Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Challenge from Romans

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  (Romans 12:15 - 16)

I find these verses from this morning's daily office reading to be incredibly challenging. Why? Because they call upon me to focus outside myself in my daily living. They don't ask my opinion or encourage me to think about how I feel. 

And not only that, but the last phrase was for most of my life one of the biggest stumbling blocks (among many) I've ever encountered.  My husband likes to quote Buckminster Fuller: "Dare to be naive!" But I always wanted to at least seem to know what is going on all the time. I don't want to admit that I don't understand something or someone or some situation. I don't want to be found lacking in knowledge and insight. (And no, I don't like to ask for directions, either.)

In fact, I hate not knowing what's going on. I still remember times from my teens when others were talking something that I didn't know about. Did I ask? No, I nodded and agreed with them even as I was wondering what they heck they were talking about. I didn't want to be naive. I didn't want to be found lacking and be laughed at. And so, in that context, I didn't learn anything at all.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world is not all about me, no matter how much I want it to be. My feelings and foibles are not the most important thing going on in the world. My discomfort, my inward focus on that discomfort, or even my joy do not override the need for me to be present with those around me in a caring way. Living in harmony with others means I pay attention to them and their needs, not to the exclusion of my own (we all know people who burn out because they don't take care of themselves or those who are unhealthily focused on others) but at least in conjunction with my own. 

In our quest to be authentic all the time, we sometimes think this means being brutally honest all the time. But the operative word here is "brutally." If our honesty is simply self serving (I can't rejoice with my friend because I'm upset about something in my own life), then our authentic self is being shown to be simply a self-absorbed self

I recall a friend who complained, when our children were little, about the "self esteem movement." Her son, she said, has plenty of self-esteem. What he needs to learn is how to esteem others!

The world presses us to focus inward. And we do need to know ourselves and to make room within ourselves for the Spirit to speak. But the Christian life is lived in community, and a constant inward focus on oneself cannot build up the community. A constant need to be right, a constant fear of being laughed at simply stunts our personal growth and does nothing to build up the community, either.

And at the end of the day, that was always Paul's message in the letters that he wrote: We Christians are a community, and so let everything we do be about building up that community.

Morning Collect for Those We Love

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy
never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come,
knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we
can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Fun: Found Art

Why build a sand castle when you can build a fantasy boat full of toys?

Hope your week has gotten off to a good start.

Collect for St Catherine of Siena

Everlasting God, you so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ's death, and rejoice in the revelation of his glory; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Read more about Catherine, a mystic, reformer, humanitarian, and prolific letter-writer here.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Extra: A Youth Sermon for Easter V: Engage!

My son, Jeffrey Cox, is a senior in high school and a member of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Atlanta, GA. Every year a few weeks before graduation, two seniors are asked to address the congregation at the sermon time at each service to talk about what about their formation at All Saints' they will take with them as they leave home for their next adventure. This is what Jeffrey said to the congregation at the 9:00 service this morning:

On the two urban mission trips I went on through the All Saints' youth program to Nashville and Chicago, personal interaction played an integral part in our daily activities.  

Most people think of a mission trip as doing tangible good - building houses and serving food in soup kitchens. However, I quickly learned that those types of activities were secondary. We spent most of our time in homes for people with mental illnesses, YMCA day camps, and with homeless people. At first, I wondered why we were doing it... playing basketball with poor inner-city children from Chicago might have been fun for them, but beyond the time we were spending with them, there was seemingly no lasting result. After the week, I went on with my life, and they went on with theirs. 

Despite this, these trips had a profound effect on me - more so than the trip I went on in which we helped clean Mississippi up from the damage of Katrina. I didn't quite know why, since I still viewed them as less practical and much more uncomfortable. 

What I realize now is that those trips that I went on through All Saints' weren't really about the people we were helping - they were about us. The work we were doing was helpful, for sure, but the work was not the point. Engaging other human beings was the point. 

Some days, we would have ten bucks, and our task would be simply to buy dinner for a homeless person, but we also had to sit down and eat it with them. Before this, I'd interacted with homeless people... it's hard not to in Atlanta. But there's a certain disconnect that we not only feel, but actively cultivate, even if we aren't aware of it. 

