May Nothing Undo Us..

I do not know how to go out or come in.  … Give your servant therefore an understanding mind …able to discern between good and evil;   1 Kings 3:7a, 9

For I am convinced that….Nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:39

 

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This sermon is highly influenced by the week before last….at the Native Ministries Consortium of the Vancouver School of Theology, where I had a rare opportunity to ponder how the Good News is heard by, and lived out among Aboriginal people of Canada and the US.] 

1.) If we had one of those reader boards outside, the kind where they put up the sermon title every week, the ones that show up on face book saying things to lure us in, I would have suggested only one word for today:    NOTHING

 It’s about the “nothing” that can separate us from the Love of God in Christ”. Nothing. ..about that “Let nothing disturb you…., God alone is enough.” from the Communion Song, Nada te turbe, from the prayer of Teresa of Avila. That song in Spanish is not a statement…as the English says, “Nothing can trouble.”

No, Teresa’s prayer like the faith of Solomon, Paul and Jesus is much more realistic. There is actually a lot that can trouble, and disturb us, but the song is an exhortation that we offer to each other, “Let nothing disturb, undo or frighten you. Those who have God, lack nothing. Only God is enough.”

This “nothing” is much more easily talked about than lived.

As challenging as this “nothing” is, I don’t hear these lessons as something that is truly impossible for us. Difficult, yes. Challenging, yes. And most of all, nothing about this “nothing” is meant to put us in a place where we are caught and can’t move. It’s not a trap. Rather, this is a strong dose of realistic faith, as we find it in Solomon, Paul’s Letter to Rome and the Good News of Jesus as found in Matthew, steeped in humility, fortified with courage and wisdom seeking understanding, all tied up with daring hope…the kind we now need.

— Faith that is very much Faith, even in its incompleteness, the not-yet-ness of our faith

These are lessons that speak to the choices we have to make, and help us to deal wisely with complications of those choices. (How to feed the Good Wolf, instead of the Bad Wolf.)

2.) I don’t want to assume, yet hope that I am not the only one, who from time to time, and sometimes, more than at others…

At times, I do feel “separated” from that Love.

(or perhaps, that the connection is not as strong as it has been or I’d like / need it to be. And yes, this does sound as though I taking about an Internet connection…one bar, etc. But it’s a much broader, and more important connection than that.)

I suppose that we all have our own lists of those things that deeply disturb us. that might separate us from, loosen, or strengthen our connection to that Love of God in Christ,

So, as we all know, it’s not “nothing” that is doing the separating or distancing. More like everything.

As our Bishop Greg said last week when he spoke of the Good Wolf and the Bad Wolf, we have some choices about which wolf to feed, the kind of choices that help to strength or loosen that connection. Such choices contribute to what the Apostle Paul calls

“Living in the Spirit”, a freeing kind of life that brings about yet more life living that binds up and shuts down life for ourselves and others. And, as Bishop Greg made very clear, all of us are dealing with all sides of these choices, all along the way of our spiritual lives.

Under the influence of my week at the Native Ministries Consortium as a Tutor in a course on Indigenous and Non-indigenous perspectives on Pilgrimage and Journey, I’ve come to think of these matters within the context of a journey. And these choices as a negotiation of the intersection of Hardship and Beauty.

3.)  At the Intersection of Hardship & Beauty   

These reflections about “nothing” are one way to ponder negotiating that intersection. The intersection of Hardship and Beauty

Beauty  That place where “those who have God  lack nothing, the place of many  “beauties of the earth, the hour, of   human” love,  of God’s many gifts to  us are more than enough!                 

Hardship , Distance , Persecution,   Famine, Gluttony, Peril, Violence , Indifference

This intersection is not an easy one to negotiate.

Hardship  Paul expresses so well in our reading from Romans.

Beauty, is what we will soon hear sung as the Offertory Music, “For the Beauty of the earth.” The words to that song are found in the Hymnal at #416.

 

Refrain:    Lord of all, to thee we raise This our joyful hymn of praise

For the beauty of the earth

For the beauty of the skies / For the love which from our birth /Over and around us lies/ Over and around us lies                  Refrain

For the beauty of the hour/ Of the day and of the night/ Hill and vale and tree and flower/ Sun and moon and stars of light/ Sun and moon and stars of light    Refrain

For the joy of human love/ Brother, sister, parent, child/ Friends on earth and friends above / For all gentle thoughts and mild/ For all gentle thoughts and mild                  Refrain

For each perfect gift of thine/ To our race so freely given/ Graces human and divine/ Flow’rs of earth and buds of heav’n/ Flow’rs of earth and buds of heav’n            Refrain

This Intersection of Hardship and Beauty is the kind of place where “living in the Spirit” that Paul writes about is demonstrated by the way neither direction entirely ignores the other. It’s that kind of place where faith persists; where both Hardship AND “the Beauty of the Earth” are part of the process, the worldview, and the practice.

