A Lament for Today Feb 13, 2021

for Harley

“I find the difference between Black and White Evangelicals to be interesting. White Evangelicals tend to think in catastrophic terms when they think about Biden. Less so for Black Evangelicals. Indeed, the White-Black differences stand out in many ways. I am led to think that the crucial factor is not Evangelical but rather it is White. Note that the same difference is found with Black and White Catholics. Is the famous loyalty of White Evangelicals (and in general White Christians) all more about race than religion? I think so.

The bottom line: racism has permeated American Christianity to an appalling degree. This is no surprise, given our history, but it is very demoralizing. As Christians, we are supposed to be redeemed and transformed people. Is our faith really just “skin deep.” Are our faith statements empty platitudes? 

Where do we go from here?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Prelude:                                  Everything Must Change – words & music Bernard Ighner

Address to God        O Holy One, God of Everyone,

                                    God known, unknown, recognized, ignored, denied

                                    You are still our Emmanuel,

                                    God with All of us,

                                    alike, unlike, disliked,

                                    our God,

                                    the only One there is.

Complaint                  “Where do we go from here?”

                                    Like Jonah,

                                    we are called to go where we do not want to go

                                    called to do things we don’t want to do

                                    asked to love people we don’t know, don’t understand, or like,

                                    and disturbed by minds that do not change,

                                    and those that do,

                                    apparently, Including YOURS!

                                    We are upset, outraged, sad, angry, afraid, confused, and                                                     overwhelmed

                                    with longing for something we can’t find or name!

Petition                       God of Everyone, do something,

                                    please, do something!

                                    We cry out to you from deep trouble,

                                    this is our belly prayer:

                                    We need, want, long, desire…

                                    to be restored, repaired, and reunited

                                    with You,

                                    with the Creation,

                                    with each other,

                                    with ourselves.                                         

A Song:                      Sometimes I feel like a motherless child

Affirmation of Trust    Holy One for everybody,

                                    we’ve heard the stories

                                    the one about being vomited up by a great fish

                                    about walking on water

                                    about bringing new life to what was thought to be dead.

                                    Do that, again, please.

                                    Do that again,

                                    and this time,

                                    with us.

                                    Our faith is so off and on,

                                    so up and down.

                                    This time,

                                    may we wait for you

                                    with patience

                                    and hope.

Vow of Praise:           So much is still broken,

                                    in disarray, at odds,

                                    not at all right,

                                    divided.

                                    But we won’t wait

                                    until the day when it’s not.

                                    Even now,

                                    when our hope is wobbly,

                                    we will continue

                                    to notice even the smallest

                                    drops and rejoice

                                    in you,

                                    our God of Everyone.

A Song:          When Jesus Wept, William Billings (1746-1800),                     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahRyAZZ1qCQ

            When Jesus wept, the falling tear In mercy flowed beyond all bound;
            When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear, Seized all the guilty world around.

Vow or Blessing:        Blessed are those who are sad,

                                   afraid, distressed, longing, & mad–

                                    for they shall comfort each other,

                                    and be comforted by you,

                                    the God of Everyone. Amen.

Postlude:        Lift every Voice and Sing,   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGaEV_ir3KQ

                      James Weldon Johnson, & J. Rosamond Johnson (brothers)

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won

Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast

God of our weary years
God of our silent tears


Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee

Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Our native land

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Advent 3B Prayers

OPENING PRAYER: Hymn #69 Carol Christopher Drake, (b. 1933), alt.

1. What is the crying at Jordan?

Who hears, O God, the prophecy?

Dark is the season, dark our hearts

and shut to mystery.

2. Who then shall stir in this darkness,

prepare for joy in the winter night?

Mortal in darkness we lie down

blind-hearted, seeing no light.

3. Lord, give us grace to awake us,

to see the branch that begins to bloom;

in great humility is hid all heaven

in a little room.

4. Now comes the day of salvation,

in joy and terror the Word is born!

God gives himself into our lives;

O let salvation dawn!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib44LWGJJCM (The Miserable Offenders)

CLOSING PRAYER:

Holy One, who comes to us

in a season of captivity;

May we not brush off your messages

of comfort for broken hearts,

prisoners, and ALL who mourn.

May we receive and send

messages of joy instead of doom.

May our spirits, souls, and bodies

be kept in your comfort

and used to make new

the rubble left behind

from these difficult days.

Then, may our hearts overflow with joy

As we recognize you in our midst. Amen.

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Advent… waiting for hope

ADVENT 3B Reading and Reflection

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11  +  Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46b-55  + 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24   + John 1:6-8, 19-28 

 A Comment: These readings all come out of various times and places — both Old and New Testament– with strong points of view to acknowledge what is wrong in the world, yet continue to see and hear Light, hope, and a future that is transformed rather than overwhelmed by grief, fear, and anger.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  1. From any one or all five of these readings, which 1-2 sentences best describe how you are in this second week of Advent?
  2. Which aspects of the many problems described are of greatest concern to you now?
  3. Select one of those many problems and then use one of the readings as a pattern for a strategy of Divine-human collaboration for responding to that problem.
  4. What do these readings have to do with Advent? Who is coming? When?

Why? Who are you waiting for?

  • What kind of assistance do you need this week, and where do you find it here?
  • What questions continue to weigh upon your heart and mind?
  • To what is God calling you within these readings?
  • What is your prayer for this week?

Isaiah 1 1-4 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.

He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,

Announce freedom to all captives,

    pardon all prisoners.

