Friday, November 6, 2009
Ian writes -- "On a separate note, I receive a daily devotional from Church of the Savior in Washington, DC. and I particularly enjoyed today’s. It comes from a letter the brilliant (albeit controversial) Jesuit Paleontologist Teillard de Chardin wrote to his young niece. Like my experience with Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, it reads like something that he wrote directly to me."
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually–let them grow,
Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Monday, November 2, 2009
both modern day and in the past,
have taken on a unique role just in themselves.
We all know the routine…
the service ends,
the man and the woman become husband and wife,
the congregation gets tired of sitting,
grandmother is ready for her first plate of shrimp,
but before all this can happen,
the photographers need their moment of control.
The photographer may be a professional or a family friend,
but I strongly discourage the later…
I have first hand knowledge this can go bad quickly.
In any case, there are photos to be taken
of the bride and groom,
in just about every possible combination.
Mostly these groupings are arranged right here on the steps…
Sometimes the relatives on both sides
gather around the bride and groom.
Little boys and girls full of fun,
sisters and brothers and cousins.
All of them, representing several generations,
gather in their ranks beside the bride and groom,
most of them smile, the camera clicks,
and this group, at this one moment in time,
is preserved in glorious color
through the miracle we call photography.
There is something wonderful about wedding photos:
being in them, watching them being taken,
looking at them long afterward.
Now, what does this have to do with All Saints Sunday?
Well, after reading our first lesson today
it feels to me like we are sitting here
preparing ourselves to open up the old family album.
And take another long look back
at the saints and sinners of times gone by.
But the trouble is the first earth and first heaven,
are slowly passing away,
we are told by Saint John, the Evangelist.
And the feeling is that something new
is about to take place at the next wedding feast.
Maybe the New Jerusalem IS coming down out of heaven?
But what a very odd, mysterious thing to hear read –
and it’s not just the apocalyptic language,
for me, it is something far more –
so, we need to sort this out.
I now realize what John talks about
is a wedding which has not yet happened.
It is sure to happen,
God promises us this is coming,
the Bride Groom is coming soon…
but it is very true we live in “the already, but not yet.”
So, I can understand this is confusing
for those of us who wait and live here
in a post-modern, seemingly post-institutional world.
But, while we wait, let us imagine this picture,
it is a vast photograph, really…
demanding the widest possible lens.
But it is a familiar picture,
populated by some very familiar faces…
people well known to us,
people we've heard about-
as well as others whose names
we do not yet even know.
So, who is at the center of this wedding photo?
Who is THIS bride and groom?
The groom is Christ.
The bride is the Church.
Those who gather beside them for this photograph
are saints from every age and every land.
This photo has not yet been taken,
because the ranks are not quite complete,
but it is easy to imagine this picture:
because it is a vast crowd, spanning the ages
with Christ and his Bride at the center.
Now, my favorite part of this photo is this --
This will NOT be a wedding captured on the TLC channel
where the napkins, cake, and dress
are all perfectly coordinated.
This one will be random…
Martha Stewart is going to have a rude awakening.
The saints here are a rainbow assembly.
Like -- Louis of France, who wore a crown for Christ,
he stands beside Francis, who wore rags for Christ.
Two teenage girls stand with arms around each other:
one is Agnes, martyr in Third Century Rome;
the other is Rachel Scott, a martyr in 1999
at Columbine High School.
Just beyond them is a copper mine worker from the Congo,
a Korean grandmother,
a Baptist from Birmingham,
a Lutheran from Helsinki:
and all of them with a bit of Jesus shinning in their faces.
All of them Saints of God, “and we mean to be one, too!”
Gaze again, and you will recognize faces from YOUR past.
You can name them…
It is a vast host of people gathered
to celebrate this marriage,
which is about to being --
yet here and there you recognize a face
that delights you,
may even surprise you.
“Who invited THEM?”…
But then I realize the invitation list is a long print out –
and I hear it was written in the Bridegroom's own blood.
Grace shows its full colors in the glory of the Saints.
And that same grace is still at work in us,
You and me who in just a few moments
can hold out our hands
and receive yet another invitation
to that very same wedding.
“Lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Text -- Mark 10:35-45 (Preached on Oct 18, 2009 Christ Church Greenwich)
Parts of this Gospel, sound very familiar, doesn’t it? I can only imagine that a lot of this happens every day down at mid-town and lower-Manhattan.
Two up-and-coming team members take their successful Hedge Fund boss aside and ask to be named senior executives, right on the spot - while everyone else looks on.
You can only imagine what that return look is going to be like…
Maybe these disciples thought Jesus wouldn’t see it this way. After all, he had a really “cool job” and clearly it was easy for him to preach, heal, and feed.
