Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Keep Awake!

Morning Psalm for Wednesday in the First Week of Advent

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters.

He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(BCP 612)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Another Advent task: orientation.  Or, perhaps more likely, re-orientation.  

Stop, take stock, find our pole star - our celestial pole - and turn toward it again.  And in the turning, being amazed that it is always there, steady, waiting for us to see and connect.  

Our vision during Advent is often focused on getting to Christmas.  Let us lift our eyes to the heavens (from whence our help will come) and realign ourselves again with our celestial pole.

Morning Psalm for Tuesday in the First Week of Advent

Psalm 72: 1-8

Give the King your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the King's Son;
That he may rule your people righteously
and the poor with justice.
That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, and the little hills bring righteousness.
He shall defend the needy among the people; he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, from one generation to another.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, like showers that water the earth.
In his time shall the righteous flourish;
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.
He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

(BCP 685)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Isaiah speaks

"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!"

What a perfect beginning for Advent.  Look at what the world is like!  If we can bear to look, if we are not too busy distracting ourselves from the noise and confusion and injustice and poverty and brokenness all around us, how can we not cry out, "Come to us, God, and make things right!"

Oh, but it is hard.  There are so many things to do, to prepare for Christmas.  Because that's what we do, we prepare for Christmas, the day, an event, a season that has so many moving parts (presents! decorations! parties! travel plans!).  Even more so if we have children and community involvement.  The Christmas concert! The play! The other concert! The Christmas gathering of the book club!  We may decry the insane busy-ness but we aren't looking for God to come and clear our calendars.

And so we are distracted by many things and often willingly.  Because we can hardly bear to look.  It's the season of holly and berries and hopes for snow beside the season of political gridlock here at home, fears of global economic disaster brought on by the European debt crisis, and starvation in the Horn of Africa (among other places).  The season of mugs of cider by the fire amid trips to the hospital or hospice or divorce lawyers or prison.  It's easy to pick one side or the other, like Scrooge, and say, "Bah! Humbug!" to the rest.

And yet we are called to make room for all of it and especially to make room for hope.  It is no wonder that Advent has to come around again and again, year after year. We have to make room for hope all over again, every year, in the wake of whatever fresh new disaster has come along in the midst of the intractable ones that never go away, like war and poverty and rage.  Things we cannot fix ourselves.  Things we just cannot make right.

And so we begin this Advent pleading once again with fervent urgency, "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down ....  For we are all your people."

Music for Advent: Lo, he comes with clouds descending

A beautiful video showing the Lichfield Cathedral while its boy choir sings this beautiful hymn written by Charles Wesley (words) and sung to the tune Hemsley by Thomas Augustine Arne.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Music for Advent

This year's rose Advent wreath at home

I was blown away at church this morning on this First Sunday of Advent.  The Advent wreath standing near our seats is made of rosemary and sage, and the fragrances wafted over to me from time to time.  The blue vestments and altar hangings had pink accents, and the flowers picked up the pink beautifully.

And the sermon made the point so well that "apocalypse" is about "revealing" and that the "signs of the times" are all around us all the time - war, famine, pestilence.  And so the time for change, the time for transformation, to time to look for God's revealing is now.

But it was the music that made it so awe-inspiring.  Singing hymn after hymn proclaiming the beauty of the season of expectant waiting made Advent seep into my very being.  In the weeks ahead, I'll be posting music videos of some of these wonderful hymns.  I hope they will assist you in your own expectant waiting for the beauty of the incarnation amid the brokenness of our world.

Blessings for a peaceful Advent.

Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reflecting on the Day Before Advent

Normally, I post a movie or music video or photo story on Saturday mornings, but today, on the last day of the year (in liturgical time), I thought I'd reflect and write a little about the last year and where I find myself right now.

(The photo here is my last year's Advent wreath, featuring roses.  It's warm in Atlanta and roses bloom into December.  I am in Atlanta today and there are roses blooming now outside.  Maybe I'll make another wreath like this one before I fly back to Williamsburg tonight.)

A lot has happened in the last year.  I won't go through it all here and now.  But I am grateful for a year of growth, of new friends made far and near, of new opportunities.  Bringing in the new sometimes means letting go of old, and I have had to make some changes this year that have their downsides.  But I am finding even there, some unexpected joys break through.

My husband and son in Atlanta call our home The Man Haus, and they have taken on the responsibilities of running a household with creativity and mutuality.  I'm proud of them.  It's still certainly a downside to be living in two states as a family (not counting children at college or on their own), but the guys have embraced their new circumstances and I'm sure they have both found and developed new facets of themselves.