God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—

    and to comfort all who mourn,

To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,  give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,

Messages of joy instead of news of doom,

    a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.

Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”

    planted by God to display his glory.

They’ll rebuild the old ruins,

    raise a new city out of the wreckage.

They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.

 You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,

    you’ll bask in their glory.

Because you got a double dose of trouble

    and more than your share of contempt,

Your inheritance in the land will be doubled

    and your joy go on forever.

1: 8-11 “Because I, God, love fair dealing I will sing for joy in God,

    explode in praise from deep in my soul!

God dressed me up in a suit of salvation,

and outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo

    and a bride a jeweled tiara.

For as the earth bursts w/ spring wildflowers,

    and as a garden cascades with blossoms,

So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom and puts praise on display before the nations

Luke 1:46-55  J.B. Phillips New Testament

46-55 Then Mary said, “My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord,

my soul is full of joy in God my Savior.

For he has deigned to notice me, his humble servant and,

after this, all the people who ever shall be will call me the happiest of women!

The one who can do all things has done great things for me—

oh, holy is his Name!

Truly, his mercy rests on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm, he has swept away the high and mighty.

He has set kings down from their thrones and lifted up the humble.

He has satisfied the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away with empty hands.

Yes, he has helped Israel, his child:

he has remembered the mercy that he promised to our forefathers,

to Abraham and his sons for evermore!”

Psalm 126    In convertendo

1 When God restored the fortunes of Zion, *

    then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *

    and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations, *

    “God has done great things for them.”

4 God has done great things for us, *

    and we are glad indeed.  

5 Restore our fortunes, O God, *

    like the watercourses of the Negev.  

6 Those who sowed with tears *

    will reap with songs of joy.  

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *

 will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24  Common English Bible

16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. 24 The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.

John 1:6-8, 19-28  The Message

6-8 There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

19-20 When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest. He didn’t evade the question. He told the plain truth: “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They pressed him, “Who, then? Elijah?”

            “I am not.”

            “The Prophet?”            “No.”

22 Exasperated, they said, “Who, then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something—anything!—about yourself.”

23 “I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.”

24-25 Those sent to question him were from the Pharisee party. Now they had a question of their own: “If you’re neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, why do you baptize?”

26-27 John answered, “I only baptize using water. A person you don’t recognize has taken his stand in your midst. He comes after me, but he is not in second place to me. I’m not even worthy to hold his coat for him.”

28 These conversations took place in Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing at the time.

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Reflections on the 2nd Sunday of Advent 2020 —

Reading to Survive

Advent 2B Isaiah 40:1-11  •  Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13  •  2 Peter 3:8-15a   •  Mark 1:1-8

Advent is much more than a time of getting ready for Christmas. In a way, Advent isn’t  about Christmas (the 1st coming), so much as it is a time of awakening to what Christmas means within the big picture of life and how it is connected to Easter, (the 2nd coming). So now that this heavens and this earth are clearly in trouble, we are invited to   to listen with our hearts to announcements of comfort in bumpy places, visions of mercy and truth meeting, righteousness and peace kissing, and care for nursing mothers.  

Reflection Questions:

  1. Which 1-2 sentences here best capture how you are this week at the beginning of Advent, a new church year, in the midst of difficult days?
  2. What is the overall direction of these Advent texts? Where do they point? Why?
  3. How do the “comfort and tenderness” fit into a setting of distress, bumpy roads, withered grass, and faded flowers?
  4. Where do you see righteousness and truth kissing?
  5. Rather than being a cause to give up, the 2 Peter reading considers the coming of the “day of God” to be the basis for holy living and a sign of God’s patience. What do you make of all of that?
  6. 6How are you helped through this week by these readings?
  7. To what is God calling you in these readings?
  8. What is your prayer for this week?

Opening Prayer:  Hymnal # 67 Comfort, comfort ye my people Johann G. Olearius (1611-1684), trans. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

Comfort, comfort ye My people, Speak ye peace, thus saith our God; Comfort those who sit in darkness, Mourning ’neath their sorrow’s load; Speak ye to Jerusalem Of the peace that waits for them; Tell her that her sins I cover, And her warfare now is over.

Hark, the voice of one that crieth In the desert far and near, Calling us to new repentance, Since the kingdom now is here. Oh, that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God a way! Let the valleys rise to meet him, And the hills bow down to greet him.

Make ye straight what long was crooked, Make the rougher places plain: Let your hearts be true and humble, As fits God’s holy reign, For the glory of the Lord Now o’er the earth is shed abroad, And all flesh shall see the token That the word is never broken.

Closing Prayer:

Holy One, as we “sit in darkness mourning ‘neath our sorrow’s load”, or sometimes missing the marks you’ve set before us, you speak tenderly to comfort us. You hold out images of Repair and Hope —             mercy and truth meeting,             righteousness and peace kissing, and bid us to help you prepare the Way for the New Heaven and the New Earth.  Amen.          

 .

Isaiah 40:1-11  Jewish Publication Society

Comfort, oh comfort My people!

    says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

        and declare to her

that her term of service has ended,

that her penalty has been paid, (her iniquity is expiated).

For she has received from the Lord’s hand

double for all her sins!

3 A voice rings out:

“Clear in the desert!

A road for our God!

Level in the wilderness

A highway for our God!

4 Let every valley will be raised,

Every mountain and hill be made low.

Let the rough ground become level,

And the ridges become a plain.

5 The Presence of God shall appear,

And all humanity, as one,  shall behold —

For God himself has spoken.”