This intersection is not an easy one to negotiate. The temptation is to go down one way or the other, as though the other way were not there, as though Faith were about only one or the other.

Neither, Solomon, Paul, nor Jesus solves the difficulty of negotiating this intersection by ignoring one side or the other – neither: the hardship, distance part nor the Beauty of the earth that is more than enough for those who have God. Faith does not see only Beauty and ignore Hardship, rather it holds the two together.

The Apostle Paul is good at that, trying to hold disparate communities together.  He manages in various of his writings to speak to the entire community, — here in Romans he writes to a “mixed congregation” Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians –at all ends of the continuum, and then somehow from that wide embrace, move them gently toward each other.

4.) So, who is the “us” who are not separated from this love of God in Christ?

Perhaps you figured this out long ago? I’ve been treasuring these verses about  “nothing” since I was a teenager. They mean a great deal to me; but then in the past it was mostly that… “to me”.  When I heard first heard these verses I was in the 9th grade, and I heard them as being about “my connection” to the Love of God in Christ. Then, I did not hear this daring claim as belonging to a group, to “us”.

So, who is the “us” who are not separated from the love of God in Christ? Today, I hear Paul, and Jesus saying…something to the effect that “the love of God in Christ” connects us” in several ways. For Paul, it meant that this love connected Gentile and Jewish Christians, In the Parables of Jesus, we hear of the Reign of God that includes men and women, people who plant, make bread, fishermen, farmers, land owners. This love connects us, one-by-one to God, and it also binds us to our true selves, to each other, to other people we do not know, and to the whole Creation without which we would not exist.

This is some magnificent connection with the Holy One!

5.)  Nurturing our connections with God and each other, in order to negotiate the intersection of Hardship with Beauty.

Three things that help us negotiate the intersection, and strengthen the connection to God:  Humility, Asking for Help from God and from each other, and Extreme Language

A.) Humility of Solomon: “I do not know how to go out or come in…”The truly wise know that they do not know. Solomon is usually thought of in terms of to “wisdom”. But here, his wisdom is clearly demonstrated by his humility, the humility to say, and “I don’t know how to do X!”  Such a statement may appear of little importance, but it seems that such a simple declaration of openness to an Other (human or divine) is a very big deal. Humility makes it possible to locate our blind spots. It opens up the relationships, and allows the conversations to speak and hear something new. Humility allows us to collaborate with others, engage mutually and respectfully with those who differ from ourselves.

This humility is a prerequisite for Solomon’s wisdom. Wisdom and understanding simply do not exist apart from humility. It takes a lot of humility to stand at that intersection of hardship and Beauty and not turn in one direction at the expense of the other forgetting that both the directions of Hardship and Beauty may bring us to wisdom.

In both cases we are humbled / moved beyond ourselves by the magnitude of suffering, OR the beauty and great love and opened by the kind of life that generates more life, Paul’s Life in the Spirit.

B.) Asking for help  from God and from each other

…to be able to tell the difference, to discern good and evil…to tell the difference between those things that separate and those that pull us apart…That’s a big part of what we do here for and with each other. Such asking may NOT be so much about getting some correct answer from someone else, including God, as it is to undo the illusion that any one of us has it all figured out, and that we don’t need each other or God.

Asking is a declaration of our need for each other; of our willingness to trust each other and to be in relation. We find a powerful example of such asking in the Book of Common Prayer, pg. 836.

“We thank you for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone. Pg. 836 BCP

C.)   Extreme Language – Hyperbole, ETC!!!

I’m also beginning to see that I/ we might want to reconsider my/our aversion to hyperbole. Sometimes Scripture works by modelling for us something we need to learn how to do. It allows us to be “the fly on the wall” in settings that are beyond our experience, understanding and wisdom. Such reading allows us to explore things we are yet to understand. They do so by putting us in a place to witness something we do not yet understand – faith, suffering, grace, forgiveness. Such as Solomon’s dream, Paul’s letter to Rome or these powerful parables of Jesus on the Reign of God. Extreme language.

Such reading lets us practice hearing Extreme Language so that we might eventually have the wisdom to understand why someone would use such LARGE language ….(when it may not yet make sense to us.) This is something that I learned during that week at VST. There with Indigenous people from BC, Haida Gwaii, Granville Island / Snaqu, Cree people from the middle of Canada, others who have worked with homeless Aboriginal people on the streets of Vancouver for many years. These are people whose lives are marked by both hardship and beauty, and often a whole lot more hardship that we understand. One of my colleagues made the comment that when people are deeply soaked in Hardship OR beauty, they simply cannot use any other kind of language. The situation is too intense, other words are too small. Thus, paying attention to such Extreme Language may become a way to learn to understand others we do not yet know or understand. We may learn a lot.