People often assume that a genius is someone who does things without much effort. They make everything look so easy.
But, somehow, the disciples forgot the old cliché – the one that says, genius is about “10-percent inspiration, and 90-percent perspiration.”
They all knew that following a person can be exhilarating. The roar of the crowd, preferential treatment, rubs off on those who walk in the shadow of the great.
In fact, our current UN ambassador Susan Rice just recently wrote about this feeling in Newsweek. Nevertheless, this happens and it certainly happens here in the Church. We’ve all met people who get their excitement and sense of empowerment by being on the vestry or some controlling committee. These folks get away with behavior that would not be tolerated in corporate America, or anywhere else, for that matter.
So, Jesus’ answer to these two disciples is ironic, perhaps even a little bit sarcastic.
These Zebedee brothers, nicknamed the “the sons of thunder,” were clearly into power. But the other 10 wanted Jesus to call down God’s anger on a group of seemingly disrespectful people. They wanted a share of the power Jesus seemed to exercise.
Jesus assured them all that they will indeed share his ministry. They will be baptized as he was baptized and drink of the cup from which he will drink.
But, when the other disciples hear of all this, they are annoyed.
This is interesting…because whether their annoyance is at the brothers’ boldness, or whether they had hoped to make the same request, we are not quite sure.
In any event, what happened for them and for us, too is this – Jesus gives power a whole new meaning. And this is exactly where our church words and business vocabulary need to be separated…Because if we get the vocabulary wrong, we often find ourselves asking for the same sort of “justice” James and John sought. We go searching for selfish empowerment. But the trouble is – Jesus tells us that our baptisms have given us power…dynamic power – power enough to lay down our lives.
He says, the cup we drink, the bread we consume, gives us all the strength we need to be servant-leaders.
But surely that’s not the deal, is it? Servant-hood is exactly the deal. Bernie Madoff didn’t have a clue about this deal…many don’t. The deal is this -- To be great in God’s eyes is to be a servant modeled after Jesus’ own life of service.
But it is true, the story of James and John is disconcerting. Because if James and John, who knew Jesus personally, couldn’t get it, how on earth are we to do so?
This story is a reminder to me that, try as I might, all too often my actions reflect more of motivations from the secular world than the divine.
So how do we become better servants?
Here is what has made the difference for me…looking for this in others -- I found it in my long time friend Frank Fallon at Baylor (explain).
Every person he met, he did his best to make them feel special. He modeled servant ministry over and again. When he died his son Steve, spoke at the funeral and said “I never heard my dad say a bad word about anyone.”
Now, maybe for some of us, this is a work in progress. But we can change the way we treat people. and this can transform the world, not from the top down, but from the bottom up.
The ultimate trickle-up effect, as Barbara Brown Taylor likes to say. (Bread of Angels)
The power God has given us is the strongest deal in the world…the power to serve, the power to turn the Zebedee brother’ question upside down.
And say, “Teacher, we want to do for YOU whatever you ask of us.”
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
“Tell me what kind of house you want, how many rooms, etc…whether you want a garden or lawn, what your budget is. Talk to your wife and give me whatever directions and ideas you have so I can begin to plan a comfortable house that will suite your needs.”
The man went home and returned a few days later. “My wife has given this more thought than I have and she said I should tell you this.”
The man then took from his coat pocket an old doorknob. “We are very attached to this old doorknob; it has been in our family for many years. We want our house to match it.”
Sometimes you and I can carry doorknobs in our pockets, too. Such as preconceived ideas, and prejudices that we have “built” our lives around. We may want everything to fit in with it - forced meanings, ignoring advances in thought and life and behavior, so that the doorknob can fit it. It is almost like the whole “blueprint” of our lives must be accommodated to the “doorknob.”
In Mark 10:17-31, Jesus challenges us to let go of our “doorknobs” so we can see the whole house that really is our lives. Our task then is to let go of the comfortable prejudices and reassuring but simplistic beliefs, in order to realize the possibilities for forgiveness, justice, and compassion in our living “houses.”
*my thanks to Connections for this insight.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
to identify their favorite Bible passage,
and it's very likely not one of them
would have ever chosen these verses
from the 9th chapter of Mark's Gospel:
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off;
it’s better for you to enter life maimed
than to have two hands and go to hell,
to the unquenchable fire.
“If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off...
and if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out...”
So, what in the world….are we to do with these shocking words from Jesus;
so, early in the morning?
Many preachers across the country right now
are probably back peddling on this question
and moving on to something else.