That's because it's easier. We can see a homeless person on the street, give them money, even buy them a meal, but without the engagement in conversation, we can still put them into this category that's almost subhuman by not allowing ourselves the opportunity of inevitably connecting with them as people. 

This all relates to today's gospel from John, which essentially sums up the bible. Love one another as you would love yourself. When this is taught to young children, it's usually in the context of being nice to your friends, but what John is teaching is much broader and much more difficult: loving people that you don't know at all. This doesn't just apply to homeless people, or people with mental illnesses, or the elderly. Nor does it mean that you have to purchase them a meal or give them money or play basketball with them. In order to love someone, you have to know them. The first step to knowing them is to engage them in conversation. 

This seemingly simple rule is ignored by many people today, Christian or otherwise. The rampant racism and hatred towards Muslims on the internet surrounding the Boston marathon bombings was an eerie reminder of this, and it shows that Christians are oftentimes the first offenders of this golden rule. 

The challenge for all of us is to engage everyone we can, starting here at church. I have been fortunate to feel at home in the All Saints' community, so much that I want to come to church even when my dad isn't in town. I'm definitely not the only youth in the church who feels this way, and the program here has been great in getting us involved in the church, through choir, acolyting, J2A, and the YAC program. Through it, I've established a relationship with many of you in the church, and it's played a huge role in my development as a person. 

Still, if the youth program here is to continue to grow and thrive, it will because of you in the congregation. This is where my challenge from earlier comes in. When you see a middle or high school aged person in church, engage them. And that doesn't mean simply asking them where they are going to college. You might be surprised by how much that can make a high schooler feel at home. 

All Saints' has become a part of my identity. And the most important thing that I will take away from All Saints' is the power of engaging others. So the next time you see a homeless man on the street, a sad man sitting at the bar, or a teenager walking around the church, just... talk to them. It will make all the difference in their life, and your own.

Some Thoughts About Critics

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.' This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." (Acts 11:1-18)

"So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him."  We have a long history of criticizing one another in the church. This may be the first recorded incident among Christians.

In the Gospel for today, Jesus says: Love one another. This is how the world will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. He does not say: the world will know you are my disciples because you criticize one another. And yet we do criticize one another. A lot. And we do it for all the world to see.

I know and believe that there are times when we may need correction, and there are ways to correct and re-direct one another in love. I accept that this is a difficult and gray area. But the vast majority of the church fighting I see out there (both in parishes and on a much larger scale) is not correction in love. It's criticism in the "finding fault with" sense and even condemnation.

God is working in all of us. And sometimes in mysterious ways. Read again the story of Peter coming to understand the inclusion of the Gentiles in God's plan of salvation and note the role of the critics in the story. And then just go out there and love one another for the sake of the Gospel.

Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Morning Jazz

The Jeffrey Cox Quartet plays Robert Glasper's FTB. This is from the concert they played last fall. They're playing another concert tonight in the same venue... I hope I'll have some video of that concert soon.  Meanwhile, enjoy!

Thanks to Mike Holiman for the video.  Players are Andres Rovira (piano), Andrew Sommer (bass), Jordan Holiman (drums) and Jeffrey Cox (trumpet).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Afternoon Bird Photo: Cardinal Pair

Love birds.

Collect: For Those Who Live Alone

Almighty God, whose Son had nowhere to lay his head:
Grant that those who live alone may not be lonely in their
solitude, but that, following in his steps, they may find
fulfillment in loving you and their neighbors; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why I Love Mark

I know you're not supposed to have a favorite Gospel, but for a long time my favorite Gospel has been Mark. Sometimes Luke is my favorite for a while because of the wonderful Lukan stories and the role of women in many of the stories. And often John has been my favorite because of the delights and complexities found in its unique take on the Jesus story/event. But in the end I always go back to Mark. (Sorry, Matthew, but there are too many vipers in your version for you to ever be my favorite.)

Why Mark? First of all, Mark was written first. Second, despite some other stuff tacked on at the end at a later date, the original Mark ended with the women running away from the empty tomb after the angels told them Jesus was risen and wanted everyone to meet him in Galilee. They ran away and didn't tell anybody because they were terrified.  Oh, how I understand that.

Third, Mark is just breathless. Immediately Jesus did this and immediately Jesus went there and immediately.... Jesus is blowing through the countryside like a powerful, unstoppable force. It reminds me of those Old Testament passages describing sparks running through stubble.