And when we consider it, Extreme Language is what we find in:    Solomon’s Dream      Paul’s letter to Rome        Jesus Parables…

“The kingdom of heaven is like…  a mustard seed  (male)   &   yeast that a woman took   treasure hidden in a field,    a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; … and separate the evil from the righteous, a master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

If we can learn how to listen to such language, and that is no small thing, we may get an idea of how others get through that intersection of (Hardship and Beauty, we may come to see a bit more of how others manage to maintain their connections to God in both Hardship and in Beauty.

The Communion Song, Nada te turbe, is by Teresa de Avila…is a prayer of exhortation that we might pray for and with each other. It is a declaration of Realistic Faith that manages to negotiate the Intersection of Hardship and Beauty, not by ignoring either side, but by holding them together:

Nada te turbe,                                  May nothing disturb you,                     nada te espante,                              let nothing frighten you,                     quien a Dios tiene                           the one who has God,                       nada le falta:                                    lacks nothing:                                  Sólo Dios basta.                              Only God is enough.

 

AMEN.

 

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 Below is a link to Joan Szymko’s setting of Nada Te Turbe.

http://www.joanszymko.com/works/ind/nada-te-turbe  another musical version)

 


 

 

 

 

 

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A Meditation for Holy Saturday 2017

On the Other Side of Words:  A Mediation on Holy Saturday 2017

Holy Saturday, the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, in which hope and God appear to be dead and gone. This day is only rarely celebrated  in smaller churches.

 

In the midst of life we are in death;
from whom can we seek help?
From you alone, O Lord,
who by our sins are justly angered…

I am weary of battling against a tide of opposition that tells me I have no reason to use this calendar – the one that says Holy Saturday on it — as the fuel for my resistance to what is clearly wrong with the world, and with me.  Thus, this is no battle song; it is rather simply a report from where I am living this day in a very messy world as a not-unmessy person.

The weariness is taking its toll; but it is also teaching a lot as it unfolds. As one might think of weariness as a force to shut down action and thought, I have come, rather, to experience this weariness as a measure of how immense and insidious the forces are against which this day waits in silence. Waiting in silence before an inexorable force doesn’t sound like much of a response. It sounds more like a surrender.

Yet for all of the hard-to-exaggerate degree of discouragement over, and awareness of the too many ways in which the world and I are not as we should be, this is no surrender. Hardly.

Silly to try to write using words about a place that has no words. But, I keep on doing that. So for all that is not right about me, I know enough to know that that place, the one on the other side of Words is the place to which I go on such a day as this one. And this day, as I have commemorated it in the past, is part of how I know that place at all. It may be a place that is best described by what is not said or done on or about it. A place that becomes only more powerful when it is approached without hope, but rather mostly in the speechless condition of stunned silence that rips us open to the core, and permits only slightly audible sighs, muffled groans, slow tears, and silence.

From that place there are only doubts about human capacities to fix anything at all. It is  very clear that “we” really will not help ourselves, or anyone else for that matter, at least not without a LOT of help from various Sources, and far more wisdom than any one of us alone possesses.

There is so very much going on, on the other side of literal words, in the places between life and death, where there are such things a newness of life, and repair and reconnection of  all that is now broken and come apart.

My concern today in all of this is not about the life of “there and then”, the one that comes after this one. My concern is about the “life of here and now”, for all of us, about being a blessing to all the families of the earth.

I invite you to wait with me, if you will. To wait mostly with awareness of All that is about us. It is not magic that I hold out for. Neither is it assumed that all shall be well. It is rather, having waited in this way before, many times before, I have come to see and believe – to set my heart upon – the unexpected, unplanned for, out-of-the-blue spark of Light and Life that is there some place at the bottom of the place on the other side of words.

Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oezVulZYZjE  Palestina, Lamentations for Holy Saturday

Below is the entire Liturgy for Holy Saturday from the Book of Common Prayer for this day.

 

Sepulcher, by George Herbert

Oh blessed body! Whither art thou thrown?
No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone?
So many hearts on earth, and yet not one
Receive thee?

Sure there is room within our hearts good store;
For they can lodge transgressions by the score:
Thousands of toys dwell there, yet out of door
They leave thee.

But that which shows them large, shows them unfit.
Whatever sin did this pure rock commit,
Which holds thee now? Who hath indicted it
Of murder?

Where our hard hearts have took up stones to brain thee,
And missing this, most falsely did arraign thee;
Only these stones in quiet entertain thee,
And order.

And as of old, the law by heav’nly art,
Was writ in stone; so thou, which also art
The letter of the word, find’st no fit heart
To hold thee.

Yet do we still persist as we began,
And so should perish, but that nothing can,
Though it be cold,

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSiXuWo9LlKXrxUi-DuCrY35W73mPAxtZbn899-pqH1Flxix7mR

When there is a Liturgy of the word, the Celebrant begins with the

Collect of the Day

O God, Creator of heaven and earth:                                                                                                    Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb                                              and rested on this holy Sabbath,                                                                                                                  so we may await with him the coming of the third day,                                                                        and rise with him to newness of life;                                                                                                         who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,                                                                           one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament  Job 14:1-14

 

 

Job said, “A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble,
comes up like a flower and withers,
flees like a shadow and does not last.