For my part, I'm learning to relax a little.  Now that I'm living by myself most of the time and participate in family life differently - occasionally in person but more often via FaceTime, text, Facebook, email and phone conversations - I see how much I over functioned within family life and I am grateful for the opportunity to refocus on my vocation, knowing I don't have to be all things for all people anywhere.

In addition to the ongoing joy of being in a new church and community that is both challenging and rewarding and the joy of being part of a virtual community with you, my blog reader and writer friends, this year I made even more virtual friends through expanding my social media world, mostly via Twitter but also through participating in the Lent Madness fun over at Fr. Tim Schenk's blog Clergy Family Confidential (promo preview: stay tuned for a new and exciting Lent Madness extravaganza this year!).

After Lent, Meredith Gould (of More Meredith Gould blog) and I launched the Church Social Media blog (#CHSOCM) - for which Meredith is currently shouldering the burden as I have been immersed in My New Job.  As much fun as doing church social media stuff with Meredith and other friends has been, the highlight of that connection was attending Meredith's wedding to Canon Dan Webster in Baltimore a few weeks ago in real life and serving as chalice bearer in the beautiful Cathedral of the Incarnation.  And hanging out with Brenda Keller (of Peace Love Jesus and Coffee blog) and meeting other virtual friends in person at a beautiful, blessed nuptial mass.

Another delight (and here comes another promotion) was being asked by my social media friend Fr. Scott Gunn (author of the Seven Whole Days blog and the new executive director of Forward Movement) to write a few reflections for Forward Movement's 2012 book of daily devotions.  That book has just come out, and you can find it online here.  I'm so pleased to have been included in that project!

There are more joys, but I think this will do for now.  Looking forward, here's the plan for the blog.  I will embed Trinity Wall Street's advent calendar, "Light Breaks," here on the blog's header so you can visit every day and see the offering of music, narration, photography and video.  Our Friday Afternoon Break photo series will feature angels.  I also hope I will be able to do more writing as I settle into a routine in Williamsburg.

And now to go visit the roses outside and prepare the Man Haus Advent Wreath.  Blessings for the new year!

Morning Prayer: Isaac Watts

God of truth and grace, you gave Isaac Watts singular gifts to present your praise in verse, that he might write psalms, hymns and spiritual songs for your Church: Give us grace joyfully to sing your praises now and in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday afternoon architectural detail break

For our last photo in the Friday series of architectural details, here is a small outbuilding here in Williamsburg. I love the little sort of star-shaped cutout there in the wall.

Stay tuned for our Friday Advent break series, which will feature angels.

Morning Prayer: James Huntington

O loving God, by your grace your servant James Huntington gathered a community dedicated to love and discipline and devotion to the holy Cross of our Savior Jesus Christ: Send your blessing on all who proclaim Christ crucified, and move the hearts of many to look upon him and be saved; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.Amen

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, Thursday Edition: Seafood

In case you're tired of turkey.....

I give thanks for all of you today. Blessings!

Morning Prayer: Thanksgiving Day

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


A priest in a new job is called to spend a whole lot of time listening.  Listening to names as people introduce themselves, listening to stories about this event or that one in the history of the parish, listening to the story of the person who used to be in your office or about the church cat or about the baptismal font.  Listening to disappointments and fears.  Listening to the hopes and dreams people have for the future.  Listening beneath the surface conversation to hear that's really on people's hearts as the speak.

I was thinking about the whole listening process the other day in terms of my old book club.  Sometimes I didn't like the book we were reading and I'd give up on it before finishing.  I was convinced that I couldn't get anything out of it and didn't want to spend any more time on it.  But then I'd go to our meeting and listen to the people who did like the book. They told stories about how it affected them, about what reading it did to them, about the connections they drew as they read it, and all of a sudden the book seemed to be much more attractive.  Perhaps I should go back and give it another go.

I think we should listen more, don't you?

Morning Prayer: Clement of Rome

Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability; Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; reveal to it what is not yet known; fill up what is lacking; confirm what has already been revealed; and keep it blameless in your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


O Gracious Light Phos hilaron 

O gracious light, 
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, 
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed! 

Now as we come to the setting of the sun, 
and our eyes behold the vesper light, 
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, 
O Son of God, O Giver of Life, 
and to be glorified through all the worlds. 

Morning Prayer: C.S. Lewis

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lights fires of faith in young and old alike. Surprise us also with your joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Photo of the Day: What are you looking at?