Fourth, nobody - NOBODY! - understands Jesus in Mark. The first to recognize him are spirits. And only well into the story does Peter then at least partially recognize him. And at the end, a Gentile centurion recognizes him just after his death. The way Mark tells the story suggests that in fact nobody could possibly truly understand Jesus until after his resurrection. It was only then that he was completely Jesus, and so those who were with him were not simply bumbling but literally not able to see the whole Jesus because the whole Jesus wasn't available until he had been raised.

And so it was only looking back that it began to make sense. Mark begins with Isaiah's announcement of the forerunner and then moves directly to the story of the forerunner and then Jesus just appears and before we know it, he is gone, and the whole thing has been so strange. The women are afraid and they don't tell anybody because they have no way of understanding what has happened.

That's pretty much the way life is. Sometimes stuff happens and it's very intense and only after it is all over can we look back and say, oh! This is the place where God was. Here is how God was working in my life. I couldn't see it while I was in it, but looking back, I can. I can remember God's promises and I can see the traces of God's handiwork now.

And so this is why I love Mark's Gospel. It may have been written nearly two thousand years, ago, but I still relate to it now. It tells the story of God in our world the way I most often understand God in my world. A great mystery, a force, that I often only begin to understand later.

Happy St Mark's Day!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Harbor Seals

Harbor seals sunning and swimming in the Chespeake Bay.

Collect: In Times of Conflict

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Night Prayer

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.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were are, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(BCP 814: For Joy in God's Creation)

Visual Morning Prayer

.... for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel ....

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sheep or Shepherd?

Detail from a window at St Mark's Capitol Hill, Washington DC
There is one Shepherd, and we are all called to be one flock. The Good Shepherd knows his or her sheep by name, and the sheep know the sound of the shepherd's voice, and the shepherd loves the sheep and is willing to die for them.  These are things we are likely to hear on Good Shepherd Sunday.

And we are comforted by these words. This has been a week that has seen violence and disaster, loss of life through evil and through carelessness and through the forces of nature. Reciting the 23rd Psalm, we affirm that the Lord, who leads us to good pasture and fresh water and through the valley of the shadow of death, is our Good Shepherd.

But there is also a disconnect here, if we stay in the land of the Good Shepherd, of green pastures and valleys of shadows without seeing them present in our own lives and in our own communities.  The stories that have unfolded this week have intruded on our reveries.

And so while it is good to meditate on the Good Shepherd in the land of the 23rd Psalm, I can't help but think about the Good Shepherd on Boylston Street, the Good Shepherd at Rest Haven in West, Texas, the Good Shepherd in the Sichuan Province of China, of Syria, of India, of [insert place of brokenness here]. That Good Shepherd is surely our God, and the people of those places are the sheep loved by the Shepherd.

But we Christians know our God through the person of Jesus Christ, in whom God became incarnate - a human - and lived among us.  And that Good Shepherd Jesus admonished us to feed and love his sheep, to ourselves incarnate God's love for God's people here on earth.

And so we are called, too, to be Good Shepherd's of God's sheep everywhere we and they are.

Sometimes we are the sheep, when we are grieving and broken ourselves, but sometimes we are the shepherds, too.  And shepherds are called upon to take risks on behalf of the sheep who are in need or trouble and even in danger.

Today's newspapers have mentioned a police officer who brought milk to a family with a small child in Watertown during the lockdown. He provided sustenance in the face of fear and danger.

The death count in Texas is made up primarily of first responders who first rescued people from the nursing home nearby and were killed as they attempted to care other people in harm's way. They laid down their lives for the sheep.

Sometimes we are the shepherds, too. The Great Shepherd of the Sheep is Jesus, but we are called to feed his sheep. That makes us shepherds as well, serving in all places that are broken and hurting and in distress.

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Morning Music: Incarnational Inspiration

This young man, Colin Thurmond, is a doctoral student at New England Conservatory, which, like the rest of Boston, was on lockdown yesterday.  His response to the lockdown was to record a series of videos and post them on YouTube as a gift to the people of Boston.

This is incarnational ministry, as far as I am concerned. During a time when the brokenness of the world was just lying there gaping at us all, he offered the community a gift based on his own gift of music. What a graceful response to a terrible situation.

Here's a quote from the great conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein that's been going around lately:

“This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more beautifully,
more devotedly than ever before.”  