Do you fix your eyes on such a one?
Do you bring me into judgment with you?

Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one can.

Since their days are determined,
and the number of their months is known to you, and you have appointed the bounds that they cannot pass,

look away from them, and desist, that they may enjoy, like laborers, their days.

“For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.

Though its root grows old in the earth,
and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth branches like a young plant.

But mortals die, and are laid low;
humans expire, and where are they?

As waters fail from a lake,
and a river wastes away and dries up, so mortals lie down and do not rise again;
until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.

Oh that you would hide me in Sheol,
that you would conceal me until your wrath is past,  that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!

If mortals die, will they live again?
All the days of my service I would wait
until my release should come.”


The Response   Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 In te, Domine, speravi

 

 

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame; *
deliver me in your righteousness.

2 Incline your ear to me; *
make haste to deliver me.

3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; * for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, *
for you are my tower of strength.

15 My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.

16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, * and in your loving-kindness save me.”


The Epistle         1 Peter 4:1-8

Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Brian Moss – Here in Between     https://cardiphonia.org/2011/04/23/songs-and-hymns-for-holy-saturday/

 

Here in between the death and life
Of broken God and risen Christ
We watch and wait, we kneel and pray
For hope to breathe at break of day
The temple torn by sacrifice
How can this be the way?

The Gospel  John 19:38-42

Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

  1. Homily given on Holy Saturday by Bishop Melito of Sardis

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell.

Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

After the Gospel (and homily), in place of the Prayers of the People, the Anthem “In the midst of life”   is sung or said.

 

In the midst of life we are in death;
from whom can we seek help?
From you alone, O Lord,
who by our sins are justly angered.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts;
shut not your ears to our prayers,
but spare us, O Lord.
Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

O worthy and eternal Judge,
do not let the pains of death
turn us away from you at our last hour.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

 

 

The service then concludes with the Lord’s Prayer and the Grace.

 

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All of Us, all the families of the Earth!

..and in you all of the families of the earth shall be blessed. Gen. 12:3

God loves the world so much that the Holy One, continues to give us the gift of Jesus,  whose life and death together, the ministry and the profound self-giving death call us into intimate relationship with God, with each other and God’s Creation, while being a blessing to All the families of the earth. Amen.

Introduction:  Thanks be to God for this occasion to come together to take in these living words and holy food to nurture and sustain our souls, in these most “interesting of times.”

With God’s help, I hope to offer something we need for the journey of here and now, the journey of Lent 2017 from here to Jerusalem with Jesus, as well as for the journey of there and then, the larger journey of our lives together in God. (the one that gets called “eternal life.”)

But, what do we need for these journeys?

What will help to sustain and encourage us… (move our hearts) now, under these circumstances of disruptive uncertainty, division, and confusion?

It is certainly no accident that Avram’s call from God involves being told to GO! on a long trip. Literal or metaphorical, we learn a lot on trips. We and the world badly need the kinds of “stuff” that comes from such transformational trips. There we stand to see and learn more of the life-altering, heart-moving, mind-renewing unfolding that we see in Jesus’ journey, both the life and the death / resurrection

> the intricate, tight weaving  together of parables, examples, and preaching about loving our enemies, comforting those who mourn, forgiving 70 x 7, seeking out First the reign of God into a fabric of self-giving, humility, Holy justice, compassion and radical welcome.

There is a familiar pattern in the shape of Holy Week: moving from the great joy & triumph of Palm Sunday, the intimate, loving meal and community of Thursday Evening, through the shock, despair, agony, and humiliation of the Garden, and Cross and on into the Way of a completely un-imagined joy of Sunday, New Life shared together with God in a community of Faith.

THREE PIECES of applied Faith for our journeys:  

1.)  God has always loved all of us… “all the families of the earth.” 2.)  What we need for the journey depends upon where we are in the journey  3.)  Hearing Voices, aka Humble Listening

 1. God has always loved, ALL of us, all along the whole trip of life, here and now, there and then,  “All the families of the earth…”

A few weeks back I was part of a Jewish-Christian Dialogue in which we had this  wonderful conversation about the meaning and place of “grace” in our various traditions. The group included two rabbis, three Episcopalians, and one Catholic Priest.

[No, this isn’t a joke and we did not walk into a bar…]

Although our understandings varied as much among the Christians as between the Jews, most of us find “grace” to be a fundamental aspect of our lives, both the Christians and the Jews.

We took a look at the different words used in Hebrew that become “grace” in English translations… and the word “hesed”…kindness, mercy was among them.

We, Jews and Christians, shared with each other the places that Grace hold in our lives. However, we all know that it is not unusual to hear today’s Gospel reading from John means that God’s love and grace show up only with Jesus in the New Testament and only for  Christians.

How can that be? Good News is “supposed to be” a love story, not a horror story.

