Monday, March 31, 2014

Collect for Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent

  1. O Lord our God, in your holy Sacraments you have given us a foretaste of the good things of your kingdom: Direct us, we pray, in the way that leads to eternal life, that we may come to appear before you in that place of light where you dwell for ever with your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Today's Gospel reading from John is that rather funny/sad story about the blind man healed by Jesus and the furor created by the healing. The Pharisees are blind to the miracle because they have focused on the law (no working on the Sabbath, you!). The parents are blind to the joy they should feel at the healing of their son because they are worried about being put out of the synagogue (we don't know how this happened so you need to ask our son!).

The son has a sly sense of humor (Why do you keep asking me about this over and over again? You must really love this story! Do you want to become Jesus's disciples?).

Jesus kept getting in trouble for working on the Sabbath.

He can't be doing a good thing if he's working on the Sabbath! He could just heal people on other days! Someone who has been blind all his life could wait another day! Come on, Jesus, rules are rules!

I love this story. It gives me so much to think about. How do I observe the Sabbath? How SHOULD I observe the Sabbath? What rules do/should I follow?

Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Afternoon Confession

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Collect for Friday in the Third Week of Lent

  1. Grant us, O Lord our Strength, a true love of your holy Name; so that, trusting in your grace, we may fear no earthly evil, nor fix our hearts on earthly goods, but may rejoice in your full salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014


I went out for a walk today with two old friends. We are all busy cleaning out closets these days. One because she is newly retired, one because she went through so much with her mother downsizing that she just wants to be rid of stuff, and one (me) because she is in the preparation stages of selling a house.

Part of our walk included exclaiming over the redbud trees in full bloom or the large number of bluebirds flying around (that was me: Look! A bird!).  Another part was the supposed systematic catching up conversation that was anything but systematic (for one thing, Look! A bird! and for another thing no conversation among the three of us has ever been systematic). After several pretty cool days, things are warming up here and the sunshine and flowers and birds made a great backdrop.

Spring is a great season. We see the earth putting on her colors and the brown and dead parts melting away. We love the warmth and the birdsong. It reminded me again that we all need to sport our new growth and give it some TLC and appreciation.

I am excited about the new life I am beginning over the next few weeks. Spring seems just the right time to start. I'm looking forward to sporting some new colors and feeling myself grow.

Collect for Thursday in the Third Week of Lent

  1. Keep watch over your Church, O Lord, with your unfailing love; and, since it is grounded in human weakness and cannot maintain itself without your aid, protect it from all danger, and keep it in the way of salvation; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Spring!

Atlanta is always very beautiful in the spring!

It's cold, but beautiful!

Collect for Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

  1. Give ear to our prayers, O Lord, and direct the way of your servants in safety under your protection, that, amid all the changes of our earthly pilgrimage, we may be guarded by your mighty aid; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Collect for Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

  1. O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom you have given a fervent desire to pray, may, by your mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Now the Day is Over.....

.... night is drawing nigh.

Collect for Monday in the Third Week of Lent

  1. Look upon the heart-felt desires of your humble servants, Almighty God, and stretch forth the right hand of your majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Leaving Your Water Jar

The readings for the Third Sunday of Lent Year A.


So Jesus went to Samaria and sat down at Jacob’s Well. 
In fact, not only did he happen to go to Samaria, but the verse before the beginning of today’s reading says that Jesus HAD to go to Samaria.

Jesus in the Gospel of John always knows what’s going on - what’s going to happen and what people are thinking and who they really are. So there must have been a reason why he HAD to go to Samaria and sit down at Jacob’s well.

And he did have a reason. It wasn’t about geography, either. He went to have an encounter with a woman who belonged to a group of people who were not friendly with Jews. The Samaritans, also Abrahamic people, had theological differences with Jews, a falling out that went back hundreds of years, after the return of the Exiles from Babylon, over where the proper place of the worship of God was supposed to be.

Jesus didn’t have to go to Samaria and meet a woman at Jacob’s well in order to end a theological fight, however.  He went - he had to go - because there was someone there who needed him.

In our history as Christians, the woman in this story has often been cast as a sinner. Just like the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at a dinner, like Mary Magdalene the apostle to the apostles. These characterizations have been repeated and stuck, unexamined. 

But nowhere does Jesus call this woman a sinner; nowhere does the author of the Gospel of John call her anything but a Samaritan woman, and that was bad enough. She was a member of the enemy tribe. She is not Elizabeth Taylor minus three. Women in first Century Palestine were the property of men who could abandon them for any reason. She could have been in a Levirate marriage. She may have been repeatedly widowed - life expectancy in those times was hardly what it is now. She may have been abandoned and then picked up by someone who was willing to take her in but not to marry her. Women didn’t always get to choose where they lived or with whom. 

