Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Afternoon Butterfly Break

Collect for St Aidan

O loving God, you called your servant Aidan from the peace of a cloister to re-establish the Christian mission in northern England, and endowed him with gentleness, simplicity, and strength: Grant that we, following his example, may use what you have given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Bird Post: An Osprey Goes Shopping for Dinner

Ospreys are plentiful around the coastal waters.  Some people call them fish hawks. One of the distinctive things about them is this hovering posture they display while they are fishing. The bird will hover very high up in the air, looking for fish below, and then dive and scoop the prey in its strong talons and fly off with it.  

You can see the fish it caught.

There it goes!

Off to its nest over on the creek side of the dunes.

Morning Collect for Schools and Colleges

The College of William & Mary

O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities
that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, 

and the pursuit of wisdom;
and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find
you to be the source of all truth; 

through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Morning Collect for Our Country

Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion us into one united people. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Night Prayer

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live
in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day,
who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never
forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for St Augustine of Hippo

Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you: Help us, following the example of your servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Night Prayer

Morning Collect for Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle

O Loving God, whose will it is that everyone should come to you and be saved: We bless your holy Name for your servants Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle whose labors with and for those who are deaf we commemorate today, and we pray that you will continually move your Church to respond in love to the needs of all people; through Jesus Christ, who opened the ears of the deaf, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Don't believe everything you think

The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Intrigued, I googled it. Turns out it refers to a song by country singer Lee Brice. The basic premise of the song is: you think you’ve got me all figured out, what kind of person I am and how I’m going to act, but the mind is a funny thing, so don’t believe everything you think. 

Belief is a critical word in the Gospel of John. The evangelist uses the word believe, as in “whosoever believes in me will have eternal life,” ninety-some odd times. It’s like a technical term in this Gospel, having a special meaning for John.  

For us post-Enlightenment folks, belief usually means cognitive assent to a proposition, statement, or fact. We believe that 2 + 2 = 4 or that Ulysses Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb. Sometimes belief is a conviction or opinion not necessarily based on provable facts. It’s a kind of trust or confidence. I believe that my husband loves me.  Chris believes that the Rolling Stones are the greatest rock-and-roll band ever. Either way, we tend to connect belief with thinking, a conclusion drawn after sifting through facts or experiences. 

And so when we hear this emphasis from Jesus about belief, perhaps we think he’s talking about cognitive assent, too. And perhaps we worry a bit about whether or not we really do believe. After all, the things we are asked to believe in the Bible are often hard to even understand (another cognitive act), much less assent to, without a little dancing around. 

When I was in my teens, I began to question churchy things I had previously accepted. I wondered if I really belonged in church if I wasn’t sure I believed in that way of cognitive assent.  And that was even before I became part of a church where we stand up and say the Nicene Creed every week.

Belief in the Gospel of John is not the same as doing math. When Jesus began to teach the 5000 people after he fed them, they asked him: “What must we do to perform the works of God?” And Jesus answers, “That you believe in him whom God has sent.”  That “him,” of course, is Jesus. 

But what does that really mean? I can believe all kinds of things that may have absolutely nothing to do with how I live my life. The fact that I believe Ulysses Grant to be buried in Grant’s tomb isn’t going to make a difference in how I see the world or treat others. 

When it comes to believing in Jesus, well, that’s different. My belief has to be about something other than intellectual assent, and it has to have something to do with how I live my life. I doubt I will ever master the fact of Jesus. I will never be finished considering what that means. I will never completely understand how Jesus is God, which is what is so difficult to the people hearing Jesus in this reading, because every Jew says twice a day: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” One, not two. Or three.

And, as Solomon astutely noted in his prayer at the Temple, it’s not as if God can be contained in a temple made with hands anyway. The whole world is not big enough to contain God. So how can the whole of God be contained in a flesh-and-blood man? 

And isn’t this question legitimate? Isn’t this one of the hard parts? We explain away the miracles or look for rational explanations because we don’t really think those things can happen.

But in this Gospel, to believe is to decide to enter into relationship. There is a decision, but it is not based on first finding the answer and then agreeing to it. It doesn’t have to do with one’s cognitive abilities (or lack thereof). It’s a decision to be in relationship - with all the ups and downs that are part of the territory of relationship. It’s a decision to be in the kind of relationship that becomes a lens through which to see the world and a framework for how to be in the world. A relationship that will transform us. 