6 A voice rings out: “Proclaim!”

Another asks, “What shall I proclaim?”

All flesh is grass;

All its goodness is like the flowers of the field:

7 Grass withers, flowers fade

When the breath of God blows on them.

Indeed, people are but grass.

8 Grass withers, flowers fade–

 But the word of our God’s is always fulfilled.

9 Ascend on a lofty mountain,

O herald of joy to Zion!

Raise your voice with power,

O herald of joy to Jerusalem–

Raise it; have no fear;

Announce to the cities of Judah,

    “Behold your God!”

10 Behold, the Lord God comes in might,

And his arm wins triumph for him.

See, his reward is with him

His recompense before him.

11 Like a shepherd, God pastures His flock;

Gathers the lambs in his arms

And carries them in his bosom;

Gently, Gods guides the nursing ewes.

 (mother sheep)

Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13    

1          You have been gracious to your land, O God, *

    you have restored the good fortune of Jacob. 

2          You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *

    and blotted out all their sins.

8          I will listen to what you are saying, *

    for you are speaking peace to your faithful people

    and to those who turn their hearts to you.

9          Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you, *

    that your glory may dwell in our land. 

10        Mercy and truth have met together; *

    righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 

11        Truth shall spring up from the earth, *

    and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 

12        You, O God, will indeed grant prosperity, *

    and our land will yield its increase.

 13       Righteousness shall go before you, *

    and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.

2 Peter 3:8-16      J.B. Phillips New Testament (adapted)

8-10 But you should never lose sight of this fact, dear friends, that time is not the same with God as it is with us—to God a day may be a thousand years, and a thousand years only a day. It is not that the Holy One is dilatory about keeping his own promise as some seem to think; the fact is that God is very patient towards you. The Holy One has no wish that anyone should be destroyed. God wishes that all people should come to repent. Yet, it remains true that the day of the Lord will come as suddenly and unexpectedly as a thief. In that day, the heavens will disappear in a terrific tearing blast, the very elements will disintegrate in heat and the earth and all that is in it will be burnt up to nothing.

11-13 In view of the fact that all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be? Surely people of good and holy character, who live expecting and earnestly longing for the coming of the day of God. True, this day will mean that the heavens will disappear in fire and the elements disintegrate in fearful heat, but our hopes are set not on these but on the new Heaven and the new earth which God has promised us, and in which nothing but good shall live.

14-15a Because, my dear friends, you have a hope like this before you, I urge you to make certain that such a day would find you at peace with God and one-another, clean and blameless in God’s sight. Meanwhile, consider that God’s patience is meant to be our salvation, …

Mark 1:1-8

1 Principio del evangelio de Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios[a].

2 Como está escrito en el profeta Isaías:

He aquí, yo envío mi mensajero delante de tu faz,

el cual preparará tu camino.

3 Voz del que clama en el desierto:

«Preparad el camino del Señor,

haced derechas sus sendas».

4 Juan el Bautista apareció en el desierto predicando el bautismo de arrepentimiento para el perdón de pecados. 5 Y acudía a él toda la región de Judea, y toda la gente de Jerusalén, y confesando sus pecados, eran bautizados por él en el río Jordán. 6 Juan estaba vestido de pelo de camello, tenía un cinto de cuero a la cintura, y comía langostas y miel silvestre. 7 Y predicaba, diciendo: Tras mí viene uno que es más poderoso que yo, a quien no soy digno de desatar, inclinándome, la correa de sus sandalias. 8 Yo os bauticé con agua, pero Él os bautizará con el Espíritu Santo

Mark 1 1-3   The Message

The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you; (Malachi 3:1)

He’ll make the road smooth for you.

Thunder in the desert!

Prepare for God’s arrival!

Make the road smooth and straight! (Is 40:3)

4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

7-8 As he preached, he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

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Praying our Disappointments – Lament

Praying our Disappointments — Lament

Lament is talking back to God from out of our distress and intimate trust that God is willing to hear us at our worst yet stay with us through all things. While it might seem particularly appropriate for Lent, the woes of the world are not limited to any time of year.   

This honest, intimate, daring, trusting kind of conversation is an important aspect of how the “friends of God” in Scripture deal with their disappointments.  It’s not everything, there is more to it, but crying out to God in distress is the place to begin with our disappointments. These kinds of prayers and conversations honor and witness to the distress of both the innocent and the guilty.  They also indicate an intimacy (in the human – Divine relationship) of trust and concern that we all need when we are disappointed, grieving, angry, longing, or afraid.

The “friends of God” do not hold back from expressing clearly to God their distress over many kinds of disappointment:

Abraham       But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children?  [This is the 4th time of asking!] Genesis 15:2

Moses             The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”   Numbers 11: 10b – 15

Hanna            Hannah was very upset and couldn’t stop crying as she prayed to the Lord. Then she made this promise: “Lord of heavenly forces, just look at your servant’s pain and remember me! Don’t forget your servant! I Samuel 1:10 -11

Jonah             Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:

“I called out to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me.

                        From the belly of the underworld I cried out for help;

                         you have heard my voice.  Jonah 2:1b -2

The Psalmist 17:6       I cry out to you because you answer me.

                                    So tilt your ears toward me now—

                                    listen to what I’m saying!

                        18:6      I cry out to you because you answer me.

                                     So tilt your ears toward me now—

                                     listen to what I’m saying!

 Jesus                          My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matt. 27:46

If talking back to God is okay with God, as it seems to be in the examples above, so is talking back to each other and witnessing each other’s laments. As North American Christians we’ve picked up the idea that lament is the same as whining and is never ever okay!