More of the intense love of Song of Songs, or the passionate,                                brokenhearted appeal of God weeping at injustice and greed,                                              “My people, what have I done to you…?                                                                                      … into which the prophet Micah bids us to “walk humbly with our God.”

God’s love, and grace did not begin in the Gospel of Matthew.

It’s been there all along, in the Book of Genesis from “At the beginning of God’s creating…” in Genesis 1… to …”all the ends of the earth.” As our readings for today make clear, God’s grace is very much found in God’s unexpected call to Abraham in Genesis to GO! to be blessed and to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. (And Paul picks up on that same call and grace in his letter to the Gentile Christians at Rome.)

In our reading today from Genesis, God sends “Avram” and Sarai on a scary trip of change, blessing, and transformation.  They are given new names, Avram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah;

they are asked to procreate at rather advanced ages,                                                             are given new names by the Holy One                                                                                           go through some rather questionable encounters with Holy beings, and other important agents, etc.                                                                                                                            and are told to leave home and “move to an island” (Something like what many of us have experienced when we moved here. Well, it  wasn’t an island, but you get the idea…)

In this piece, we see that God has always loved all of us,  all the families of the earth.

Holding on to that piece, now, how do we hear John’s Gospel?

  1. What we need for the Journey ALL DEPENDS On WE ARE IN THE Story!

Our specific locations on the journeys of Lent and life… heavily influence what we see, hear, long for, and need along the way. Our location points towards what we need to sustain and encourage us, moving our hearts now, under these circumstances of disruptive uncertainty, division, and confusion.

Sometimes, we do not feel loved, protected or nurtured by God.  Sometimes the calendar says it’s Lent, but our lives say, for me it is “Christmas or the Feast of the Resurrection”, or Pentecost, etc. and then other times, it’s the other way around.

Sometimes Psalm 121 – today’s Psalm– doesn’t fit where we are on the journey. And, that is not a lack of faith, that is the life of real faith in the Divine-human relationship.

One way of getting at this is to use the major aspects of Holy Week as indicators for the tone in which we would pray:

[Walter Brueggemann’s Version of the Various Places from which we pray, especially as found in the Psalter.]

ORIENTATION     DISORIENTATION            NEW ORIENTATION                                          Palm Sunday        Friday in the Garden          Sunday Stunning Recognition                          ON-Going Joy      Grave Distress                     Unespected JOY!!!

…from the great joy & triumph of Palm Sunday and the loving meal and community of Thursday Evening. That is where our Psalm for today comes from…from that place of a status quo of well-being, where we have a clear vision of God’s Presence in our lives.

OR from the tragic betrayal by those who loved him yet fled in the Garden, and Friday abandonment and agony This is where (Ps. 22) comes from. It’s that place where things in our world fall apart. There are more Pss of this kind, where things fall apart in the Psalter than the kind for Psalm Sunday.

Or out of the completely unimagined joy of Sunday … shared together with God in a community of Faith

We are never all in the same place at the same time, and when we are in one place, the other places are difficult to remember, see, or to get to. Yet, we need all of these prayers and voices so that all the families of the earth might be blessed. We need a full set of “Voices” to sustain and nurture us along our journeys.

  1. Lectionaries & Hearing Voices, aka Humble Listening

Because what we need for the journey depends upon where we are in the journey, it is really important to know and remember that there are many voices in Scripture…enough to speak to all the sorts and conditions of humans. All.

Pieces are after all…always only part of the whole.

In our Monday group, OT VOICES WE NEED… we’ve had a rich time of “hearing voices”,  recognizing the distinct, at times contradictory, yet also comprehensive Voices of Creation, Covenant, the Prophets, Wisdom, Lament and Praise, and the Apocalyptic.

These many voices are intentionally not harmonized within the OT. The minority reports are not deleted from the record, but rather included: there are two Creation Stories, At least five voices within the Five Books of Moses, Many, many prophets, Both Praise AND Lament, and Wisdom literature on both sides of the question about bad things happening or not happening to good people, etc.

Not just one VOICE!

One of the distinctions between how various lectionaries (Christian, Jewish, ) are used is the question of seeing any particular combination of biblical texts either as a kind of quasi theological-mathematical equation, in which all of the various parts add up to one single “answer”. The truth. That would be how many Christians use our lectionaries.

OR… then, there is a Jewish approach, in which a certain biblical text is juxtaposed with another. E.G.  [Lekh Lekha   Genesis 12:1-17:27 Isaiah 40:27-41:16]

The pairing is NOT in order to calculate the various parts and come up with one single “answer”. (The Truth….) but rather the opposite, to hold up together, against each other, various pieces of the truth that challenge each other, and to see what happens in such an encounter. [It’s the humility aspect at work here.]

Using that approach we will most certainly be posed with rather difficult questions that we cannot easily explain away.

