reason or another to whom the Spirit of God is impenetrable, even when they mouth loyalty to God seem plentiful in every age.

How does the scripture offer an insight into the nature of God?

I’m going to leave you with that thought.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spirit Witness




The other day, I was coming home from a meeting, and decided to stop at a store along the way.

I rarely go to this particular store. But there I was, making my way back to my car, after making my purchases, when someone called me by name.

I was hardly paying attention to my surroundings, really quite lost in my own thoughts but when I looked up, I saw a woman standing in front of me.

She said my name again, and while I was searching my memory trying to retrieve her name, because I recognized her face, she commented,
“oh, you don’t remember me, ?”......

And just as she was about to say her name, I spoke it too!

The woman had been my neighbor, living just down the block from me. Of course I remembered her and was amazed to see her again. We lost track of her and her family when they moved away, but she was a kind and gentle person, someone to treasure. 

As she began to tell me a bit of her current story to catch me up I sensed that for some reason, my only reason for being at that store on that particular day, was not for the purpose of making the small purchase I held in my hand. I was there because this woman very much needed someone who knew her and cared about her. She needed someone who would ask what was happening to her, and someone to reach out to her in a tangible way.

Now, many people would just chalk that occurrence up to “Small world!” and then be about their day. But I look at an occurrence of this nature differently.

In my experience, I had been the one the wind of the Spirit of God had blown to be placed on her path. I only know this from my past experiences. I had started my morning by opening myself up to God, inviting opportunity to be present with whosoever was in need of someone to bring God’s presence into their midst. When I start my day with that level of openness to being present to whomsoever, I am rarely disappointed with the experience. I walk away with a feeling of having entered into holy space and time  Too bad I’m not so receptive every day.

I think this is participation in the divine dance with the Godhead. The orthodox church speaks of the Trinity as the perichoresis, and likens it to something of a swirling dance. Perhaps imagining the image of the Sufi dervishes will bring to mind an image of the spiritual connection... invisible but connected.

In Paul’s letter to the Roman’s he writes about the “Spirit bearing witness with our spirit” and that is the best description from scripture that I can give to how I “know” that experience to have been true.

"So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him." Romans 8:12-17 New Revised Standard Version Bible

I often find, as I am reading through the texts that there are so many rich ideas, I can hardly decide which of the ideas I will settle on for Sunday mornings’ sermon. If we were sitting across the table from each other we could read through the passage, and lift the ideas and images that speak to each of us individually and work through them, sharing how the God’s Spirit is speaking to each us individually.

As I pointed out in my last post, the Revised Common Lectionary Scriptures chosen for this week are intended to stress a Christian Doctrine; the doctrine of the Trinity, God as Triune in nature. This idea is so complex; as a child being told that God was “three in one” an easy thing to accept. Yet as we mature, this becomes a sticking point for many people. This passage from the letter Paul wrote to the Church in Rome refers to those three persons, but offers no explanation. God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, requires at least a dash of faith to work through for most people. Naturally, most non-Christians, whether Jews, or any other people group, assumed these to be discretely different entities, each one self contained, not an indwelling unity of being. Jews thought Christians where Tri-theistic, therefore, violating the first of the commandments handed down to Moses from the Mount.


The Celts, whose territory at the time of the early Christian Church actually stretched well into the region we know as Turkey, had a variety of symbols to express the divinity. Among them is the triquetra. The beauty of the Triquetra is how it conveys an interwoven, unbroken nature of God.St. Patrick is credited with having used the shamrock as a teaching device for early Celtic Christians. It's simplicity is it's usefulness, in the connection of each section being unbroken. 

In practice, I think Christians don’t adequately grasp the idea of the co-equal and co-eternal nature of God in three persons. I work my way through the concept by resisting a lot of imagery offered up by others in the name of trying to describe God as three persons. On the other hand I also have sought symbols that can adequately describe this multifaceted nature of God. I appreciate the way prayers contained in the Book of Common Prayer consistently conclude with an affirmation of the unity of the three persons. “in the name of Jesus who lives and reigns with you and the holy spirit, eternally one God.” AMEN … so complete that no one can confuse the nature of God as multiple entities.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trinity

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory."