I’ll never be finished with belief, because it’s how I live and what I sometimes struggle with, not what I know, or even what I agree to. 

Solomon built the temple not to contain God but to make a place for the people to meet God.  Jesus, who called himself a temple, is the same for us. Jesus is where we meet God.

And we do so through bread and wine at this altar. We meet God through Jesus right here. This is the abiding that Jesus is talking about. This is HOW we abide in him and he in us. We call it a mystery, a sacrament, something we can’t explain via cognitive powers. It doesn’t matter if we “understand it.” What matters, says Jesus, that we do it. That we participate in this fusing together of physical and spiritual food as both sign and way of being in relationship with God.

But that relationship goes well beyond this altar.  Sometimes I ask myself, what do I believe? But more often the question ought to be, HOW do I believe? And how do I live into that belief in and through all of my life? It only begins here.

Thinking is good. I love engaging with things cognitively (including Scripture). But that isn’t what Jesus means when he asks us to believe. We don’t think into relationship. We live into relationship.  So maybe we shouldn’t believe everything we think. As Jesus said to his disciples as he called them, come and see! 

So maybe we should just decide to come and see.

Collect for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

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.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Morning Music Video: Sleep

This is the second of the Virtual Choir videos by American composer Eric Whitacre, who wrote the music and then assembled a virtual choir of singers from 58 countries to sing it.  The song is called "Sleep." First you will hear the choir sing, and then see the credits while you listen to the song played again on the piano. This must be a lot of fun for everyone involved.

More more information, see Mr. Whitacre's website.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Afternoon Butterfly Break

Collect for St Bartholomew

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Today's Bird Photo

This is a laughing gull. It's not actually laughing in this picture, though. It's cooling itself. Birds don't sweat, so they pant, just like dogs do.  Animals are marvelously made.

Morning Prayer: Collect for Guidance

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our 
being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by 
your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our 
life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are 
ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Rooster

This handsome fellow lives at the Jamestown Settlement.

Morning Prayer: The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks 
for all your goodness and loving-kindness 
to us and to all whom you have made. 
We bless you for our creation, preservation, 
and all the blessings of this life; 
but above all for your immeasurable love 
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; 
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. 
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, 
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, 
not only with our lips, but in our lives, 
by giving up our selves to your service, 
and by walking before you 
in holiness and righteousness all our days; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


This is a photograph of a bee enjoying some bee balm. That's the "folk" name of this flowering plant, which is more formally called "monarda," a considerably less lovely name than "bee balm." It's easy to understand why it's called "bee balm," because if you grow it, you will find bees all over it every time you look.  

I suppose many of us also have some kind of "people balm" we flock to - or at least we would like to flock to - for sustenance and, well, balm. A balm is something that soothes and restores. Jeremiah laments, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?" And the beautiful spiritual replies, "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul."

The hymn goes on: "Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work's in vain. But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again."

What I like about the word "balm" is that it is a physical thing, medically speaking. I like the idea of something physical happening that revives the soul. Listening to music, reading, being in conversation with someone can be a balm. So can eating and drinking with a friend or lover, or walking, or looking at a particular view, or smelling particular fragrances. For me, walking beside the ocean is pretty high on my list of restorative activities. Sometimes a good soak in the tub with a good book is just the thing. Or the scent of old fashioned roses. Or a hug. Sometimes it's receiving bread and wine at the altar.

But, like the song says, there's more to that balm than whatever the "thing" is that soothes. The infusion of the Spirit provides the real healing to my soul. To be touched by someone in love, knowing that God is the author and center of love. Being in nature while at the same time knowing (and marveling all over again) that it is God who has provided this beauty, God that powers the wind and created the colors and gives life to the plants and animals and to me - that is how the healing works.  To use Biblical terms, healing comes through the interaction of flesh and spirit. Not one or the other but both together.

What serves as a balm for your soul?