Well, I am going to step up to the plate…
and make this bold assumption –
Jesus is really not talking about literal amputations.
He has something else on his mind…
and it’s troubling him.
We recognize that the language and culture of the Bible
is sometimes so vivid and so concrete
that it can truly perplex us.
Leave us wondering…what the heck?
At times, we may even think…
we’ve figured out what Jesus is NOT saying,
but then this knowledge by itself,
really leaves us…no where.
So, in the context of these strange verses from Mark,
what is it that Jesus calls on us to do in our lives,
right now…this week ahead?
You and me.
It might be helpful to begin by
searching around in the storerooms of your mind,
and see if you can locate a - Resentment.
A Resentment that is old and really ugly…
deep and probably still very much alive.
And if it is a person –
they may have done something, which really hurt you.
There is plenty of resentment / anger to go around.
I certainly have a couple which come to mind,
but for me it almost doesn't matter
if I am aware of these or not.
Because, they are still growing inside me,
like a huge monster pumpkin.
And at any moment are ready to pop out once again.
So, when resentments are alive like this,
they can drain our energy,
and take away life.
Some ways, Resentment becomes almost like a tumor.
It puts pressure on our healthy tissue.
Perhaps this is more likely what Jesus is talking about
when he gets all “steamed up” about amputations.
Maybe, what he means is
when our resentments need to be removed -
the removing can feel pretty painful -
but this pain…this transformation,
can also be life giving, i.e.
there can be growth after the amputation.
And growth is good.
Now, unfortunately, there is some rather dark Christian theology around this like:
“No pain, No gain;” “Suffering is good for you…”
but I am not going there this morning…
plenty of others have already done that.
Rather, what I hear Jesus warning his disciples – you and me….
is this -- Resentments are dark and can become too much apart of who we are
if we’re not careful.
In fact, our whole identity can get lost in them.
You probably can think of someone like this?
I grew up with a family full of them.
Nevertheless, Jesus has a new way forward for in this odd passage…
But, there is no way we can bring our resentments along with us
into God's kingdom.
There is simply no place for them.
In fact, those who dwell with God are all amputees…
our resentments have already been removed.
The Cross makes this possible.
Now, you may have already caught this…
but when I recently read about Tammy Duckworth’s story,
I suddenly understood this whole Gospel lesson differently.
Tammy Duckworth is a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost both of her legs to a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq five years ago.
But, today she has made a remarkable recovery
and is currently the assistant U.S. veterans affairs secretary,
and has apparently just learned how to fly again,
with her two artificial legs.
But listen to what she told the Chicago Tribune --
"When, I leave my wheelchair behind, and get back in the air,
all my resentment flies away...it’s gone. And I am Free again."
Freedom – but it’s not easy, is it?
When we've been significantly injured by another person,
we can not simply yank the injury from our self
and expect all that bitterness, malice, and emotion
to be gone.
Resentment can hide under the surface.
And so, the only way to become truly free again…like Tammy has,
is to remember that Jesus said,
“Salt is always good.” It’s God’s sacred spice.
Salt – meaning God’s goodness and Grace,
is what we can use once again to begin to find Peace,
with our selves, and one another.
God promises us that when we ask for help,
and cut loose of our resentments
we will be surprised to find
that where our resentment was amputated
there will not be a gaping wound,
but a place of renewed health
and unexpected vitality.
May God grant each of us…
the courage and faith
to let go and be Free.
And fly again.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Proper 18 year B (Mark 7:24-37)
This passage from Mark’s Gospel is a great text for us to look at
here on this beautiful Labor Day weekend?
I mean, we’ve got all the perfect Labor Day themes, if you think about it…
healing – restoration
a few surprises, we like surprises, don’t we – the good ones, anyway.
Fresh hopes and expectations for the coming year
And then what I think is really perfect…
is this -- we gain a very short but clear insight into some of Jesus’ work – his Labor for God.
Mark sets out for us - two of Jesus’ working miracle stories –
first, we are introduced to a very troubled parent, and my goodness who couldn’t identity with this poor frantic woman? even those of us without children, must know what it feels like to care for a loved one who faces serious health issues.
This mother is prepared to do anything in the world for her mentally challenged little girl. She is doing what every good mother or father does for their kids…help when there is a need. But unfortunately, this little girl has worn her mom down, with these relentless, unexplained issues. Anyone living with or aware of someone with Autism today can identify with this mother. She and her daughter are both at the end of their ropes, if ever there was a need for a saving miracle, this was the child.
Then next in Mark’s story he shifts our attention to a second miracle – this time for a much older person. A man who has throughout most of his adult years slowly, but surely lost his hearing. He was frustrated…angry in some ways, I would imagine. Bet some of you can, connect here too. Vision and/or hearing challenges…are no fun.