Piping plover, Salter Path, NC

Morning Prayer: William Byrd, John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis

O God most glorious, whose praises are sung night and day by your saints and angels in heaven: We give you thanks for William Byrd, John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis, whose music has enriched the praise that your Church offers you here on earth. Grant, we pray, to all who are touched by the power of music such glimpses of eternity that we may be made ready to join your saints in heaven and behold your glory unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I'm not feeling myself today. Been under the weather for the last few days - nothing serious, just needing more rest than usual and a bit of quiet (as in, I need to be quiet, as I have nearly lost my voice).  And so, although I have time to write, I'm not inclined to write. What I might write would be colored by my jaundiced view of the world - you know how it is, when you're not feeling your best.  Things don't look as well as they do when one is feeling well.  And so I will spare you, faithful readers, any jaundice today.

I will say that I heard a terrific sermon at church this morning (I didn't preach it) and I shall post the link when it goes up onto our YouTube channel tomorrow or the next day.  It had to do with inflatable turkeys, Winnie-the-Pooh, and a yellow ginkgo tree.

And I will also say, in total seriousness, that I can hardly wait for Advent to begin next Sunday!

Collect for the Last Sunday after Pentecost (Christ the King)

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well¯beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Morning Movie: Liturgical Dance

Since tomorrow is Christ the King Sunday, here's a little King of Glory from comedian Stephen Colbert.


(And happy end of Ordinary Time!)

Morning Prayer: Elizabeth of Hungary

Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Afternoon Architectural Detail Break

An angel peeks over a ledge on the Confederate Memorial statue in Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA.

Morning Prayer: Hilda of Whitby

O God of peace, by whose grace the abbess Hilda was endowed with gifts of justice, prudence, and strength to rule as a wise mother over the nuns and monks of her household, and to become a trusted and reconciling friend to leaders of the Church: Give us the grace to recognize and accept the varied gifts you bestow on men and women, that our common life may be enriched and your gracious will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting organized for the road ahead

Just reading the title of this post makes me laugh.

Getting organized for the road ahead.  Right.

But I have been engaged in settling in and getting organized in my new home, my new town, my new position at my new church.  And I realized that I need some things to be organized before I can really get moving.

Not only do I need to know the lay of the land (thank goodness for Google maps on my phone), but I need to feel that I have a handle on where I am.  I need to have chairs to sit on, a desk, my books... I need to put my papers into piles that go into files so I can put my hands on them.  I need to have a calendar to let me know what's happening, what's coming up, what's my responsibility to lead and what I'm attending.  All that stuff.

And I'm finally feeling that I'm getting there.  I get how to read the multiple calendars we have in this large and busy parish and have a general sense of what's going on for the next few weeks.  My office furniture is in place with books on shelves and files in file drawers.  My home is also coming together - I will have a real bed to sleep in tonight and the guest room will be done next week.

We all need to feel that we are embedded in something - in a family, a community, a place.  We need to feel grounded.

Oh, there's certainly a downside to all this.  One can become much too focused on creature comforts, on getting everything just so before being able to venture out.  But it does feel good to have some sense of basic order around me so I'm not just blowing in the wind about everything.

Morning Prayer: Hugh of Lincoln

O holy God, you endowed your servant and bishop Hugh of Lincoln with wise and cheerful boldness, and taught him to commend the discipline of holy life to kings and princes: Grant that we also, rejoicing in the Good News of your mercy, and fearing nothing but the loss of you, may be bold to speak the truth in love, in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: More fall


Here's a red one.

Morning Prayer: Margaret of Scotland


(The window over/behind the altar at St Margaret's Episcopal Church, Carrollton, GA)

O God, you called your servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave her zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I need to get out more - or, traveling shoes

I'm putting on my traveling shoes to go to our diocesan clergy conference.  (No, it's not at the beach, but I do take the ferry to get there - it's on the James River.)  I'm excited about meeting other clergy in the area and getting to know more people around here.

Clergy conferences are, like many things, often designed with extroverts in mind.  And since I'm an extrovert, I don't mind.  I'm sure I will have fun.  Which is A Good Thing!