- Leonard Bernstein

And by the way, my own son the jazz trumpet player has decided to study at The New England Conservatory himself for the next four years. I know many of you have been following his musical career through the videos I've posted here. We are very proud of him and glad that he is joining such a wonderful community of artists.

Meanwhile, enjoy Colin Thurmond playing Por ti mi corazon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Committing Ourselves to Love (in the wake of the Boston bombs)

Today we are remembering Alphege, an 11th Century Archbishop of Canterbury and the first Archbishop of Canterbury to be martyred. 

Alphege was in office during a time when the Danes were overrunning England. He was captured and held for an exorbitant ransom. He knew that his people could not afford such a high cost to buy his freedom, and he refused to allow them to do so.  

The angry Danes ended up throwing things at him after a dinner party - bones, plates, perhaps even an animal head, and last of all an axe, which killed him.

What strikes me is not so much this saint's manner of life and death, interesting as they are, but the collect and scriptures assigned for todayThe collect speaks of violent death and refusal to give in to calls for extortion as well as a call to pattern ourselves after the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep.

We hear again today in the reading from Revelation these unforgettable lines: Who are these robed in white? They have come out of the great ordeal, and God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes.

And then there is the Gospel, in which Jesus reminds us that God knows even the number of hairs on our heads and that not even the sparrows are forgotten in God’s sight.

All of this is good to hear, I think, during a week in which we have witnessed more violent death in our world; we have seen another ordeal, which leaves us fearful and grieving.

Many of us can’t help but wish for vengeance in such a time as this. We can’t help but want punishment to be meted out to those who care so little for the value of human life, who destroy for the sake of destruction, who are trying to hold all of us captive to fear. We focus a great deal of energy on the perpetrator or perpetrators. That is a natural response to our pain and anger. We want to strike out at those who hurt us.

And yet, I invite us to consider another focus - a focus on God as our strong rock and our redeemer, who values us greatly and knows the number of hairs on our heads. I invite us to think about the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep and let that knowledge comfort us.

Jesus says, don’t fear those who kill the body. God will sort that out. Leave that alone and think instead about what it means to have a God who suffers with us, who suffers for us, who doesn’t abandon us in our own times of trial and tribulation.

Think about what kind of world God wants for us and think about the wiping away of tears and be glad for those who were able to be there in person to wipe away the blood and the tears, to hold people close, to attend to their needs.

We often get all caught up in things that are going on in our world through our heads. We think about things a lot. I know I do. I live in my head a lot. 

And so do my resentments and my indignation and my ideals. We can’t escape that, nor should we. We’re not everywhere, and we shouldn’t keep our heads in the sand, either.

But I think as Christians, it is also important to allow ourselves to focus on the incarnational aspect of what happens in the world. We all can’t be there. We want to do something but often we can’t.

But let us not let our frustrations keep us focused on our frustration and anger instead of looking for God moving among the wounded, counting the hairs on their heads, touching them, caring for them, wiping away their tears. 

When bad stuff happens, we need to look for God, to see what God is doing in the middle of it all, for God is always in the middle of the things that are so terribly broken. Not as a cause of them but as the one who is there, has been there, caring for the sheep, binding up the wounded, suffering and yet also deeply present, abiding.

God is there through the hands and feet of all sorts of people - doctors, nurses, police officers, fellow runners, family members, people who offered their homes and meals to the stranded. 

God is love. And there was a great outpouring of love in Boston on Monday as well as explosions of hate.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said this:  "When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.”

Let us commit ourselves to love. Let us not be the ones who shout ugly words of hatred. Let us be love, even through the great ordeal, even in the face of evil.

Pascha Nostrum

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he dies, he dies to sin, once for all; *
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead, *
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Romans 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Warbler glamour shot

This is a full view of the prothonotary warbler I posted yesterday.
I'd never seen one until last weekend. Cute, huh?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Looking for the Helpers

Something terrible has happened in Boston at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Nothing is clear about what has happened, or why, or who was involved.

I am reminded of the quote from Mr. Rogers who said that whenever you hear about scary things on the news, look for the helpers. You'll always find people who are helping.

And so, prayers for all who are injured, who are scared, and who are helping.

Visual Morning Prayer: Labyrinth

I invite your intercessions and thanksgivings......