Whining and lament are very different kinds of expression. Whiners are not interested in change, are unwilling to take the risks necessary in intimate relationships and have little interest in hearing any response to their protests beyond giving them what they want.

A lament is based upon a trusting mutual relationship in which vulnerability is weighed against disappointment. A lament doesn’t work as a lament apart from this intimate balance of need, risk, trust, and care. Lamenters are opened to new possibilities by this experience of sharing their disappointments with God and with each other.

Part of what we gain from lamenting our own disappointments, is insight into how other folks deal with theirs.  As we move through these times of transition, we are reminded that everyone deals with disappointments. Everyone. We are disappointed about very different things. But whatever our disappointments may be, we all need our distress to be heard, honored and responded to.

Another thing we notice about disappointments after a while… that no matter what happened and who may be at fault or who has been harmed, the powerful experience of having our disappointments being taken seriously does a LOT to set us upon a path that eventually leads to healing and reconciliation, especially when that involves changing our minds and hearts. (aka repentance)

We thank you for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone….   BCP 865

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Christmas Cards?

A Christmas Collage, on the 7th Day of Christmas

Christmas Collage 2019

There are still in this year almost gone, 2019, Christmas and “Seasonal” cards arriving at our mailbox. Fewer than in the past, but they still come each year beginning either before Thanksgiving or just after. Understandably, many see the entire enterprise of such card sending and receiving as a waste of paper, stamps and time.

And it certainly can be that. Perhaps a “waste of time” is the wrong expression. When the card sending appears to me to be unfruitful, it is because while a minimal level of connection between us is made, that connection is thin at best. I see the names and even recent pictures of people I know and care about. But for me the fruit of card sending and receiving, is found in those small treasures of disclosure in which we open ourselves to each other. Which usually means more than an extensive list of the year’s accomplishments and successes and dares to convey something of our common human fragility. Surely all of those lives represented by those cards are not free from some degree of distress and anxiety in the face of our current mess. I wonder if we live in the same world, and how it is possible to report year after year that all is well with world, and Happy New Year.  I wonder that, because I know that is NOT the case.

The card exchange may also be something rare and powerful, a life-giving connection otherwise not made or sustained. It is one that, so far, I attempt to nurture. Mine are almost always “late” according to the secular Christmas calendar by which Christmas is over by the evening of the 25th. However, the great advantage of the Christian calendar by which Christmas begins on the 25th and concludes on the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany, a commemoration of the arrival of the Three Kings, sending our cards on the 5th or the 7th day is just fine. It could even be considered early.

This year, there was a very wide array of cards. Some arrive with a complete three-generation family history of the previous year, attached to pictures, etc. Some contain the hand-written name and very brief greeting from the sender, without any additional information. On others, there is nothing hand-written and no sign of life, happy or sad. Perhaps more importantly, there is no indication of concern for and interest in those beyond this small circle of family and friends.

The types of cards are also interesting and indicative of the wide range of how this season is experienced and celebrated among privileged peoples. Fewer and fewer of these greetings are Christmas cards, many are Season’s Greetings, and some contain no printed text at all, rather some simple image and a brief hand-written love note of friendship, gratitude, and wishes or blessings for the coming year.

I appreciate any card that arrives, and I send one in response. From the thirty or so cards that we received; I was especially moved by nine of them. In full disclosure, three of these are cards are not actually Christmas cards. Rather, one is a thank-you note, one a note of reconciliation, and one simply a hand-written greeting. Yet, this combination of images, texts, people, creatures, places, and events are now woven together into a collage that gives me hope and for which I am deeply grateful.

  1. A Cabin on a snowy beach, with the rising Sun, from friends who have dealt with challenges
  2. A Snowy Egret, from a note of reconciliation to repair a broken friendship
  3. An image of bare branches, no text on front, but a note of love on the back
  4. A Family Card of Peace with images from a safari in Africa last summer
  5. A Single red bird on a bright white textured background from a writer
  6. A photo of friends we’ve known since 1970, but hardly seen since
  7. A woman dancing in the snow from a friend who would like to dance in the snow
  8.  An image of the Episcopal Cathedral in Portland with a long note inside from our 80+ year old friends bought in support of the Choir’s trip to the UK
#6

These images, and those represented by some of the cards I did not include here, come from a very wide array of worldviews, lifestyles, locations, faiths, (probably politics, but I don’t actually dare ask), and ages. And, they all have one thing in common – we do not see each other often, if at all.

Something about this combination of images, texts and the way they are here together in one place, touching each other, as VERY different as they are, is powerful. It is a power of hope that comes from simply placing one thing next to the other, even if only in the imagination. All of this, the red bird from Ohio, the elephants in Africa, the bare branches of Winter, the Egret of Reconciliation, the Radiant Dawn greeting from the O Antiphons of Advent, the dwelling and dancing in the snow, sacred places and lives that seek PEACE and point out the Light that is among us who dwell in darkness.