Morning Canticle: Benedictus es, Domine

Canticle 13 Song of the Three Young Men 
Benedictus es, Domine

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vesper Light

Almighty God, we give you thanks for surrounding us, 
daylight fades, 
with the brightness of the vesper light; 
and we 
implore you of your great mercy that, 
as you enfold us with 
the radiance of this light,
so you would shine into our hearts 
the brightness of your Holy Spirit; 
through Jesus Christ our 
Lord. Amen.

Collect for St Bernard

O God, by whose grace your servant Bernard of Clairvaux, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bread Again

During Year B in the lectionary cycle, we have five weeks of bread - five weeks of the Jesus talking about himself as the bread of life and the bread of heaven. Preachers sometimes take this opportunity to preach some of the other readings. Five weeks of bread seems like a long time.

I am fortunate to serve in a parish with enough clergy available to preach that we can cycle through this series of readings without anyone needing to double up. My turn will come next week when we reach the last of these six weeks. I'll have had the pleasure of hearing what my colleagues have to say on the subject before taking it up myself.  And so I have no complaints, although I appreciate that, especially in a one-preacher parish, staying this long on basically the same spot can be a challenge.

What I've been thinking, though, is this: why not consider bread for six weeks?  Why not consider how we are fed, physically and spiritually and the challenges we face when considering how to feed others, both physically and spiritually? "By his hand we all are fed," goes the children's grace before meals, and yet people are still hungry, both physically and spiritually. Why not wonder why that is, and what we ought to do in response?

Collect for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Afternoon Butterfly Break

OK, I know this is not a butterfly. It's a Luna Moth.

Morning Collect for Agriculture

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so
that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who
work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that
we may all share the fruits for the earth, rejoicing in your
goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday on Thursday: Splish, splash, I was takin' a bath!

A sanderling bathing

Morning Collect for Rain

O God, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ
hast promised to all those who seek your kingdom and its
righteousness all things necessary to sustain their life: Send
us, we entreat you, in this time of need, such moderate rain
and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth, to
our comfort and to your honor; through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Something About Mary...

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Mary the Virgin. The collect for the day alludes to Mary’s having been taken up to God in some way: “O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son.” We don’t really know what that means, however. Roman Catholic doctrine describes this feast as the assumption of Mary into heaven, leaving open the question of whether this event occurred before or after an earthly death.  In the Orthodox church, this feast is called the Dormition of the Theotokos - the falling asleep of the Mother of God. Falling asleep here is a euphemism for death. Orthodox tradition holds that Mary died, was resurrected on the third day, and taken into heaven, just like Jesus. We Anglicans, we of the middle way, simply celebrate the day as the Feast of St Mary the Virgin and make room for a variety of interpretations.

We have no record of what actually happened to Mary. She is last seen in the scriptures in the Book of Acts, in which she waits in the upper room along with the apostles for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Her end is a mystery; despite her importance in the story of Jesus, apparently none of the New Testament writers thought it necessary to relate what finally happened to her.  

That lack of clarity has allowed many traditions to rise up about Mary, about who she was, who her parents were, what happened to her after Jesus’ resurrection, and what place she holds in the heavenly realm now. For some, she is the Queen of Heaven. For some she is the Mother of God. She is sometimes regarded as a mediator - Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Some call her ever-virgin while others call her ever-blessed.

And Marian apparitions - appearances - have been reported all over the globe in every century, from Spain and Portugal to Italy; from England and France to Mexico; and even in a little town in Georgia about fifteen years ago.  To some people, God is a little scary, and Jesus is way Holy, but Mary seems friendly and approachable. Not to mention beautiful. All the world loves Mary. 

But even what is written about Mary is strange. In some ways, she simply serves as a symbol. She proves the humanity of Jesus, she is the “woman” Paul refers to when he writes to define Jesus as one who was born of a woman and under the law. Jesus himself called her “woman.” In the Gospel of John she is never named but always referred to simply as the mother of Jesus.

In other ways, very complicated and intricate doctrine has sprung up from her place in the story. The Church Council at Ephesus in the year 431 was called to settle a great fight about whether she should be called the Mother of God or not.  Mother of Jesus, or even the Christ Bearer, was one thing, but to be the Mother of God was another. In the end, though, Mother of God won by a landslide. All the world loved Mary then, too.