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Gospel

After the resurrection, the disciples still didn't really know what to do. So they went back to their usual activity, their employment from before Jesus called them to follow him: fishing.

And into that everyday activity, Jesus appeared.

Jesus comes to us in our everyday activities and directs us and feeds us and welcomes us. Jesus invites us to share what we have to make the feast together.

And Jesus forgives. As they sit around the charcoal fire Jesus has lit to cook their breakfast over, Jesus asks Peter three times to affirm his love for Jesus. The last time Peter stood around a charcoal fire, he denied Jesus three times. Now he has been forgiven for each of those denials.

But there's more. Not only is Peter forgiven, but he is told to put his love for Jesus into action in the world. Feed Jesus' little ones, the sheep of the Good Shepherd, who the shepherd loves and has laid down his life for.

Jesus laid down his life for us and for all. He forgives us for our shortcomings and our sins. He bids those of us who have experienced his abundance to share what we have, to share that abundance, with one another, and to care for those who need our care.

This is how to follow Jesus. This is the Gospel. Thanks be to God.

Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Morning Video: Twisted 2-fer

Joni Mitchell sings "Twisted" at the 1979 Berkeley Jazz Festival with Herbie Hancock on piano, Jaco Pastorius on bass, Tony Williams on drums and Don Alias playing percussion.

I wish there were live footage to go with this song, which was written in 1952 by Annie Ross and was on Mitchell's 1974 album Court & Spark, which I played over and over until it was too scratchy to listen to any more.

On the other hand, here's a video of Annie Ross singing the song herself, accompanied by Count Basie on piano:


Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Afternoon Flower Photo (with bonus!)

After a very chilly spring, followed by several days of near-summer heat, the bees are out in force!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Collect for George Augustus Selwyn

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant George Augustus Selwyn, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand, and Melanesia, and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of your Church in many nations. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Read more about Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand and also Lichfield, here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: The Ibis Looks at You

This is a juvenile white ibis. The curved beak is great for poking into marsh mud and shallow water for crayfish and other delights.

Collect for William Law

O God, by whose grace your servant William Law, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and 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, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Read more about this 18th Century priest and writer (author of A Serious Call, which influenced the Wesleys, Gibbon, William Wilberforce, and other) here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday Afternoon Baby Duck Photo

This is one of last year's baby ducks.

I have hopes that we will have another batch of ducklings before too long...

The single female mallard who spent the winter at the pond alone after her mate died had a new companion spend the day with her on Sunday.  Here's hoping she'll soon be in the family way and her days of being alone will be over.

Collect for Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, you gave grace to your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and to teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him; Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive your word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Read more about this 20th Century theologian and martyr here.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Now the Day is Over....

night is drawing nigh.....

Collect for The Annunciation

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Doors Were Shut and Locked

The disciples locked themselves inside, out of fear, after the resurrection. Now we know where Peter and the others seemed to have gone after seeing the empty tomb. Now we know what they were up to while Jesus was talking with Mary Magdalene in the garden that day.

Mary was experiencing Jesus in person, face to face, even though it was all pretty much unbelievable. She had seen him die, she had seen him buried, and she had seen the empty tomb, and she had seen the angels. And then Jesus called her name and she saw him, too, alive but oh so very changed. He called her name and she knew him.

On the other hand, after finding the tomb empty, Peter and the other disciple went home. They missed the angels, and they missed Jesus in the garden. They apparently called a meeting. And they came together and the shut the doors and they locked them, because they were afraid after what they had seen and heard about the empty tomb.

Mary M must have come and found them at some point after her encounter with Jesus. That's what Jesus told her to do, to go and tell them, and she did. She told them: I have seen the Lord! And they didn't believe her.

It is fortunate for all of us that Jesus is not a respecter of closed meetings and locked rooms any more than he was a respecter of the tomb. And so he came in, despite their fear, and he breathed on them. He gave them new life. He showed them that Mary's tale was not idle, even if it was fantastic. Here he was in the flesh, living and breathing.  Breathing. And he breathed on them, and they received new life.

It is often tempting to close off the self and lock the doors to just hunker down and hope to endure, especially in the face of what looks like failure. We do it in our grief and sorrow, in our disappointment, in our disillusion, in our shame.

But as the Psalm (139) says, where can I go that you will not be there, O Lord?