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A “Completion” Poem

Indivisble mediatrix living questions of theodicy among Great Dichotomies of head, heart, and womb

Holding conversations about young robins eaten alive by ravens, Kurds in the mud, crack babies, 50 inches of rain in Banglegesh, Ray, who has AIDS, the people and creatures of the rain forest, and my neighbors next door, the ones I don’t talk to

Yet, also some how paying attention to the Holy One, each time She comes into the circle of clay feet, wearing disguises and costumes, speaking with an unfamiliar accent to our very famiilar failures

Holding lightly the Sacred Onion, its roots coated with earth, thin skin covering the pungent, thick flesh containing food for new life, and bringing tears

Intimate with both the living and the dead, bound by felt memories, passions, dreams and questions

To follow those two roads, taking one to point, call, pray, cook, play, and write while she waits in the face of hopelessness, with hope for All to be well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This poem was written in 1991 as part of a completion course at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, (then The Institute for Theological Studies) for a Master of Divinity.

I post it here from the perspective of celebrating the 50 Year Reunion for the Class of 1969 at Seattle Pacific University, my undergradute studies. While I have no such poem from my undergraduate days, this poem allows me to reflect on some of what has unfolded from my many years of study and life. Thanks be to God.

The poem is placed within a set of symbols, each intended to take on the challenges of the poem:

The Schema Israel, “Hear, O Israel, our God is one,..” in Hebrew

John’s 1:14 , And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld [God’s] glory…” in Greek.

A large red onion….that I have used for 25 yrs + when teaching scripture, to indicate something alive, organic, growing in dirt, providing food, and causing tears

One of the Baptismal Promises from the Book of Common Prayer: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every living human being? I will with God’s help.

The opening line of the hymn, “Come down O love, divine, seek thou this [soul of mine] ….”

And Romans 8:38 For neither death nor life, not angels, nor rulres, nor things present, not things to come, nor powers…will be able to searate us from the Love of God…[in Christ Jesus our Lord.]

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Let the mean people be terrible no more!

Get up God, don’t let the ungodly take over, let them hear of your outrage!

Put fear into them, and make it clear that they too are merely mortal!

Don’t stand off and hide in this time of trouble.

When the wicked’s only thought is that according to them, “There is NO God!” And if there were, God wouldn’t care what we do to each other!

NO! No! Rise up, O Holy One, lift up your hand, do NOT forget the afflicted; give justice to the orphan and oppressed, so that those who do not care may be terrible no MORE! Amen.

This is a very loose paraphrase of Ps. 9:19-20, 10:1, 4, 6, 10-12.

,,while the innocent are broken and humbled before them

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Why No Lunch?  

The Rev. Ray Aldred, Jan 4th 2018 Why No Lunch?

 

 

 

These comments are from the Musqueam web page.

MUSQUEAM TRADITIONAL TERRITORY

Musqueam ancestors have lived in the Fraser River estuary for thousands of years. Today, portions of Musqueam’s traditional territory are called Vancouver, North Vancouver, South Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, New Westminster, Burnaby, and Richmond.

2017 30 Yr. Agreement between Musqueam and YVR

“Some of the details of the Agreement include a path of education to employment with a number of scholarships and new jobs, one per cent of annual revenue from YVR, identification and protection of archeological resources and support for ongoing operations and long-term development at the airport.”  (June 21, 2017)

http://www.yvr.ca/en/media/news-releases/2017/musqueam-indian-band-and-vancouver-international-airport-sign-momentous-a http://www.musqueam.bc.ca/musqueam-traditional-territory-0  Accessed Jan 9, 2018

 

 

  1. Introduction

The North American Academy of Liturgy held our recent annual meeting in Vancouver, BC. Jan 4-7, 2018. This gathering of liturgical theologians and other related artists, musicians, scholars, and worship leaders, etc. has demonstrated over the recent past a concerted effort to expand the important work of the Academy to include a much wider range of cultures and ethnicities.  

To that end, a lunch time gathering with local BC First Nations leaders was offered as one of the optional events to those attending this NAAL meeting. Shortly before the date of the conference, those who had signed up for the lunch were sent an email saying that there would be no lunch. The planners had not been able to make the necessary arrangements.

[I was deeply thankful to see that invitation and had registered to go to the event. With many years of coming to Vancouver to take part in various First Nations gatherings (the Native Ministries Summer School and Winter Talk at VST) that invitation felt like an important effort to connect two communities who are important to me – First Nations people of the PNW / Salish Sea and NAAL. I know from my own experiences something of the rare gifts that come from being present among both of these groups… each in a very particular way offering an otherwise very hard-to-come-across-access to what matters, to the Holy. [And after this long, I know that neither group is perfect. Both are very human.]

 I am a member of NAAL and have been active in various aspects of Native American ministry through the Episcopal Church since 1989.  Thus, when the lunch was cancelled, I knew that we had lost an important opportunity and I wanted to know why. I have learned so much of beauty and pain- some very difficult — from being with First Peoples, that I wanted others to have at last a small taste of that.]

 

Upon reading the email it occurred to me that if in fact we could not have that lunch, we might be able to have another one in which we explored the question as to why that proposed lunch was not held. Thus, I wrote to ask the Rev. Ray Aldred, the Director of the Native Ministries Consortium at Vancouver School of Theology if he would be willing to have a conversation with us. The purpose of the lunch was to gain a deeper understanding of what is necessary if dominant culture leaders hope to open up appropriate and mutual conversations with First Nations, and other cultural and ethnic communities.

In that it would have not been appropriate to take notes or to record the conversation, these reflections are taken from memory of a luncheon conversation held on Jan 4, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Vancouver, BC.

 A group of 9 NAAL participants and Ray Aldred came together with the hope of understanding why the proposed event did not take place and why such cross cultural encounters are so difficult to arrange.

 

What follows includes a summary to the best of my ability from memory of what happened during the lunch conversation, followed by my reflections on the significance and implications of that conversation.