Morning Prayer for the Diocese

Today and tomorrow, the clergy of my new diocese are gathering for two days.  
From the Prayer Book, a prayer for the diocese:

O God, by your grace you have called us in this Diocese to a
goodly fellowship of faith. Bless our Bishop Holly,
and other clergy, and all our people. Grant that your Word
may be truly preached and truly heard, your Sacraments
faithfully administered and faithfully received. By your
Spirit, fashion our lives according to the example of your
Son, and grant that we may show the power of your love to
all among whom we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, November 14, 2011


My camera broke when I was at the beach. This means that I haven't been able to take photos of our beautiful fall here in Williamsburg with its high blue sky and lovely lanes lines with colorful trees that are now raining down their leaves onto the streets in that way they do this time of year.  My phone camera just doesn't do it justice.

The good news is that my camera has apparently been repaired and is winging its way back toward me as I write. I hope we will have the right combination of weather and beauty for a photo session before it's too late.

While we wait, here's a photo I took on a beautiful fall November day in Maine, 2009.  It will have to do.

Morning Prayer: Consecration of Samuel Seabury

We give you thanks, O Lord our God, for your goodness in bestowing upon this Church the gift of the episcopate, which we celebrate in this remembrance of the consecration of Samuel Seabury; and we pray that, joined together in unity with our bishops, and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Read more about Samuel Seabury, the first person to be made a bishop of The Episcopal Church after the United States became independent, and the story of the beginning of the Anglican Communion, here.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011


When I moved into my new abode here in Williamsburg, I discovered that we have a "duck pond" behind the clubhouse.  It features a large fountain in the middle and a paved walkway around it.  And, of course, ducks.  A flock of mallards, who were always very curious about anyone who walked around the path. They seemed to be looking for a treat, but they weren't at all aggressive about it.  When one came down the path, the ducks all headed in one's direction and would gather around if one stopped; then, if no treats appeared, they ambled back to the water and that was that.

After my time away at the end of October, I came back to find the duck pond empty of ducks, save one.  I walked around the pond a few laps and watched the lone male mallard coasting in the pond. He didn't approach me, even when I stopped.  

A neighbor came along and I asked her what had happened to the ducks?  "Oh," she replied, "they've flown south for the winter."

Of course.  I used to live in one of the places some fowl call "south."  We tended to have many of our birds year-round in Georgia.

"What about that one?" I asked, indicating the single male.  "Why didn't he go with the rest of the flock?"

"Well," she said, "I think he's the one who stayed behind last year also.  His mate was unable to fly. She'd been injured and couldn't fly, and last year the two of them wintered here together.  But she died this year.  So I'm guessing this is the widower, so to speak."

"So he's just going to stay here all winter by himself?" I asked.

"I guess so.  It's sad, isn't it?" she sighed.  "Although I think it was one of the males who injured the female to begin with.  They can be cruel to each other.  But it makes me sad to see him swimming around all alone here now."

I agreed.  It was sad.  It is sad.  And then she (and her two dogs) went on.  I continued around the pond for a few more laps, watching the duck and feeling terribly sad myself about the lonely duck.

Yesterday, I went for a walk around the pond, and there were three ducks.  The single male, and a male-female pair were swimming and grazing and dipping their bills into the water.  Clearly the pair were a pair - they swam closer together, almost in concert - and even if the male were a third wheel, so to speak, they were all three in company.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  

I don't know where the pair came from, whether they were of the original flock or if they just wandered in from some other pond, but I was glad to see them.  Three ducks for the winter just seems infinitely better than one.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the pair will fly away, too.  We'll see.  But I hope they will stay.  We were made for relationship and to be in community, even if we are odd ducks.

Collect for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Morning Music Video

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sing Daylight Again and Find the Cost of Freedom live.  "All the brave soldiers who cannot get older...."

Morning Prayer: Charles Simeon

O loving God, we know that all things are ordered by your unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see your hand; that, following the example and teaching of your servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve you with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday afternoon architectural detail break

An elegant take on the peephole - 
on the door leading from the narthex into the nave (or from this view, leading out)
at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Carrollton, GA

Morning Prayer: Martin of Tours

Lord God of hosts, you clothed your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Evening Prayer

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, creator 
of the changes of day and night, giving rest to the weary, 
renewing the strength of those who are spent, bestowing 
upon us occasions of song in the evening. As you have 
protected us in the day that is past, so be with us in the 
coming night; keep us from every sin, every evil, and every 
fear; for you are our light and salvation, and the strength 
of our life. To you be glory for endless ages. Amen.

(BCP 113)

Photo of the Day: Sand

Winter beach sand formation.

Morning Prayer for Young Persons

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an
unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways
give more life than the ways of the world, and that following
you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to
take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance
for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you,
and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 829)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: still life with kayaks

(On the waterfront in Beaufort, N.C.)