The point is, this woman was not a wanton sensualist. She was trapped, and perhaps victimized, by her circumstances just as was the woman with the issue of blood and the man who was born blind. We don’t know the specifics of her story and we don’t have to know, but Jesus does. And he HAS to go and meet her.

He has to go meet her in the brightest lightest part of the day and show her that he knows her, he understands her, that he accepts her, even though she is from a hated group, that he wants her to experience God so that she can be transformed, set free, and become who she was made to be. 

A few weeks ago, we heard the story of the calling of the first disciples and how Jesus asked them to come and see and how they then began to bring others to Jesus by inviting them to come and see, too. 

Now we see this woman doing the same. After her encounter with the living God,  (I am! he says to her - the first time Jesus identifies himself as God, I AM, in this Gospel), she becomes an evangelist. She invites others to come and see this man who has changed her life by treating her with dignity. She’s not a sinner, at least not any more of a sinner than I am or you are. 

She is an evangelist.

And so this story is not about morality. It is about identity. The woman leaves behind her water jar, and invites everyone she knows to come and see Jesus.  She is no longer a victim, she is no longer in bondage to whatever it is that has put her in her situation. She is transformed and she invites others to experience Jesus for themselves so that they can be transformed, too.

Not quite the same as the experience Jesus had last week with Nicodemus, in the dark.

Jesus says, I will give you living water and it will become IN YOU a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. And she leaves her water jar, her ordinary duties, her chores, trappings of her old identity, behind, because she doesn't need a water jar for living water, and goes out with joy and excitement to invite others to come and see.

What if you felt that Jesus really knew you and didn’t judge you? What if you came to see that Jesus asks you to tell your story of transformation? What would you be able to - or maybe have to - leave behind because you don't need it to get what you really want, and go out with joy to become an evangelist, to invite others by your words and deeds to come and see, to come and experience unconditional love, acceptance, dignity for themselves? What could you leave behind?

Would it be anger? Moralism? Arrogance? Self-hatred? Would it be a bunch of “supposed to’s” and “shoulds?” Would it be fear?

And what kind of church must we be so that others can experience unconditional love, acceptance, and dignity here? Is the Lord among us or not?

Can we tap into that living water that gushes up IN US into eternal life and offer it to those who are not only thirsty but who are yearning for a new identity while being trapped by their circumstances, who are wandering in their own wildernesses for whatever reasons, reasons that we do not have to judge? What would we as a church need to leave behind so that we could transcend our own circumstances and live into our identity as a faithful witness to the one who made us, who sustains us, who has redeemed us with his very life?

Can we accept that water when it is offered to us?

It is not easy to let go of the stuff that traps us and keeps us from being fully alive, which is, according to Irenaeus, the glory of God, a human being fully alive. 

And here is my testimony. I know I spent fifteen years away from organized religion because I needed to hang on to my bad experience of the church during the Civil Rights era. I hung on to that experience and let my anger about it simmer because it distracted me from something far worse, my own self-identity as someone who was unworthy and unlovable by God.

But somehow I got found and I did come and see and I got a taste of that living water and it did gush up in me - so much that it came out of my eyes in the form of tears of grief and relief and gratitude.  I experienced a new identity as someone who is beloved, no strings attached, no transaction necessary. 

And it was the church and the people in the church who invited me and accepted me, who healed me of my anger at the church and at the people of the church and at God.

God loves you. God loves you so much that God HAD to come to you, HAD to come to us, to set us free so that we can be fully alive. 

Thanks be to God!

Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday Morning Music Video: In time of daffodils

(reposting this from last year)

From a poem by e.e. cummings

in time of daffodils (who know

in time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remembering how
in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so (forgetting seem)
in time of roses (who amaze
our now and here with praise)
forgetting if, remember yes
in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek (forgetting find)
and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me

Music by Steven Sametz, director of Lehigh University's choral arts program

Sung by Chanticleer.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Afternoon Beach Break

Common tern does her best Marilyn Monroe impersonation.

Happy Friday to you. May it truly be Spring where you are!

Collect for Friday in the Second Week of Lent

  1. Grant, O Lord, that as your Son Jesus Christ prayed for his enemies on the cross, so we may have grace to forgive those who wrongfully or scornfully use us, that we ourselves may be able to receive your forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday Afternoon First Day of Spring Bird Photo

A sanderling sticks the landing.

Thank you, God, for the birds and the ocean and thanks for making Spring!