 

 from LAKSHMI SINGH’s interview with Alexandra Fuller Talks New Novel: ‘Quiet Until The Thaw’ 7:12 July 9, 20175:31 PM ET Heard on All Things Considered, NPR

https://www.npr.org/2017/07/09/536328468/bestselling-author-alexandra-fuller-talks-new-novel-quiet-until-the-thaw

FULLER: Yeah. I think that’s – I mean, I think it’s an essential thing if you are a white settler and you’re taking on the stories of people, you know, who have been othered for so long. Also to remember, listen, it’s not as if the whites came and just took the land. They took the land, the water, the power but also the dominant narrative. And I’m deeply aware of that, I mean, deeply, deeply aware of that because of also have growing up in Zimbabwe and seeing how the dominant narrative throughout my childhood and for a lag time afterwards was always white, even though the dominant stories were coming out of the indigenous community.

So yes, I think this is a very important question. On balance, I had to weigh it up. What is worse here, my silence or my speaking out? If it further wounds and harms, you know, indigenous communities, then I’ve desperately failed. But really, the conversation I want to be having is with fellow white settlers, not with the indigenous community. They already know their own story.

(end of insert)

  1. What Happened at this Lunch?

 [This record of the conversation does not capture the full depth of what unfolded. It was even more substantial than I have been able to report.]

“Opening Rite”

We sat at a long table in the hotel dining room, with Ray in the middle; two to his left, three to his right, and five across. He began with informal social chat.  Various people at the tables sought to identify their past relationships with Native Peoples by mentioning Native Schools that they support, etc.

At a clear point the conversation turned when Ray asked…

“Why would First Nations people want to                                                                                                      with a bunch of academics?”

[Later on he acknowledges that he too is an academic, which was very well demonstrated by the breadth and depth of his comments, as well as the extensive list of sources referred to in his comments.]

After a clearly delineated “beginning”, Ray opened the formal aspect of our conversation through the use of this inclusio:

Inclusio-We are here in this hotel on the unceded land of the Musqueam                                     People. We are all visitors to this place.”

Our conversation began and ended with this formal acknowledgement and honoring of the specific land that we were on, and briefly declared our relationship to the people of that place. We all were there as strangers. In any other place, there would have been a different and particular conversation.

PROTOCOL –“You needed a broker.”

At some point, someone asked the person who had attempted to set up the proposed lunch with First Peoples how she had gone about it. Using the advice to contact certain band offices, leaders, she had called and inquired as to their interest in such an event.

In response Ray told a story about a friend who owns property of some kind in various tribal communities. That friend has a small notebook that he brings with him every time he visits one of those communities. In the book are notes about:  whom to greet upon first entering the band office, (whatever official positions they may or may not hold), what kind of gift to bring along for each community, and something about what happened last time he was there, etc. “You needed a broker”… to help arrange the lunch, someone who knows you and who also knows the specific First Peoples you are hoping to meet with. Ray then went on to say that even with such a list, and even being First Nations, no one can assume that he or she could walk into any tribal setting and expect to be welcomed, etc. without the connecting function of previous trustful, mutual relationships.

At one point in the conversation there were comments from Ray about the kind of personal qualities needed for such interactions. These qualities, forged from difficulty, tend to precede and possibly outweigh any words that follow. Thus, it is not about accessing or relying upon one’s brilliance or status as a scholar, educator, leader, etc., but rather more about simply being a straightforward, clear and open person who fully uses all of one’s capacities but does not seek “credit”, recognition, or authority because of those skills and capacities. Rather, one’s authority [ground for dealing with other people, earning respect and trust] comes more from “who knows you”, how you are “related” to others, and from the history of your mutually respectful and trusting relationships with others in the past.

As Ray said, he too is an academic and scholar. [And, as Paula mentioned, he is a very good one. “How many scholars do you know who read, write, and speak Cree and Latin? His academic credentials are embodied within the conversation rather than mentioned.]

[After this point in the conversation the best that I am able to offer is the following five questions. They may not be in the order in which they were asked and discussed.]

Five Questions Addressed during the Conversation: 

1.) Building Mutually Trusting Relationships

 How do “white people” go about building constructive, mutually trusting relationships with First Peoples?

Ray’s response was, “You build trusting relationships out of your own suffering and vulnerability. You get in touch with the suffering within your own life, and then use that experience, awareness, and insight gained through your own vulnerability to come together with other people who are also suffering and vulnerable!”

[In other words, from this perspective one does not make connections primarily through one’s strengths, excellence, success or power, but the opposite.)

At some point in the conversation there was a comment from Ray about the importance of using “appreciative inquiry” when seeking to broker relations among diverse communities.

2.) Unawareness of Theological, Cultural Philosophical                                                                Incompatibility

 [I do not remember the precise context for this comment, and even though I do not understand it, nor have I been able to find anyone who does, it seems to be significant and worth noting.]

Ray said something to the effect that “Schleiermacher doesn’t work for Native people.”

At another point, Ray mentioned that many First Peoples see that Incarnation is inseparable from a strong sensibility of the Sacredness of the Earth. From this perspective there is no understanding of Incarnation that does not also at the same time experience the Earth as part of the Sacred Body and in mutual relationship with Creator, humans and creatures. So, a Christianity that doesn’t see the land as sacred won’t work for First Peoples.

3.)  How are First Nations’ sensibilities manifest in worship at the VST,                                                       Native Ministries Summer School worship?

