Sermons

Monday, October 9, 2017

Good Enough (a reflection by Tom Cox)


This is a guest post. My husband, Tom Cox, delivered this reflection at our Celtic Evensong and Eucharist last evening at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Richmond Virginia. I am grateful to him for allowing me to publish it here.
The photo is part of a mosaic at the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. 

When I was growing up, I loved baseball. (I still do.) Every October, my father allowed me – actually, he encouraged me – to take a “sick day”’ off school so I could stay home and watch a World Series game on live TV. My father was not a very effective parent when it came to enforcing rules or dispensing discipline. As my wife, and even my now-adult children, would attest, I came to share my father’s parental deficiency in that regard.
I have recently been thinking a lot about my father. This summer, my wife and I traveled to France. While there, we visited Normandy to tour the D-Day beaches and area towns he had fought in or passed through during World War II. That trip, like the recent Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Vietnam War documentary, reminded me what a terrible price young people, even those who survive, have regularly been called on to pay in wartime. 
And my father did pay quite a price. Before the War, he appeared headed toward big things. He was handsome, popular, and a star athlete, who after high school, accepted a football scholarship and enrolled at Virginia Tech. But the world intervened, and in 1943 (after his second year of college) he dropped out and enlisted in the Army.
Two years later, when the War ended, my father returned from Europe as a combat veteran, decorated for heroism at the Battle of the Bulge. He refused to talk much with his sons about his combat experiences, so I only know bits and pieces about some of the awful things he saw and lived through, but I am now convinced that he suffered from what only later came to be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He certainly exhibited several of the common symptoms: He experienced terrifying combat-related nightmares. He tried returning to college, but soon dropped out. He began turning to alcohol for comfort, which ultimately led to a series of job losses and family crises. And throughout most of the rest of his life, he wrestled with guilt and remorse because he believed he had let down his family and friends.
I regret that it was not until after his death that I began to recognize the extent of my father’s brokenness and how it affected his life. But along with my sadness and regrets, I have come to recognize another possibility. I now wonder: absent the brokenness and recognition of his own vulnerability brought about by his traumatic combat experiences, would the confident, even arrogant, young man who enlisted in 1943 have become the father who invariably found me and my own accomplishments, and even my failures, good enough in his eyes? The father who did not attempt to mold me into something that he, rather than I, wanted me to be? The father who encouraged his son to play hooky to watch the World Series?
I will never know for sure, but I now think it possible that my father’s woundedness, suffering, and perception of his own failures were what brought him to where he could offer me a gift he could give me – the gift of uncritical and non-judgmental acceptance.
Theologian Richard Rohr has written about suffering -- how it changes us and how God sees and shares in the pain and suffering of all humanity. After yet another week in which we -- and God -- have witnessed yet more trauma and suffering brought about by yet another terrible and seemingly inexplicable act of violence, I will close with some words from Rohr’s book The Divine Dance:

We [human beings] have to block out a certain degree of raw suffering for self-care. We can’t take it all in, but apparently God can. That’s the visual of the Cross – God taking in all of the pain of history.” So, Rohr says: “Let pain bring its gift of vulnerability. Let some of it change you.  .  .  In a way, there is only one suffering and one cosmic sadness, and it is the very suffering of God. And we all share in it.”




Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Singalong: Free Fallin'




In 2006, I spent the summer doing my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) as part of my preparation for ordination to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church. CPE was intense. And the hours were very rigid. My older son had just turned 16, and we were going to need him to drive himself and his younger brother to their various summer activities. So I handed over the keys to the minivan and acquired a yellow VW Beetle with a sunroof, which I drove every day to and from the hospital.

CPE was intense. (I know I already said that. It bears repeating.) Often, my work was to make space to hold others in their grief. I tried not to take it on, but at the end of the day my "container" of emotion was full.

I had a CD of Tom Petty's greatest hits, and I'd put it in, find "Free Fallin'" and put the song on infinite loop. I'd roll down my windows, open my sunroof, and drive home in the summer heat, singing at the top of my lungs, just letting everything go, all the angst, the grief, the confusion, the doubts and fears about my abilities (including the ability to hang onto myself in intense emotional situations). I let it all fly out of the windows.

Eventually I added "Learning to Fly" to the mix, as it seemed appropriate, but still, it was "Free Fallin'" that got me through CPE.

I'm sad about Tom Petty's death. But I'm so glad that someone recorded his "Free Fallin' Singalong" during his last live show at the Hollywood Bowl a week before he died. So enjoy. And sing along!






Thursday, October 5, 2017

Artsy Thursday





The Metro stop at The Louvre features art along the platform. Duh.

Paris, je t'aime!








Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Olive Trees


Olive Trees by Vincent Van Gogh. So many lovely paintings of his to see in the Musee d'Orsay! May your Wednesday be fruitful.












Tuesday, October 3, 2017

People at the top



These people are wandering around on the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I'm sure the view was fabulous. They had to dodge a bunch of traffic on the Champs Elysees to get to the elevator. I took this from the top of a bus that drove around the arch. It was safer up there.





Monday, October 2, 2017

Night Prayer

Side chapel, Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris


Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless  the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the  joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

(BCP 134)





Sunday, October 1, 2017

Water and Rocks






The western coast of Brittany

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” 

Exodus 17:1-7

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Caturday: Find the Kitty






Not sure what this building in Paris is, but there's a large cat on top. Can you see it?










Friday, September 29, 2017

St Michael



A statue of St. Michael in the room at the end of the tour of Mont St-Michel in Brittany. Obviously there is a lot of St. Michael stuff there. I was intrigued by this guy in what looks like late medieval armor.

(See someone else's photo of the statue from the front, below. The dragon just isn't very impressive, is it?)

Happy St. Michael's Day!



Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment 
they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.






















Thursday, September 28, 2017

Annunciation







Another gem from Chartres Cathedral. This is one of the many, many Annunciation scenes I saw in France. So lovely.

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