Hearing the Word of God in Scripture, and other “rescued responses to the initiating Mystery and Presence of God in the course of human events… (M. Fishbane)…

AKA… finding what we need for these journeys these not so easy trips.  Is never only about adding up the various pieces of our lives or our sacred texts; more often, it is about courageously holding up the jagged pieces of the texts or our lives that do NOT fit neatly together, and asking…

What do these pieces of life have to say to each other? And, why is there more than one voice? Do you mean to suggest that no one human get is all?

So, if we were today to try out that more Jewish approach (Jesus was Jewish….) we might line up… this reading from John’s Gospel “God loved the world so much that…” along-side of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 …. “and you will be a blessing to all the families of the earth.” and see what happens when we try to connect the two?

How do these of pieces of the truth open out each other with something we need for today?

In a way, this is what those Stations of the Cross out in the hall try to do… they try to help us see how it is that “…. the life of here and now is connected to and part of the life of there and then.” The kind of “life” (eternal life) that John’s Gospel refers to is clearly MUCH more than only something we “get” when we die. It’s about life both here and now, as well as there and then.

It is about an intimate, covenant relationship with God, with God’s Creation, including each other, and “all the families of the earth.”

We do not think our way into that relationship, into transformation, into justice, or even to what the world needs… Rather, we get there by love. By being loved and by loving. …to the extent that we increasingly see ourselves as part of this unbreakable arrangement with God…(aka, The Covenant) of which we catch a strong glimpse in Genesis 12, of God’s Covenant with Abraham and Sarah, and all the families of the earth.

I realize that The New York Times is not included within the Lectionary of the Episcopal Church. But, perhaps it should be. Here is one of the best descriptions of the way the Covenant works. It is from David Brooks.

“You only do all this if you’ve set up a framework in which exit is not an easy option,  in which you’re assured the other person’s love is not going away,  and in which the only way to survive the crises is to go deeper into the relationship itself.”                             D. Brooks 3/7/17

(The Good news is a love story, rather than a horror story.)

And when I say, we get there by loving and being loved…

As seen in those Stations of the Cross out in the hall, the ones of Jesus there and then as well as here and now:  There we see…that the Jesus version of love, that very expensive, priceless kind of love love that loved the world so much….all of us, that somehow moves us from within, in ways that we do not understand, to live far beyond the domination and bonds of our individual needs and wants to live with humility, wisdom, mercy, and compassion… that come clearly, Only by the Grace of God.

There we see that we are called to be the children of Abraham and Sarah, along-side of our Jewish and Muslim sisters and  brothers to live by faith and grace rather than “works”, [whatever that means] to be born of water and the Spirit, to share in God’s promised life of the here and now, as well as there and then, with all the families of the earth.

God loves the world so much…that the Holy One, continues to give us the gift of Jesus, whose life and death together show us how to be in intimate relationship with God, with each other, and with God’s Creation,  that we might live here and now, as well as there and then, while being a blessing to All the families of the earth. Amen.  

Sermon March 12th    2nd Sunday of Lent

By Kathryn A. Rickert, Ph.D. St. Augustine’s in the Woods, Episcopal Church, Freeland WA

Posted in God at Gatherings, God at Work, God in Creation, God in Relationships, God in Struggle and Distress, God in the Streets, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NOW WHAT? Still seeking meaningful responses to the election

 

It has been more than two months since Nov. 8th. I continue thinking (in vain) that with the passage of time, and hopefully with the development of additional understanding based upon actual events, some of the extreme distress that this election has led to would begin to decrease. As those who listen at all to those who continue to be deeply concerned about what may happen know, this is not yet the case.

And, here I must have the courage to also say, almost at the same time, that our mutual failure in listening to each other continues. Mostly. 

Those who are gleeful about this election, do not apparently share the legitimate, grave concerns of the 20,000,000 people who may lose their access to health care. But, then on the other hand; while we know now with at least some certainty, that a long-standing failure to listen compassionately to the legitimate economic and status concerns of white men who lack a college education, is NOT being overtly addressed by those who are terrified at the election results.

So, that leaves us in the same place –“Now what?” and continuing to seek those meaningful responses.

I keep thinking that before too long we will come across a plateau, as though we had made our way to a high prairie where clear vision is possible.

 

So far, that is not the case. I still feel that I am on high alert, and looking awkwardly in both directions, to the past and to the future, yet having no clarity about which direction to go, nor how to figure that out.

Perhaps it is the waiting for the many other shoes to drop, now that one very large and potentially dangerous shoe has fallen? However, the events so far, do not, for me at least, provide much that will clarify or calm those questions, but rather, serve mostly to intensify them.

There are a few things that may help. These “things” are found in the testimonies of some of those nominated for the cabinet. And, I find some help in those who are able to have bridge conversations with “the other side”. So far, they are still very small and not yet attached to attached to substantive events.

So, the question moves on to, “How do we, who are citizens of a DIVERSE yet still united nation, wait in meaningful ways that keep us moving forward with as much compassion and mutuality as possible? 