Collect for Thursday in the Second Week of Lent

  1. O Lord, strong and mighty, Lord of hosts and King of glory: Cleanse our hearts from sin, keep our hands pure, and turn our minds from what is passing away; so that at the last we may stand in your holy place and receive your blessing; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Family Time

A little duck looks to its mama. 
They look serene, but you can see from their wake that they are paddling like mad. 

Collect for Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent

  1. O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only- begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven: Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Morning Bird Photo

This is a northern gannet, a seabird, and a visitor to Virginia in the wintertime. In the summer these birds live off the coast of Canada (and I believe there are populations in France, Ireland, and Norway as well). They have a big fat deposit on those yellow heads and are great divers, plunging headlong into the ocean from a height as much as 130 feet in search of fish and squid.  

The gannets are still in Virginia (at least there were plenty of them when I was at the beach last Saturday) but soon they'll head back north for the spring and summer. I love their coloring (you can't see the feet, but they are green veined with black - very dramatic).

I was happy to get this shot of a northern gannet motoring along in the surf fairly close to shore - they tend to stay farther out in the water usually. Their feathers are waterproof. 

I think I love seabirds because they seem to be able to live without territory, without having to mark out a place on land. Obviously they need land for their nests, but otherwise, they are ocean-going all the time.  I wonder what it would be like to live without having to mark my territory.

Collect for Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent

  1. O God, you willed to redeem us from all iniquity by your Son: Deliver us when we are tempted to regard sin without abhorrence, and let the virtue of his passion come between us and our mortal enemy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Collect for Monday in the Second Week of Lent

  1. Let your Spirit, O Lord, come into the midst of us to wash us with the pure water of repentance, and prepare us to be always a living sacrifice to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Morning Music for Lent: Agnus Dei (Barber)

The Choir of New College, Oxford, Directed by Edward Higginbottom sings Samuel Barber's Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

Friday, March 14, 2014


(This post first appeared in Forward Movement's 2014 daybook Seeking God Day by Day.)

I saw a nifty photo on Facebook - a person holding up a hand-lettered sign that simply shad, "Be Awesome."

"Yeah!" I thought as soon as I saw it. "I want to be awesome! I'm going to be awesome today!"

It didn't take five minutes, though, for the self-doubt to set in. I'm not awesome. In fact, I'm incredibly flawed. I get so much wrong, every day, in my thoughts, words, and deeds. I am so not awesome.

And so once again I fall into the abyss of perfectionism.  Because I am not perfect, I am unworthy. I can't be awesome because I am not perfect. It's all-or-nothing thinking, which is paralyzing and stunting. If I don't do anything, then I won't mess up.

Awesome is not the same as perfect, though. No human is perfect; every human makes mistakes. So by my self-doubting calculation, nobody can be awesome.

Perfectionism is a terrible thing.  Every day we have a hundred chances to do the right thing and to be awesome in some (even if little) way. If life were baseball, and we did three or so things right and almost seven things wrong, we'd qualify for the Hall of Fame. Baseball players and fans know this and rejoice. The perfectionist, however, cannot ever be happy. What about those seven swings and miss? Those seven dropped balls? Those seven fly outs?

"Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect," says Matthew (5:48). Right. But maybe this would be more helpful: "Be awesome as your Father in heaven is awesome." If perfect trips you up, then lose it from your vocabulary.

Forget perfect, and just go out there and be awesome today.

Collect for Friday in the First Week of Lent

  1. Lord Christ, our eternal Redeemer, grant us such fellowship in your sufferings, that, filled with your Holy Spirit, we may subdue the flesh to the spirit, and the spirit to you, and at the last attain to the glory of your resurrection; who lives and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014


In place of a Lenten reflection today, I want to share the news that I have accepted a call to join the clergy staff of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. Here is a photo of the front quarter of the nave bedecked with candles for the weekly Celtic Eucharist on Sunday evenings. I have attended this service a few times in the past with clergy friends (like my friend Robin, foreground).

My heart is very full. I have so enjoyed my time at historic Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, and I will miss the wonderful people and the community. At the same time, I am thrilled to be joining this vibrant, big, busy, beautiful community of St. Stephen's. You'll be hearing more about this place in the future, I know, but for now, here's a link to their website.

My time at Bruton is drawing to a close. March 23 is my last day. I begin at St. Stephen's in early April after taking a couple of weeks off to savor life and get a thing or two done.

As Helen Keller said, life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Here's to the adventure.

Collect for Thursday in the First Week of Lent

  1. Strengthen us, O Lord, by your grace, that in your might we may overcome all spiritual enemies, and with pure hearts serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Portrait

This is a male hooded merganser, a winter visitor to our area. He's very shy, but I was able to get a few photos from behind a tree. Love his markings!