Ray offered a brief summary of VST/ NMC Worship. [I have elaborated somewhat in that I have been there for this worship for many years, including the 2nd week of 2017.] On each of the five days of the two weeks of Summer School, a different Indigenous community, group, church or denomination plans and leads the worship, according to their ways of doing things. Thus, the shape, music, content of each of these liturgies varies considerably. In the summer of 2017, the second week worship was led by:

1 United Church of Christ, Hawaiians, with singing in Hawaiian, with music played  on ukulele, and Hawaiian guitar, (and some years with sacred dance, hula, and greetings in Hawaiian.)

2 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, USA with hymns in Dakota, etc.

3 Lutheran – Local Native lay person, + Canadian Lutheran pastor of Norwegian ancestry using the Lutheran Book of Worship

4 United Church of Canada + Anglican Haida singing, prayer, drums, preceded by smudging of  worshippers at the entrance to sacred space.

5 Gospel Based Discipleship (Indigenous Ministries of the Episcopal Church, USA)

 4.) How do Native Young People respond to various styles of                                                                     Christian Worship?

According to Ray, the young people he deals with are drawn to worship characterized by heart felt, strong emotions such as those found in charismatic worship, with great outpourings of praise, and deep petitions for forgiveness, healing etc.

There was also a comment (not sure where) in which Ray said something to the effect that whatever goes on in such “emotionally appealing worship” has to speak to both the incarnation of Jesus Christ and sacredness of Creation.

5.) Is there one [universal] system or method that can be used at                     institutional levels to “broker” a way through  these cultural differences?

[This part of the conversation took place more among the three women at our end of the table, and not as much with Ray.]

Near the end of the conversation a woman looked towards Ray and then asked me,             “What was that, what was he doing?” I replied “that this is all about relationship.”

It appeared that the style of discourse and conversation we had just been part of was sufficiently “different” for her, that she did not recognize it as fitting within her frames of reference.

A few of us had some exchange about how much various tribes and bands differ. For example, at VST/ NMC we have had the rare opportunity to see and hear a Coastal Salish woman’s war song, sung in their band’s language, and accompanied by women playing drums. This is contrasted with the practices among the Muskogee of

Oklahoma where women are not allowed to play a drum in a public gathering.  The practices, values, and sensibilities are not universal among First Peoples. As such, there is no one single organized method or structure that is going to systematize and manage such challenging relations as those between Native and non- Native peoples.

The conversation with the whole group concluded when Ray repeated the comment with which we had begun.

 Inclusio –We are here in this hotel on the unceded land of the Musqueam People.                                               We are all visitors to this place.”

Jesus with the Woman at the well… all land is holy, This land is holy.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  John 4: 21-23   NRSV

III. Reflections-

What can we learn from this conversation?

 > We all were there as strangers. In any other place, there would have been a different and particular conversation.

> In other words, from this perspective one does not make connections primarily through one’s strengths, excellence, success or power, but the opposite through one’s struggles, failures, vulnerability that actually leads to great wisdom, of a kind that is not easily if at all adequately conveyed with words.

> This reference to Appreciative Inquiry was certainly not the kind of AI that would in any way shut down lament over the past. Rather, it would instead seek to know the other with awareness, attention, and gratitude for what may, at first, appear to be strange, unrecognizable, or even frightening.

> See the proposed new Baptismal Vow #6. “Will you cherish the wondrous works of God and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?” (This refers to a potential addition to the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer Baptismal Vows.)  But, does this new language mean that the Earth is Sacred?

> Our conversation began and ended with a formal acknowledgement and honoring of the specific land that we were on, and briefly declared our relationship to the peoples of that place. We all were there as strangers. In any other place, there would have been a different and particular conversation. The return to a mention of “this land of the Musqueam People” being holy land was the other end of the inlcusio and the indication that the conversation was over. There were a few side conversations after that point.

> She was seeking something “universal” about the conversation we had just had; something that would by-pass reaching out from one’s own particular struggles and vulnerabilities towards the (different) particularities of others. [I suggested that if it is a universal it is a universal built out of particulars.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 We do have members within NAAL, from BC and the Pacific Northwest, USA who could have helped those planning for the lunch with First Nations leaders meet those who may have been able to broker the proposed lunch. [As far as I know, they/ we were not contacted.] However, some of these local people are retired or not yet full members. Somehow, there was a gap in making connections with those in the area that do know and have long standing relationships with First Peoples. It is not clear to me if local people were not asked to help or were unwilling or unable to help. The approach that was used– phone calls to people we do not know and who do not know us– were highly unlikely to bring about the desired lunch.  It appears that in such cases it would be more appropriate to find those among us who already have long standing relationships to try to assist make the connections.

That type of connection across cultures and locations is more about “who knows you”, not so much in terms of power and influence, but rather in terms of relationship, respect, and trust. In the “white world”, many of us assume that we can walk into just about any place, and given some exchange of information and perhaps money, manage to walk out with whatever it is that we came in for. Such is not necessarily the case among First Peoples.  Although I have more than twenty five years of experience among various First Nations peoples, none of that allows me to assume that I am welcome any place in “Indian Country.”

It is my observation that some of “our” questions to Ray indicated a hesitancy to explore the question that had brought us together….“Why no lunch?” The questions asked seemed to be asked from afar, from a safe distance that would involve less risk of messy relationship or vulnerability. It was as though we did not actually want to know the answers to that question. We did not want to know the answer if it meant stepping out from behind/ underneath our positions of power and security that come with being “faculty”, professors, diocesan staff… etc.