For now, I am going to follow the lead offered by my not-yet 2 yr old Granddaughter, Charlotte. I am going to do my very best to stand still and pay attention to what I see and try to make sense out of it.

I am going to take the time, to stand thoughtfully and look …

or sit on a bench to think, (as Sarah and Duck do).

at what is initially very strange to me.  (And, if I am honest, white men without a college education are not familiar to me. I don’t know them well, perhaps not at all. Nor do I understand their concerns, experiences, or worldview.)

And, if at first, I am afraid of butterflies because I don’t know what they are or what they might do to me, I will acknowledge my fear. (I will lament.) But, I will also stay put long enough to find out more about butterflies, and white men without a college education, etc.

And, once I find out that butterflies are not dangerous, then, and only then, will I change my mind. (And, I will try to do the same with those I do not know or understand.)

Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.”                                                               ― Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

These approaches, stopping to stand still and look, or sitting on a bench to think, are forms of prayer. Simone Weil’s definition of prayer as”paying attention” expands the notion of prayer from some kind of human -divine Q & A, into more of a long-term mutual relationship of presence and witness.

Thus, for now, I am going to try to learn from this child how to make sense of a world that seems almost unrecognizable.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in God in Struggle and Distress, Prayer, The Election of 2016, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What do we do with our anger and rage in lament?

If the emotion in the pit of your stomach after watching another killing of an African American man, a suicide bombing, a car-crash, stabbing, or a sniper killing is anger and rage, then it is anger and rage. Effective laments do not somehow transpose what is horrific and jarring into something mild, polite, correct, and meaningless. Anger is anger. Rage is rage. Within the world of biblical laments anger and rage are NOT grounds for ignoring the lament. Expressing these powerful emotions within prayer and the context of worshiping communities are actually a kind of spiritual practice and a major characteristic of the God of justice – who rights wrongs – as well as those who are faithful to that God.

Psalm 119:49-56

Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.                      This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life.                                   The proud have derided me cruelly, but I have not turned from your law.                  When I remember your judgments of old, O LORD, I take great comfort.                            I am filled with a burning rage, because of the wicked who forsake your law.                    Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger.                     I remember your Name in the night, O LORD, and dwell upon your law.

Rage is hardly uncommon: in the Bible God often is greatly distressed at Israel. Usually with very good reasons associated with longstanding injustice towards those who cry out from beneath the heel of oppression. But all of this anger and rage is never one-sided. We must also acknowledge and face our own rage and anger towards God, society, and injustice. Dealing with strong emotions is advanced spiritual and communal work. We have to train for lament; and even very small practice sessions help us to develop the emotional and spiritual skills to cry out to God in distress from faith.

We learn to lament by paying deep attention to what is going on – emotionally, politically, spiritually, socially – within us and around us, and then finding strong language, sounds, gestures, and images to convey to God and each other the significance and intensity of those emotions. We do so without editing out the “unacceptable” emotions, including anger and rage. Anger and rage are glaring indications of dis-ease and or dis-stress. They can be likened to a fever that informs us that something is wrong with the body. As with a fever, their intensity and duration provide clues to the magnitude and shape of what is perhaps unidentified: the underlying cause. Neither the fever nor the anger or rage is the problem, but is a crucial indication that there is a major problem requiring attention if we are to work towards any kind of effective resolution.

This critical step of awareness does not identify the problem, and even less does it allow us to know what is to be done about it. Also, unlike a fever that pertains only to the body, anger and rage may be symptoms of something wrong with the body, or an external force affecting the body, or some combination of the two. It is not enough to simply know that we are deeply distressed; we must figure out why, and then only later on, what to do or not to do, about our distress.

Lament requires us to pay deep attention to what is going on within us and around us – emotionally, politically, spiritually, socially. Then to hand that anger and rage over to God to be acknowledged and addressed within the daring expanse of our intimate relationship with God and each other. Anger and rage are not a place to remain, but they are powerful and necessary stops on the journey towards wisdom, compassion, and acts of justice and love.

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

A version of this post was published in the Mission Institute Newsletter

Mission Institute Newsletter  July 28, 2016

 

 

Anger, Rage, and Lament

Posted in God at Gatherings, God in Relationships, God in Struggle and Distress, God in the Media, God on the Inside, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Ruddy Duck and the New Instagram Logo??

 

[Perrygin Lake State Park, May 20 – 22, 2016 near Winthrop WA]

Ruddy Duck Photo

Ruddy Duck

It is a struggle for me to figure out how it is that the Ruddy Duck and the new “Instagram Logo” exist in the same world. Or that one, I being that one, would over hear an 11 yr. old boy talking to another kid while skate boarding on the road between our camp sites at Perrygin Lake State Park. They seemed like such “normal” kids… skate boarding, playing with fire sticks around the camp fire, etc. And what do I hear them talking about….?

One Boy             “Have you seen the new Instagram logo?                  Another Boy:  “Yea… it’s awesome!”

I don’t know if they saw the Ruddy Duck, or perhaps much else of what surrounded them there in the Methow Valley.