Collect for Wednesday in the First Week of Lent

  1. Bless us, O God, in this holy season, in which our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photo

A sparrow on the house top, singing the song of her people.

Collect for Tuesday in the First Week of Lent

  1. Grant to your people, Lord, grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only true God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

All About Me?

As we read Morning Prayer today, particularly the reading from the beginning of First Corinthians , I was reminded of the tension between the individual and the whole body of Christ, a tension that can be pronounced during Lent. On the one hand, we have communal practices, which show up in our liturgy (the music selection, veiling of ornamental objects, refraining from "alleluias" and the like), and on the other hand we have individual practices (what we may choose to "give up" or "take on" or other forms of individual piety).

This tension has existed for a long time in the church - think about the notion of "personal savior" and individual salvation in addition to the Biblical stories about the whole people of Israel as the chosen people and membership in the tribes trumping (or at being least a major part of) any individual identity. Think about Jesus incorporating "the Gentiles" into his ministry and yet also the stories about individuals within those larger groups.

Paul was reminding the Corinthians, who possessed powerful spiritual gifts, that they were still part of a much larger body than just themselves. They were splitting the body - and in fact, not only were they not connected to the other Christian communities around them but they were splitting themselves into even smaller factions within their own community.

You can always tell what Paul is going to be up to in his letters by reading the greeting. You see that immediately in this letter: he describes the Corinthians as those who are to be called "the saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours." In other words, you're not just the Corinthian Church. You are also part of the whole Body of Christ.

So, we observe Lent (and indeed, all of the seasons of the church) both as individuals and as a body. We have individual practices and communal practices. Paul reminds us not to let our individuality overwhelm our corporate identity as members of a larger body, the Body of Christ.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Collect for Monday in the First Week of Lent

  1. Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully increase in us your gifts of holy discipline, in almsgiving, prayer, and fasting; that our lives may be directed to the fulfilling of your most gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Why I Love the Great Litany

(This is a repost from last year.)

On the first Sunday of Lent, we traditionally process solemnly around the church behind the cross while a cantor (and I've been the cantor a couple of times) chants The Great Litany and we the people chant our own responses.

Not everyone likes the Great Litany.  I know folks who find excuses to stay away from church on the First Sunday of Lent because of it.  (Oh, God, it's the Great Litany again.  Time to go to the beach or skiing on Spring Break.  Or time to forget to set my clock so I'll accidentally on purpose miss church!)  I know folks who dislike the idea of calling ourselves sinners in such dramatic and pointed fashion.  They say it makes the world sound bad and there's too much stuff about demons and all.

In the Great Litany, the cantor calls upon the triune God to overlook our sins and offenses and to save us from all of the things that beset us, from fire and pestilence to pride and envy to violence and sudden death.  Our responses to those petitions are "Have mercy upon us" and "Good Lord, deliver us."  The cantor goes on to beseech God to end wars and bring peace, to bless women in childbirth, to inspire us to work for the common good, to not only forgive but turn the hearts of our enemies.  (And we respond, "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.")

Despite all the "good Lords" that can easily be heard as an ejaculation of shock or surprise ("Good Lord, man, what have you done?!"), the Great Litany more than anything reminds us all that God is good, that God wants for there to be peace, for people to be safe, for the earth to be cared for and for people to forgive one another.  These are all positives.

But more than that, in this lengthy prayer we bring everything and every kind of thing before God - natural disasters, spiritual forces, community issues, relational issues, justice, caring, kindness, forgiveness, family, babies, people who are lonely - all of the things that are (and are often broken) before God and say, this is all in your hands, God.  We cannot save ourselves.  We cannot save ourselves from flood or famine or from our own hardheartedness, from our own physical frailty, from our own imprisonment by all sorts of captors.  We acknowledge that today on this first Sunday of Lent, that we cannot save ourselves and that we can't compartmentalize our lives so that some of it has to do with our faith and our salvation while other parts of it don't.

This is not a popular idea, especially in American culture in which we extoll those who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, where we believe that if one just works harder and tries harder, one can overcome just about anything.  (And frequently without any help.)  The Lone Ranger, the self-sufficient pioneer, the romantic man in his cabin in the woods - these are our heroes.  But the Great Litany says, we cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we acknowledge our dependence upon God's grace and bounty (which is plenteous, for this is the Good Lord who delivers us).

I need to hear this every year.  I need to walk around the church saying this out loud in front of God and everybody.  I need to hear that it's not all up to me, that I am not God, that I don't have to do it all myself.  I need to remember that my whole life, not just some parts of it, is bound up in God's life.

And so, this is why I love the Great Litany.


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