And anyway, we can close off if we want to, but even so, Jesus will still come in and give us new life.  And not just any old new life, but a new life of abundance.

We don't have to make it easy for Jesus to show up in our lives. But we might consider making it easier for ourselves by not locking ourselves away in the first place just because we are afraid.

Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter

The Font in the Chapel at Grace Church, Kilmarnock VA

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Morning Movie: Springtime!

This past week I saw my first bluebird of the spring. It struck a classic pose on a tree branch with a worm dangling from its beak.

And here is Simon's Cat, hoping to find his first bluebird of the spring, too. Enjoy!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Afternoon Flower Photo

Lady Banks Rose.

I took this photo on this date last year. The bush was in full bloom. It was glorious.

This year, it hasn't even started blooming. We are definitely having a late spring!

Happy Friday!

Collect for Friday in Easter Week

Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Remembering Baptism

I don't know the date of my baptism, although I am sure I have the certificate somewhere.

I was baptized in one of those pools behind the pulpit in a Southern Baptist Church when I was about nine. That baptismal pool is actually a lot more like what one would have found in an ancient baptistry than these little ornate fonts many of us have in our Episcopal churches.

I remember that I wore a white robe of some kind. I was admonished to wear some kind of slip underneath. And I remember that I accidentally stepped on the pastor's bare toes with my bare toes and it was a very "ewww" kind of moment for me. I remember that although we claimed baptism to be a free choice we made (as opposed to the practice of infant baptism), in truth, I felt a lot of pressure that year from the adults around me to "make my decision" and answer the altar call at a revival service.

Still, I am glad that I have a memory of being baptized, and not just the yucky part about the pastor's toes.

I was reminded of all of that this past Easter Vigil, at which I baptized one of our teens. Her family preferred not to do infant baptism, and so we did some preparation work together over the past weeks to get ready. She spoke for herself and did not need to rely on the BCP for her renunciations and affirmations as many of the adult parents and godparents do at most of the infant baptisms we do. It was a completely joyful experience, for her, for me, for her family, and for the whole congregation.

And yet, I love infant baptism as well. Surrounding a tiny child with prayers and water and oil and candlelight and marking them as Christ's own forever is also a completely joyful experience for everyone.

For me, it's a both-and situation. We still baptize older children and teens and adults, for many reasons. And we baptize infants for many reasons. They're all good reasons, for the most part.

I'm glad to be part of a tradition that is not rigid about any of this. Baptism is at the core of who we say we are, but the details about how and when we do it are not set in stone (except using the words, of course: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit). Yes, we do it in community and not privately. Yes, we do it on certain traditional feast days if possible (and not during Lent). Yes, we follow the liturgy. But we don't have to prove something about ourselves over it.

And so I give thanks for the waters of baptism, wherever they flow.

Collect for Thursday in Easter Week

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: The Gannet

This is the Northern Gannet, a North Atlantic seabird that winters here in Virginia.  I love their coloring - the feet (which you can't see here) are green, veined with black. They have blue eyes. And their heads are brushed with yellow. Underneath that yellow is a layer of fat that enables them to dive into the very cold ocean at high speeds to catch the fish that make up most of their diet. (They eat the fish underwater, too.)

Another of God's spectacular creatures.

Collect for Wednesday in Easter Week

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

50 Days of Fabulous!

So, did you have a Lenten Discipline this year? Did you at least think about the fact that it was Lent several times a week?  Why is it that we attend to Lent, walking through it day by day and week by week and then when Easter arrives, put on a nice outfit, eat some chocolate, go out for brunch and call it a day?

Easter is, in fact, fifty days. It's a whole season during which we rejoice because of God's awesome power that is manifested in the resurrection. So if Easter is the most significant time in the life of the church, why don't we try to walk through that season too, day by day and week by week, practicing resurrection?

Because for most of us, practicing joy is harder than practicing a particular, identified Lenten discipline.

But! Help is on the way.  Some of the gang who brought you Lent Madness, including host Forward Movement, plus some other fabulous churchy types, have gotten together to walk with you through the Great Fifty Days!  Each day, you'll find something to look at or read, a reflection, and an idea about how you might practice resurrection for that day (or for many days in the Easter season).

Visit the site daily at and leave a comment if you are so moved. We sincerely hope that you have a fabulous Easter season!


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