This week is called Trinity Sunday in all the churches that follow the liturgical calendar of the Christian year. All the readings have a common thread of attempting to point out something about the nature of God, as a Triune God. But, as we read through the texts none of them actually use the word Trinity, or “three persons”. Each of them have a common element; each offer some glimpse into the nature of God as being “multi-faceted” or plural. That creates a conundrum for Christians, one of the three Abrahamic faiths, all of which share the commandment to honor only One God, thus calling ourselves monotheists (worshipers of only one God).

Well, quite frankly, that makes the purpose of any sermon to be to attempt to explain the how God can be, simultaneously One in Three and Three in One. That being the case, preaching on Trinity Sunday often runs the risk of speaking more heresy than orthodoxy through the use of many less than acceptable analogies to explain how it can be. One of the better ones that is used is the example of water, as a liquid, gas, and solid. Okay, that works pretty well with children, because we can see steam, water in a glass, and ice cubes.

Now, the most explicit Hebrew text that actually names the Lord as “three” is the passage in the book of Genesis where three men come to visit Abraham, “angels unawares”, which is the basis for the Icon at the top.

Want more on what it means to be a faithful Trinitarian monotheist? Frankly, tonight I really don’t want to go there. Instead, I want to offer you a few pictures to go with the text and play around with how these passages all offer some inspiration for my life.

A section of the passage from Isaiah is used in the Lord’s Day (Sunday Morning) worship in the Episcopal Church.  When it is set to music it is considered a rehearsal for being in heaven, at least for some people. Whether it is sung or spoken this passage is well embedded in the hearts of Catholics of both Anglican and Roman stripes.

But the next couple of verses, Isaiah’s conversation which is a confession followed by a response to God’s call, is a particularly important passage for myself, and many others. United Methodists like to use a song, based on this text as a song of commitment to the work God is calling each of us to engage in. 



This week, as I read the text I started focusing on the description of God filling the heaven and earth. 

Here is the entire passage

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory."
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"  Isaiah 6:1-8
How is it that anyone can have live coals placed on one’s mouth and not report pain or having cried out in pain? Instead, Isaiah simply hears a summons to be sent, to go for “us” (aha, a subtle hint to God’s “multipleness”)

And then, there is the complete filling of all the space; the temple with hem, the house with smoke.
Well anything is imaginable when one is in a dream state, a state of meditation or contemplation, or simply experiencing a dream/vision.

But there is a clue to each of us, to slow down and allow ourselves to experience the presence of God, a holy presence that surrounds us.

Sit and watch a setting sun, and see how the light and dark take turns in filling the space above you. In the pitch dark, here is God, filling the space with God's overflowing, uncontainable presence.


And in the cover of dark, with God’s presence guiding him, Nicodemus went to visit Jesus to learn from the teacher. Now step from that place of awareness and sit on the rooftop with Jesus and Nicodemus




 Jesus takes Nicodemus up into the womb of God, in the embrace of the night sky, to teach of the spiritual things.

When do you discover the presence of holiness?

Is it in the bright of day, among crowds of people, or in the cool of the night, under the stars, at the river’s edge or the shoreline? 

 Are you ever frozen in your tracks, sensing that God is filling the skies with the hem of his robe, as the sun sets?

Welcome! You have just entered what the Celts refer to as the liminal space, a time when God’s presence is felt more tangibly than any other, when the world of Spirit and Matter create a holy passageway for the seeking heart.

Take time this week to experience these places when God’s presence can be received as a loving embrace, tender like a mother’s love for her child, or a grandmother for her grandchild. Does the cry of joyous remembrance arise, Abuelita, or Abba? Then you are coming near to the message that Paul was attempting to express to the readers of his letter to the Romans.


A couple semi-random thoughts to tuck away....

Using symbols express God's triune presence and activity is just as challenging for Christians as finding verbal ways to convey the concept of God as Trinity. While the use of the cross, is most customary, among christians to self-identify themselves as Christians, thus refering to the instrument of death employed in the crucifixion of Jesus, and the subsequent salviific work, there are other symbols to use. The Celtic Christians used the triquetra as a symbol of God, Father (creator); Son (logos), Holy Spirit . This is a personal favorite triquetra symbol.  for God, Creator (Father); Logos (Son); and Holy Spirit.



While I was studying the readings I wondered how much you would actually know about the Revised Common Lectionary readings (RCL).  RCL always contain four readings. Two from the Hebrew Bible, one is always from the Book of Psalms, one Gospel lesson and one other Christian writing.

The readings for this week can be found here: Lectionary