But whatever we think about Mary, we are meant to remember that she points to Jesus.  She draws no attention to herself, ever.  At Cana, where she prodded Jesus to fix the problem of a lack of wine at a wedding, she tells everyone to simply do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Listen to him, she says. Whatever he says to you, do it.

The mystery of Mary remains mystery. But her message is clear. Listen to Jesus, she says, and whatever he says to you, do it.

Collect for St Mary the Virgin

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I said, "No, no, no!"

Sometimes I get frustrated with all the "no's" out there.  Don't do this, don't do that, keep quiet, don't make a fuss. Don't bother other people with your living.

I like peace and quiet as much as the next person, but occasionally I just want to bust out of the straight jacket I find I've put myself in because I'm trying not to be too loud or too talkative or too silly or too trivial or too fun. I've taken into myself the message of "no, no, no!" I start worrying about being taken seriously or not thought of as some kind of "lightweight" or meeting what I think are others' expectations of me, and the next thing I know, I'm boring myself to death. Which means I'm boring others, too. I'm not being myself.

Sometimes this is a result of family history. As children we may have been told that we were expected to be seen but not heard. (My "problem" was that I wanted to be seen AND heard. Imagine.)

Other times, we are simply going along with the prevailing contemporary culture in which we are directed to clump into groups dictated by some demographic. Age, stage in life, gender, religion, political leanings.  We act as if it is normal to required to be in our own little bubbles and not straying outside of our designated space/spheres. We may even begin to feel as if we are entitled to go through life without bumping up against anyone else who might disturb our sensibilities.

But that isn't good for us.  It ends up breeding fear. It's actually not a bad thing to bump up against others, even/especially others who are not like us. It's ok to be different, and it's ok to be around people who are different from us. Otherwise, we lose perspective. We aren't able to see other ways of being or thinking or feeling. We become insulated and stay in a place where everything is sedate, rather than living in a world that constantly challenges us to grow.

Sometimes I need a breather, and I need a little peace and quiet. But when that becomes my focus, I'm usually about to lose something important. I'm risking cutting off my vitality. I risk failing to live into being the person God created me to be. I honor neither my own complexity or the complexity of the wonderful world I live in.

Do you ever find that you have cut off your own vitality and put yourself in a straight jacket in response to the some perception that the world thinks you need to tone it all down?

Morning Collect: Jonathan Myrick Daniels

O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and the afflicted: we give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Read about Jonathan Daniels' powerful story here.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Evening Prayer

Grant us, Lord, the lamp of charity which never fails,
that it may burn in us and shed its light on those around us,
and that by its brightness we may have a vision of that holy City,
where dwells the true and never-failing Light,
Jesus Christ our Lord. 


Morning Collect: Jeremy Taylor

O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, like your servant Jeremy Taylor, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let your Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Read about Jeremy Taylor, Bishop and Theologian, here.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Visitor

After church, I came home and slipped into my favorite reading chair for a little while. Suddenly, I started hearing this sound. Not exactly knocking, but something. I thought it might be the ice maker, but the noise was not coming from the freezer.

I went to the front door and looked out the glass side lights and didn't see anything. But the noise was definitely coming from the other side of the door.

I turned the lock, thinking that whatever was out there would be frightened by the sound.  But it wasn't. I opened the door and this young mourning dove nearly fell into the living room.

It had been pecking at its reflection in the brass kick plate.

It righted itself after the near-spill into the living room and faced down the enemy once more.

It got breast to breast with the rival bird and continued to peck away.

After a few more minutes of fruitless scaring-the-other-bird-away maneuvers, it decided to move on.

See you around the neighborhood, little bird!

Collect for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday Morning Movie: New Simon's Cat!

Since it's St Clare's Day, and St Clare is the patron saint of television, and since we are all watching the Olympics as well, it seems most appropriate to screen the newest Simon's Cat video today, fresh off the pen of Simon's Cat's creator, appropriately named Simon (Tofield). You'll want to watch it more than once to see the cheering, actions, and reactions of all of the characters.

Enjoy!  And Happy St Clare's Day!

