Sunday, February 12, 2017
I have been sick. I caught the dreaded influenza. It was terrible. Then I developed bronchitis. That means lots of coughing. I have felt like, and no doubt acted like, a beast. See that Venetian beast up there? With the furrowed brow, downturned mouth, and prickly things coming out of its head? C'est moi.
I'm still not well, but I am on the upswing. If I can get my coughing under control (new meds today to help with that, I hope), I'll start making my way back into the world tomorrow. Sans prickly things, I hope.
Friday, February 3, 2017
Thursday, February 2, 2017
For some, Candlemas is the last day of the whole Christmas season. (Sometimes this is accidental - it just takes a long time to put away all the lights and decorations!)
To commemorate this day in church, all the candles that will be used for the year may be brought forth to be blessed, or people may bring their candles from home, or there may simply be a procession around the church with candles as a visual of the light being presented in the temple. Yesterday's Feast of Brigid also featured light - the bonfire. This is the true time of "bleak midwinter" - the midpoint between the solstice and the vernal equinox - and so it is hardly surprising that feasts during these days feature light.
Jesus, of course, is represented in the Gospel of John as (among other things) the light of the world, the light to whom John the Baptist testified, the light to the nations as prophesied by Isaiah. Even the Groundhog observance is connected to light, for the groundhog cannot see his (or her) shadow if there is no sunshine.
The collect for The Feast of the Presentation:
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
When my children were little, I wanted to teach them many things.
Some were practical things: How to feed the cats, how to do the laundry and fold clothes.
Some of the things I wanted them to learn were more about character: Being thoughtful. Being curious and reverent. Learning to think for themselves.
This was hard, for all of us. So often I felt in such a hurry. We all seemed to be so busy. Sometimes I found it easier, and of course much faster, just to do things myself than to patiently teach. And sometimes the kids also felt it was easier for me to do their chores myself than to teach them how.
And sometimes we all got mixed up about what was practical and what was related to maturity and character. Sometimes I asked a question (Does the garbage need taking out?) because I wanted them to learn to notice what needed doing and then do it.
And sometimes the exasperated response was: Look, Mom, if you want me to take out the garbage, just say so.
What I wanted was for them to be aware of what it takes to live together as a family and to, on their own initiative, do their part, to share in taking responsibility for everyone’s well-being. What they wanted was a checklist that I maintained for them.
Sometimes this was an exercise in frustration on both sides. Occasionally I might even hear one of them say to the other, Sheesh! What does she WANT?!?
This is, in a very small way, like what is happening in our reading from the prophet Micah today. God is trying to teach us what kind of people we should be, and how we are to live together, caring for one another’s well-being, but we are asking for a checklist about what to do.
OK, we should offer God a sacrificial gift. Should it be a cow? A goat? A thousand goats?
Tell us, God, what do you want so we can just give it to you and check it off our list and get on with our life.
Yes, there are things that are good to do to honor and follow me, says God. But those actions are to come from inside you - growing out of what kind of person you are, not from an external check list. What I want is for you to notice what it takes to live together in right relationship, as my people, and to do your part.
Integral to God’s identity (and therefore ours, since we are made in the image of God) is “righteousness,” which means being in right relationship with both God and our neighbor.
When theologian James Allison says that “the only conceivable victory is one in which no one triumphs over anyone else but all the participants are reconciled as equal,” that’s another way of describing being in right relationship.
So, says God, being my people is not about bulls.
What I want, says God, is for you to do justice. And that means look around you and see what is not right - in your life, in your community, in the world - and then to do something about it to make things right.
I had a friend who felt this verse was the most important in the whole Bible. So she went to law school and eventually became a judge because she felt that this was the way she could guarantee that she was “doing justice.”
But we all are involved in justice issues.
For my children when they were young, it might mean sitting at lunch with the unpopular kid who was treated cruelly by classmates. For my judge friend, it might mean making sure people were treated fairly under the law.
Doing justice means taking a stand against injustice - speaking up in word and deed for someone being wronged - or, as Bishop Rob Wright of Atlanta said in his address to our annual convention of the Diocese on Friday, justice is revolting against anything and everything that is not love. Doing justice begins with looking at the ideal, he said, (that is, the Kingdom of God as our Scriptures describe it) and at the same time looking at the realities in our world, and noticing the gap between them.That gap is where justice is needed.
If you’ve been glued to the coverage of the executive order on immigration like I have these last three days, you’ve seen that gap yawning wide, and you’ve seen not only the official justice system but ordinary people working urgently in that gap, using whatever talents they could offer.
And what I want, says God, is for you to love kindness. To be kind. As the saying goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” So be the sort of person who is kind in your speech, in your attitudes, in your actions. Which is not necessarily the same as “being nice.” Kindness calls for acting out of my soul, the part of me that is so intimately connected to God.
And finally, God says, what I want is for you to walk humbly with me. This one, for me, is the hardest of all. Humility is not my strong suit. It means listening intentionally and intently for God to speak to me instead of relying on my own ideas. It means listening to God instead of to fear. Because God has plans for me, and for you, that are way better than our plans for God. It means forgetting myself and my opinions and pre-conceived notions so I can tune in to God - putting aside my will in order to discern God’s will - which, as we should have learned by now, is likely to be surprising.
Just listen to Jesus say that the poor, the grieving, the persecuted, the meek, the reviled are blessed. That was not what the people around him were expecting to hear (and maybe not us, either).
But they are blessed because in God’s world they are going to receive justice. They are going to experience kindness. They, the reviled, the persecuted, the peacemakers, God is walking with them.
But in our world, many of them are still waiting, literally.
So, given that reality, as we look unflinchingly into that gap, what does the Lord require of us, but to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with our God?
Monday, January 23, 2017
TO LEARN FROM ANIMAL BEING
Nearer to the earth's heart,
Deeper within its silence:
Animals know this world
In a way we never will.
We who are ever
Distanced and distracted
By the parade of bright
Windows thought opens:
Their seamless presence
Is not fractured thus.
Stranded between time
Gone and time emerging,
We manage seldom
To be where we are:
Whereas they are always
Looking out from
The here and now.
May we learn to return
And rest in the beauty
Of animal being,
Learn to lean low,
Leave our locked minds,
And with freed senses
Feel the earth
Breathing with us.
May we enter
Into lightness of spirit,
And slip frequently into
The feel of the wild.
Let the clear silence
Of our animal being
Cleanse our hearts
Of corrosive words.
May we learn to walk
Upon the earth
With all their confidence
And clear-eyed stillness
So that our minds
Might be baptized
In the name of the wind
And the light and the rain.
~ John O'Donohue ~
(To Bless the Space Between Us)
Saturday, January 21, 2017
As you might imagine, Sally and Bella have noticed. The first time we ran it, they were a little scared of it and a little intrigued. First they ran and hid and then when it docked itself after cleaning the first floor, they ran toward it to sniff it once it shut off. They also sniffed areas of the floor where it had cleaned.
The next time, they got closer and followed it around the house, still at a safe distance. I don't know if either of them will decide to take a ride on it, but they do seem to feel as if it is another being with which to interact. Of course, Bella interacts with her hackles raised.
Cleaning is fun! For the grownups. And it's a curiosity for the felines!
Friday, January 20, 2017
and placed on a bronze plaque on the statue's base in 1903.
Today, as we inaugurate a new President in the United States,
seems like a good time to read it again.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"