Morning Prayer for use by those who are ill

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring
forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I
am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still,
help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it
patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. 
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit
of Jesus.  Amen.

(BCP 461)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bearing Up

(These bears were part of the Salvation Army's Teddy Bear Tea that took place this afternoon at our parish house.)

Community life is a place of both joy and sorrow, sometimes all at the same time.  Good things are happening even while less happy events unfold; we learn, or make an attempt to learn, how to hold them all in tension.  These bears are a joy to behold, and yet the reason for them is sad. They're either being given to children in need or sold to raise money to assist families who need help during the holiday season.

To acknowledge one is not to make light of the other. If we waited for all sorrow to cease before we expressed joy, we'd never get there.  There is always sorrow.  But there is always joy, too, if we can open our hands to receive it.  We can be intentional about being present to joy in the midst of sorrow and doing so doesn't mean that we are not deeply moved by the ills that plague our community.  It is easy to become defeated, though, if we only see the plague.

We have heard, these last days, shocking, ugly and sad stories about abuse and harassment, about continued economic woes worldwide (even as the Dow topped 12000 points yesterday).  Voters in several states today considered new, and mostly punitive, referenda on immigration and (more to the point) immigrants.  These are sad times.  And there will be more sad times.

What can we say with and about joy in these sad times?  I remember the reading from The Revelation to John (repeating what was said by Isaiah) on All Saints' Day - and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  And I look forward to what Isaiah will say at the beginning of Advent - Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!  This is not the world that God had in mind for us.

But is the joy only that on the other side? That may help us sometimes, but we do have this here and now part to deal with, to live through - to enjoy, even, since God has given us this world for both God's and our pleasure and delight.  We must be able to find joy in today as well as to look forward to joy in the morning.

And so, consider the bear.  Many wonderful people came out today to enjoy tea and cake and to give some bears a hug in anticipation of the hugs delighted children will give the bears they receive.  And it helps me remember that there are many, many loving and caring people in the world who want to make the world a better place.  Let us bless them as they bless us with their generosity.

Morning Prayer for our enemies

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love

our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 816)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Photo of the Day: Fall

The view from my window.

Morning Prayer: Willibrord, Archbishop and missionary to Frisia

O Lord our God, you call whom you will and send them where you choose: We thank you for sending your servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve you, the living God; and we entreat you to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of your service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blessed are they, and you...

There is a scene in the Monty Python comedy “Life of Brian” in which Jesus is standing on a rocky hill, speaking to the multitudes gathered below.  Rather far away from Jesus,  there is a small group of people bickering among themselves, insulting one another mostly, who are obviously present because this appears to be an “in” happening and they want to be among the spectators.  Some of them are nicely dressed and obviously well-off.  They can’t really hear Jesus, and it seems that for the most part, they don’t really want to hear Jesus, but they’re hanging around the scene, sort of in the back row, perhaps because it might give them some status to be seen there.

Brian, the actual subject of the movie and whose life seems to oddly parallel Jesus’ - Brian does want to hear what Jesus is saying.  But between the bickering and the distance between himself and Jesus, it’s hard to make out the words.  At one point, the well-dressed man asks someone who is a little closer, “What did he just say?”

“I think he said blessed are the cheesemakers!” the other replies. 

“Blessed are the cheesemakers?” the well-dressed woman cries, “What’s so special about cheesemakers?”  The well-dressed man explains, “Oh, you shouldn’t take that literally.  It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”

And the scene goes on with more bickering and name-calling.

Well, the scene is good for a laugh, but there is much truth in it.  Jesus may not have actually said “Blessed are the cheesemakers,” but what he did say sounded equally ridiculous to the real crowds who heard his words in the first century, and no less ridiculous to those of us who hear them today.

Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are the poor.  Blessed are those who mourn, who are hungry and thirsty. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are those who are persecuted.  And perhaps strangest of all, blessed are the peacemakers.  

Peacemakers.  Those who make peace.  Those whose business is peace.  Peacemaking is not a passive term - it’s not rolling over or staying out of the way or giving in or a simple refusal to fight.  There’s the “making” part of it.  Making is active.  Peacemaking is something one does through action, deliberately.  And it doesn’t tend to be popular, making peace, even though one could argue that there is a lot of demand for that kind of work.  Really, what’s so special about peacemakers? People tend to think of peacemakers as a little weird, as dreamy idealists, ineffective, out of touch with the way things really are, maybe even crazy.  Peace making, getting in between those who are fighting, working for reconciliation, making broken things whole, could be dangerous and is likely to fail - who’d want to do that?  It’s a dangerous and perhaps futile action.