Hmmmmm?

We only happened to see this amazing creature with a blue bill, striking black and white head, and gorgeous “ruddy” back, etc. because we walked up the mile-long road that leads from the highway into the campground. There is a pond ½ way to the road, and on that pond are several Ruddy Ducks.

We knew nothing of Ruddy Ducks before, but because we happened to meet another couple there by the pond, and he of the couple knew what the Ruddy Duck is and that there were a couple of them in the pond. We had stopped at first because of the cacophony of bird noises; — a symphony was what I called it. Some of the sounds were machine-like, as if amplified electronically.  Below is a video of that sound, the call of the Yellow Headed Blackbird.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbyKevuda1E  Call of the Yellow Headed Blackbird

But I am still stunned by this juxtaposition of the experience with the birds in the pond over against the boys on the skateboards and their interest / appreciation for the new Instagram Logo. Compared to either bird, or the two marmots peering over the top of a huge rock who greeted us with a shrill whistle as we moved into the camp site #1, the logo is at best silly.

Of course, I am aware of the irony that I am only able to write this and share it with other people, or see those pictures and videos of Ruddy Ducks and Yellow Headed Blackbirds and because of some form of technology, (even if it isn’t Instagram!) So, with this admission that we need, use… are perhaps overly dependent upon technology, I am trying to figure out how these aspects of contemporary life connect, fit together, or some other possible arrangement of coexistence.

So far, not so good.  I can take in one or the other; the birds or the kids; but like some multidimensional puzzle, I don’t know how to hold them together.

Perhaps there are a few advantages to being older and no longer strong enough to do what younger people do, so as to be forced to slow down long enough to have experiences of this kind… magic moments of bird symphony, creature greetings, etc.?

Posted in Creation and Technology, God in Creation | Leave a comment

Great Soup in Honor of Fallen Giantess

Golden Soup for the Day that the Tree Fell

It wasn’t planned, the falling of the tree that is.

It just happened that I made this wonderful soup on this day that the tree fell. Still, I want the soup to be in her honor.

We noticed in the morning that this very tall tree (140′ tall) was leaning at a strange angle, toward the drive into our house. Like many of the trees here where we live on South Whidbey Island she had had some kind of tree-mid-life-crisis, demonstrated by a strange bump part of the way up her tall trunk. But, once that bump was passed, she grew very tall, and stood erect and dignified. Until today.

Like the death of a loved elder, we could see it coming. The wind was up and it was clear that with that much tilt, she could not last very long at that angle. There has been so much rain here, (a good thing) that the ground around her trunk was totally soaked. This is how many of the trees here fall — they twist in the soft earth and come crashing down.

We had called a tree cutting guy to ask him to come take a look at her; but now there is no need for that.

As I was making the soup, I looked once again out the window to see what the wind and the tree were doing. She swayed a bit, at first without falling; but then after a very short amount of swaying I could see that she was coming down. Slowly, I watched her fall, with a great thud, and a splash of water where the top hit the bit of water in our seasonal lake. Most of the branches (already dead) broke in the impact, and the top section snapped off into various pieces.

It is a very good thing that Gary bought that tractor. A chain saw alone would not have liberated us from this fallen giantess. She fell across the drive blocking it entirely. Thus… after much sawing, and moving around with the tractor, the road was clear and I was able to help pick up the remaining smaller branches, and drive across the path of the fall.

All the while, making GOLDEN SOUP:

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs golden beets, small (1″ -2″) cooked separately, peeled and then sliced 1/4″

1 lg onion, chopped med.

2 leeks, sliced 1/4″

4 -6 T olive oil

1-2 C chopped cabbage

1/3 C grape tomatoes

1-2 large carrots, sliced

1 yellow and 1 orange pepper, sliced small

1 parsnip, peeled and sliced

1 apple, chopped (1/2 ” cube)

3 qt low sodium chicken stock

1.25 lbs chicken sausage

2 cans white beans (15 oz)

peel & juice of 1 large orange

2 bay leaves

2 tsp cumin

2-3 tsp smoked paprika

1-2 T red pepper flakes

Directions:

Saute until very soft, in olive oil, onions, leeks, peppers, parsnip, apple, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes. Add the spices, orange peel, and once well done, the orange juice, & chicken stock. Let simmer on very low, or just sit.

In a separate pan, boil the beets in water until tender (18 min?); cover with cold water to chill, then peel, and slice into bit sized pieces.

In another pan, saute the chicken sausage, breaking up any large chunks.

Once all this is prepared, combine it all in one large pot. If time allows, let it sit in a refrigerator for 4 -5 hours, uncovered, and reheat just before serving.

Give thanks for this wonderful tree whose falling did not hurt any one, and whose life is hereby commemorated with this Golden Soup.

Buen provecho.

 

 

Posted in food, God at Gatherings, food, drink and holy stuff, God in Creation, God in Relationships | Tagged , | Leave a comment