Collect for St Clare

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Afternoon Butterfly Break

Collect for St Laurence

Almighty God, you called your deacon Laurence to serve you with deeds of love, and gave him the crown of martyrdom; Grant that we, following his example, may fulfill your commandments by defending and supporting the poor, and by loving you with all our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday Slideshow: Dance!

More shore bird fun! Here are some gulls, terns, and sandpipers dancing as singles or in pairs, doing the old soft shoe and/or the "funky chicken!" Enjoy

Morning Psalm

The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,*
and you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand*
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

(Ps 145:16-17)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Dragonfly

Collect for St Dominic

O God of the prophets, you opened the eyes of your servant Dominic to perceive a famine of hearing the word of the Lord, and moved him, and those he drew about him, to satisfy that hunger with sound preaching and fervent devotion: Make your church, dear Lord, in this and every age, attentive to the hungers of the world, and quick to respond in love to those who are perishing; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Slideshow: Jump!

Here are some photos of terns, gulls, willets, and sanderlings that I took at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the coast of Virginia last weekend.

If I could put this slideshow to music, I'd use Van Halen's "Jump!"


Collect for John Mason Neale

Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Mason Neale, we may with integrity and courage accomplish what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Transfiguration: My Ordination Anniversary

The Feast of the Transfiguration marks the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, which took place in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta four years ago. 

I couldn't decide whether to post a picture of a dancing bird (see above) or a bird just taking off in flight (there'll be plenty of those to come, as I had a very productive photo session at the beach over the weekend). In the end, I went with dancing.  I think that probably is always the right decision.

Plus, I don't feel that I've just taken off, even though I certainly did feel that way four years ago, including the slightly dizzying feeling of flying without a net. Now, I feel joyful, through and through. Every day of the past four years has been a gift, even if I did not particularly want to open some of those gifts. I used to joke that since I'd come to this vocation later rather than sooner, there was an intensity to it that made the time seem more accurately measured in dog years rather than people years.  Only four years? More like twenty-eight! 

But not really. In some ways it all feels very comfortable. In others, I still feel like a newbie. 

I recently watched the first season of the BBC series Rev, which has become available (finally!) here in the United States via Hulu.  The show revolves around The Rev. Adam Smallbone (played by Tom Hollander), the (Church of England) vicar of a tiny flock in an inner-city London church, and his dealings with his wife, his assistant, his boss, the headmistress of the church school, and his few and eccentric parishioners.  And of course with life.

While the show is funny, part of what I love about it is that it is real. The vicar is beset by the sorts of things that beset all of us in this vocation. Pride, fear, doubt, jealousy, anxiety, frustration, invitations to get hooked by all sorts of people and situations.  It may look ridiculous (it is television after all, meant to entertain), but underneath, it is real.

The final episode is the most real of all. The vicar was criticized on the internet by a television version of The Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper (he got a -1 on a scale of 1 to 10 for his sermon, which he admitted had not been any good at all), which starts him on a downward spiral.  In one short scene, he lies on a pew, arm dangling uselessly to the floor, praying. "Why, God, do you allow there to be kids who don't know what World War II is, and why did you send that reviewer on my one bad day (is that what I deserve?) and why is there litter all over the graveyard, and why do Nazis always live til they're 96, and why are African women on their way to get water for their starving villages raped by boy soldiers, and why are there no more bumble bees?" he asks.

From there it all goes south. He has lost his way, if not his faith. His most eccentric parishioner reminds him that people look to him because he's the vicar, but he blows the parishioner off. He does some stupid stuff. And some even stupider stuff.

Near the end of this sad show of stupidity, a policeman comes to find him and takes him to a hospital where someone lies dying. She wants last rites. The vicar protests - he's been having a crisis. He's not up to it. The policeman turns to him and says, "She's in pain and she wants release." And then, more sternly: "Are you her vicar or not?"

Adam Smallbone hesitates, but then, suddenly sober, he says, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom should I send, and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I; send me.'"  The policeman doesn't know what he's saying. Smallbone explains: "Isaiah, chapter 6. It was read at my ordination."  And he follows the policeman into the dying woman's room.

Isaiah 6:1-8 was read at my ordination, too.  Here am I; send me.  Send me.

Collect for the Feast of the Transfiguration

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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