Well, this guy’s family I am sure and many others must have tried everything to help him regain connection…communication with the larger world. But the day in and day out care for him, like the mother earlier, has worn them all down. He can’t see or speak clearly and they are tired of caring for him. “something has got to give….”
My brothers and I know what that is like right now as we try to care for our failing 86 year old mother…it’s hard.
Well, presumably for Jesus, none of this is new for him. He has seen it all before and then some. Jesus must have encountered hundreds, if not thousands of people just like you and me, caring for our failing parents, people who actually live with significant health issues. The mental, emotional and physical strain on human beings can be enormous at times, can’t it??
But on this occasion in Mark’s story, I suspect Jesus was actually looking forward to his Labor Day weekend..away from all this. He was tired.
He was tired of walking, preaching, healing, eating, traveling around this whole region of Tyre –
and if you sign up for the exciting new trip to the Holy Land with Jim/Rabbi Mitch in February,
you can see first hand that this same area where he walked in the north country of Galilee.
It’s beautiful, very hilly, and certainly hot most of the year.
But down by the lakeside in Galilee, I found it to be much cooler there in the evening…
more olive and cedar trees to provide shade.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ work continued…he moves on and the locals brought him this man who had hearing and speech issues. And what Jesus said to this man is remarkable -- here in this Gospel reading we encounter one of the most amazing words in all of the Bible – it is Aramaic, but our English word sounds like this “Ephphatha”
Actually, the Church’s whole tradition around baptism and our full sweep of Christian initiation are captured right here in this single word. “Ephphatha!,”
Priests in the early church said this to each person being baptized. The presiding minister at baptism would blow on the ears, nose, mouth and eyes of the new person in Christ. And simply say -- “Be opened!”
This was the first word heard after coming up from the waters of their salvation: “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”
Amazing, the power of these words,
for the man presented to Jesus so long ago,
and now for you and me right here this morning.
God says to each and every person in this room – Ephphathal – be open and live.
Live with God fully and completely aware that we are not perfect,
but confident that we are always forgiven and resurrected.
In Baptism, we are empowered for ministry
and every day we draw a breath,
we are transformed and renewed to begin again.
This bread and wine remind us of God’s loving presence.
So, our task on this Labor Day weekend is this – listen for God’s words.
Listen very quietly and prayerfully…
because when we do,
somehow and in some miraculous way,
Ephphata – Be opened…
Be alive in Christ, forever!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
First, let me just say -- Thank you!
My thanks to each of you for your prayers and support throughout my three month sabbatical.
Now, stating the obvious…I have to say,
Palm Sunday is truly an amazing experience, isn’t it?
And, especially this year! When Holy Week, impacts our spiritual life in a whole new way.
We long for a Savior. And not just on Wall Street…”but that would be very nice, thank you.” But, what we long for is the Joy of Easter to shine once more. We need the sudden surprise of good news. We need Easter.
Well, the Mark community understands this…but makes it very clear – that any hope of a Bullish Resurrection has got to run its way through a field of disappointment and even death.
It is…as if Mark is saying to us…from across the ages…we have a lot of ground to cover before that refurbished stone is rolled away.
During some of the last three months, I focused on the popular topic of –“Technology and Faith.”
People who have Blackberry’s, iPhone’s or some other PDA, are becoming more and more fascinated with this new ability to send each other Links… Links to videos, Links to newspapers, Links to photos.
Links are flying all over the place these days… especially on Facebook and Twitter.
Some people are fascinated by Links to the past… Something which might give understanding, even some degree of certainty, as to why things are… as they are. And this is a good thing, I believe.
But whether you are a “techy” or not, I actually believe most folks come to Church, because they are searching for a new Link, if you will, in their life.
A Link...to trust when it hurts. A link to something we might even worship, or believe in.
When I send email links to friends, it’s my way of saying: Hey, look at this. It’s important.
Week after week that’s what we do here at Christ Church, isn’t it? We share links which reveal the Bible story… the drama of God’s involvement with this earth, and His people.
So, we hold up these stories and say, Hey, this might change your life. Check it out!
But unfortunately, for many… these God links simply go unopened. Lost in the trash bin of life.
But here on Palm Sunday morning…God’s Link is not discarded. In fact, it opens up very nicely for us, on the big screen. We can see it clearly…experience it, and believe in it – the transforming power of God. But the truth of the matter is…even with this insight, this belief… I can still separate myself from the Goodness of God.