It seems to me that our presence on “unseeded Musqueam land” was acknowledged in the opening liturgy of the meeting. Yet, although we knew enough to do that, we are still learning the a deeper understanding of what it means to say such a thing. For, in saying such a thing we are acknowledging the relationship declared by those words. Yet, when it came to actually planning the meeting, we did not know how to access that relationship, i.e. did not know how to behave in light of it. …because such relationships call for behavior that is not that typically associated with “the academy”.

Perhaps it is like when a small child uses words that she has heard adults use, even though she has no idea what they actually mean. She knows what to say, but not why she is saying it or what difference saying those words might make.

A Point of Reality  

One of the frequent hazards in initial attempts to build bridges between Native and Non-Native peoples is the unrealistic / exoticization of Native Peoples. That does not happen as easily when one listens and looks more deeply.

This “point of reality” did not take place in that conversation on Jan 4th, but it would be far from honest not to mention it. Everything that took place in that conversation was gracious, well meant and well received on the surface. Having said that, it is also imperative to say that dealings between Native and Non-Native peoples are overwhelmingly layered and fraught with hundreds of years of distrust and deeply embodied unhealed pain and wounding. That that conversation went as well as it did, does not mean that any future such conversations would be the same, or that the wounds are healed etc. or that each of the people at the table would not have to renegotiate his or her relationships with any future Native People he or she might deal with.

My place in that conversation as one who was able to invite Ray to be there is not a matter of great success, or power. I have been party to Native – Non- Native relationships, gatherings, almost entirely within the Episcopal/ Anglican Church) for more nearly 30 years both within the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in WA St, and the National Indigenous Ministries of the Episcopal Church, including being one of the first non-native people to be invited to Winter Talk, held at VST, and something like 15 years in and out of the Native Ministries Consortium Summer School at VST as student, faculty member and tutor.

It was an honor to be part of that conversation, and to be there at NAAL, perhaps for the last time. I am so deeply appreciative for many years of learning, and inspiration that I have encountered at these gatherings. What we might learn from the First Peoples of BC could only expand and intensify what is already abundant in these gatherings of faithful, worshipping academics.

Conclusion: Four Insights Based on the Lunch:

1.) On Building Mutually Trusting Relationships across lines of diversity

We need brokers and trail guides in order to enter new lands.  It doesn’t work to        enter as unaccompanied strangers in a land that is strange to us.

2.) Unawareness of [Theological and Philosophical, Cultural] Incompatibility

Knowing that we do not know a great deal about other lands/ people,  in terms of both worldviews, intellectual/ spiritual modes and practices  ,– we   would be wise to seek encounters on the terms of the other, (i.e. lunch might not  have been the appropriate encounter.) We’d need to listen a lot, and perhaps  ask, gently.

3.) Inquiries into the worship practices of others

Why we ask questions or seek to learn about the worship practices of others             matters. What do we intend to do with what we hear? Unless and until there is a rather deep level of mutual trust in place, within which our inquiries are actually made with a daring openness to what we do not understand or even recognize,  our inquiries may be inappropriate. And, they will be received as such.

4.) On the search for a method that can be used at institutional levels to “broker” a way  through cultural differences

As people who teach, learn and live within large institutions it is understandable that we seek approaches that can be used in more than one community at a time. However, when the power and sacredness of any one particular people and place is subsumed with a broad brush under that of other peoples and lands, we all are harmed.  Each sacred encounter among diverse peoples calls for this grasp of the sacred by which all peoples and all lands are Holy.

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“Our manifold sins and wickedness…”

…Our manifold sins and wickedness                                                                                          which we from time to time                                                                                                    most grievously have committed                                                                                          through thought, word and deed,                                                                                    against thy divine majesty,                                                                                                        provoking most justly                                                                                                                    thy wrath and indignation against us…

Today the students are protesting, crying out in prophetic voices that “we”,  the adults of this nation, have left undone what we could have done to protect the children we seemingly disingenuously claim to treasure. Given current practices, it appears that a bizarre reading of the Second amendment, places those rights to own personal weapons of war trump (pun intended) the lives of 2,000+ murdered children since Sandyhook.

That quote above comes from the Book of Common Prayer, and is part of the prayers said just before the blessing and eating of bread and wine. They are words intended to help make right what is wrong, to clean out what should not be within us, to bring back together again, what has come apart.

Perhaps there was as a time when it was easier to place this set of sins and wickedness out of reach into some separate category of private, individual sins, which, for the most part, pertained to people other than ourselves. Whatever our sins might be, surely they were not yet bad enough to belong in the category of “wickedness”.

I am trying to figure out if this has changed or if in fact we have simply, finally begun to appreciate how deeply and insidiously our personal failings, aka “sins” contribute to overt wickedness. Now, in this mess, this language that in the past was to me, a gross, unnecessary, and inappropriate exaggeration, fits very well. What we are living through now, in terms of children, Creation, and those on the edges, falls solidly into the category of “sins and wickedness.”

These children who march, and speak out with great conviction, daring, and LIFE, are children who must be heard. As bad as things look some days on the front page of the NYT, these children give me such great hope. And no, I am not going to join the chorus of “we too were like that then, but now we have grown up and live in the real world”, the one that is such a mess.

I’m going back to those very old words of “our manifold sins and wickedness” and continue chewing on them. I don’t yet know the details of where they lead in this situation.  Yes, for me, the do lead to that blessing and eating of bread and wine as I try to figure out what to do about my own sins and wickedness and the part they play in the wider unfolding against children, Creation and those on the edge.

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