Speaking of action, it’s important to note that Jesus is not just standing on a hill spouting off some instructions in this scene from Matthew.  He says these words to his followers and to the crowds who have gathered around him after he has been living out an extraordinary career for some time.  Matthew sums up Jesus’ career in just three verses - the three verses before our Gospel reading for today:  “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them.  And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”

Jesus’ career was mostly about action, even though many more verses in Matthew are concerned with his words.  The words come after, and in light of, the action, though.  Jesus healed people. He made them whole. And this was so wonderful, so needed, so desperately desired by people all over the place that they came from everywhere and brought their friends and family and neighbors to Jesus - they hauled them out of their beds or the ditches they were dying in and brought them to Jesus so that Jesus would make them whole.

And so this set-piece discourse about blessedness comes out of the work of Jesus among the broken people whom he made whole.  

The poor, the meek, the grieving, the hungry for food and the hungry for justice, the oppressed and persecuted, and also the peacemakers.  They, Jesus says, they are blessed.

And then Jesus makes a turn: You, you also are blessed when people think you are crazy and ineffective and weird and a dreamy idealist when you do the work of peacemaking and others treat you badly for it.  When they dismiss you or taunt you or revile you because you take action, when you work to make peace.  When they think you are out of touch with reality for working to be merciful.  When they shun you for working for justice.  When they laugh at you for your idealism.

But peace making, mercy-giving, comforting, justice-doing are the actions that Jesus holds up to us as blessed.  Making people and their communities whole, healing their woundedness and their brokenness on this earth here and now is the work Jesus gives us to do through these words he speaks from the mountain.  

Well. What does peace-making, mercy-giving, justice-doing have to do with the Feast of All Saints? we might ask.  If all the saints are a sort of hall of fame of the heroes of the faith, people from long ago and far away who are bigger than life and in many ways rather removed from the experiences we might have in our own lives, we don’t have to wonder what’s so special about them.  They’re saints.

I don’t know that Jesus ever actually said anything about saints, but I can imagine that he might say, blessed are the saints: see how they acted courageously, see how they acted faithfully - they were willing to be thrown to the lions; they were willing to stand up to power mongers; they were willing to give away all their possessions; they were willing to live and work among lepers; they were willing to persist in translating the gospel using only one finger because that was the only part of their body that still worked; blessed are they when they acted in ways that other people would find futile and crazy.  

And then he would make the turn and say, and you - blessed are you when you act courageously and faithfully even if people think you are crazy to do so and that your actions are futile.  Blessed are you when other people think you are weird for mercy-granting, for justice-doing, for peace-making because everybody knows that won’t help you get ahead in life, that won’t make you rich or famous.  Blessed are you when people think you are crazy and ineffective and weird and a dreamy idealist when you do the work of peacemaking and others treat you badly for it.  When they dismiss you or taunt you or revile you because you take action to make peace.  When they think you are out of touch with reality for working to be merciful.  When they shun you for working for justice.  When they laugh at you for your idealism. 

For all the pageantry with which we celebrate All Saints’ Day, it behooves us to remember that ultimately, blessedness is not about achieving glory.  It’s not about earning one’s way into heaven through sacrifice.  It is about celebrating not only the courage and faith of those gone before us but about the faithfulness of the one who heals us.

Blessed are the poor, the suffering, the ones who practice mercy, who make peace, who are broken or outcast or thought to be crazy, because they, and we if we are willing, will be made whole by the Prince of Peace.

Collect for All Saints' Day

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Morning Movie: J Mac, a hoop dream

I am a little jaded when it comes to sports stories, but this one is exceptional.  Rejoice and be glad.

A prayer for a couple upon their marriage

Most gracious God, we give you thanks for your tender love 
in sending Jesus Christ to come among us, to be born of a 
human mother, and to make the way of the cross to be the 
way of life.  ...  

By the power of your Holy 
Spirit, pour out the abundance of your blessing upon this 
couple.  Defend them from every enemy.  Lead 
them into all peace.  Let their love for each other be a seal 
upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a 
crown upon their foreheads.  Bless them in their work and in 
their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in 
their joys and in their sorrows; in their life and in their death.  

Finally, in your mercy, bring them to that table where your 
saints feast for ever in your heavenly home; through Jesus 
Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and 
reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


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