St Paul says, “I don’t know why I do the things I do”…but, whatever the reason, it is still called Sin. So, when Jesus rebukes his friends—for their spiritual A.D.D.—I know how hard it is to stay awake, and follow Him every day.
And then when Judas, turns Jesus in, I am afraid to look around for fear that I can discover how easy we can betray our values, our friends, our family.
The story of Jesus’ life is a Link to the complexities and the failings of the human spirit. This is not a missing link. These failings are always with us. They are all landmarks on the very geography of our souls.
And so, today…just like so long ago, Jesus extends his wounded hands to us, and links his story, God’s Story…to ours – yours and mine.
We are linked to God. Forgiven, and redeemed, in spite of our sin. Easter Morning is coming isn’t it?…I can feel it. I know it. But for now, Good Friday has its strong grip on us…doesn’t it?
So, let us journey this week, all the way to the Cross, stumbling and falling along the way.
Friday, February 27, 2009
It is an excellent approach for those interested in a better way forward (Evangelism). It's not short, but is well worth the time.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I recommend reading it, especially if you are now curious like I was. It has much to say about fridge (dare I say, radical) popular faith trends in communities around this country. However, I must say at the beginning, this piece is deeply troubling to me, as I wrestle with my own faith and belief systems as an Episcopalian/Anglican.
Now, I am sure Mark Driscoll and his religious movement at Mars Hill in Seattle must believe they are being faithful to what they see/interpret as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But I can not understand completely where and how these beliefs take shape, i.e. how they got where they are today. So, I am looking for help from others who might like to read and share your thoughts.
A few conservative blogs have recently responded to Driscoll and they are generally pleased with Worthen's take on his ministry/theology at Mars Hill. However, there is wide agreement among other blogs which I have noted, who are obviously very critical of his provocative sermons. Sermons, which often have titles such as "Biblical Oral Sex." Now, that is a sermon title! Anyway, there is much to be read and compared to here in his work, and I would welcome references to more moderate/mainline Christian commentaries on this and related subjects.
What is my interest? Well, today I write because I find this story continues to stir up in me disappointment and confusion as to what appears to be taking place in our American Religious communities, i.e. especially Christianity. So, I ask myself -- what are the historical, political, sociological, and cultural dimensions to this experience today? In other words, where the heck are these theological/ideological trends in American Christianity coming from? And why does it seem to be getting even more polarizing, darker and complex?
Clearly, there is much to respond to with Driscoll's use of scripture, his Christology, ethics, and very stark views around soteriology, etc... Also, Whorthen reveals some insights here into Driscoll's personal background, and perhaps there is something to be learned by these clues. He is the oldest of five, son of a union drywaller, and was raised Roman Catholic in a rough Seattle neighborhood. He was married at the age of 19, and says he was called by God to plant churches at age 25.
Driscoll's view of Christianity (his interpretation of the Bible) is being recognized and followed now by many across the Seattle area and other parts of the country. This fact alone is fascinating to me as Seattle does not appear to me to be a hotbed of American evangelical thought. Certainly, I am in no way implying that his faith community are sinful people and wrong; and that I offer the only "correct" way to truth, as the enlightened (saved) disciple. Rather, this seems to be their interpretation of the Bible's views on election (one chosen or predestined). I believe strongly in religious freedom in this country and celebrate diversity of thought and practice. However, I do continue to be filled with many challenging thoughts and feelings around these issues/trends in ministry and theology.
Clearly, we can see the historical roots of movements like Driscoll's in America with swings left/right (Jonathon Edwards, Great Awakening, rise of Fundamentalism, etc...). But as a moderate (broad church) Anglican, I now want to ponder some of these events in the coming days here on my blog. I believe now is the time for our church and others to take a hard look at ourselves and ask: where have we failed to completely respond to the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth? And equally important, where must we now change or die (as Bill Spong, and others so correctly point out!).
Finally, the Letter's to the Editor were no help to me either, especially my fellow Episcopalian's response. In fact, they made me even more compelled to begin something here on my blog in order to try and make sense of things.
Once again, please consider reading this article and offering up any insights as you see fit.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
blessing! Feel very thankful this morning to the Hornblower family for
their kindness and to Cheri and my girls for helping make this happen.
The highlights are many, here are a few:
Walking on beach with Emma
Meeting Cheri and Ella at the ferry
Lunch with Edie Radley
Church together at St Andrew's
Teaching Emma Gin Rummy
Phone chat with Roberto in Austin
Long walk with Bebe to sand dunes
Starting my first ever blog
Experiencing island life in new way
Looking forward to a nice lunch with Chris Epperson in Providence
today and then the ride home.
I miss Cheri and the girls.
God is very good to me!