“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.

Posted in God at Gatherings, God in Struggle and Distress, God in the Streets, Journey | Leave a comment

“An Immaculate Reconception of the Second Coming”

An Advent Sermon 2017   This is the season of Advent, a time for hope, expectation, waiting and planning.What are we waiting for?

A small group gathered last Sunday after the 10:30 coffee hour to talk about Advent, about why we like it, why it means so much to us, what we remember about it from the past, what it offers us now, and what we wait for this year.

So, what are we waiting for?

 Yes, we are waiting for Christmas, for this feast of humble power, celebrating God with us and Peace on Earth for All. We are waiting for that, and so very much more.

It was a poignant conversation… there was rich silence, even a few tears. Each of us is waiting heavily… with intense longings, hopes, and expectations.

We began our time together by walking along the Advent Wall…and pondering what is there. Then each person explained what it is that he or she remembers and loves about Advent. [The Advent – Christmas Wall is a rotating, seasonal installation put together by various individuals and groups in the parish, St. Augustine’s in the Woods, Freeland, WA, throughout the year.]

There were many different responses. We are not all the same. Those differences were part of the beauty and power of the experience. It’s not that we all wanted one thing.

Our longing is great! Some of us feel overwhelmed; lost in a cycle of discouragement, confusion, anger, and fear.  All of us are living in times that sorely need Wisdom, Law, Living Branches and Light that shines through the Darkness. The details vary, but the deep needs are still sadly very much the same.

One of the purposes of the Wall is to make clear the implications of Advent for our lives today. As you will see from reading some of the poetry and songs on the wall, the issues and problems that we think of as “ours today” are hardly new. We share many of those same issues and problems with those who first sang those words in monastic communities of the 9th C. or those who first sang it as the Hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in the 18th C, or those… to whom John the Baptist cried out ”proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.

So, what does Advent have to do with us now?    What are we waiting for?

Before we left last week, each of us answered that question.

mutual renewal inside and outside

some COMMON understanding of Truth

a restoration of civility

a returning of Light


a healing of brokenness of many kinds

a respectful coming together of people across differences

How does Advent help us wait in joy with hope and expectation?

This is a season of hopeful waiting, joyful anticipation, longing and preparation; preparation for a coming again, for another round of the Holy One, for more of God to be among us, for more of us to be with God    (To be restored to God and each other) grafted onto that holy Branch that bears new fruit of freedom, justice, well-being, and peace for all of Creation, worthy of Christ.

As lovely as blue and purple are, as comforting as candle light and ancient hymns, Advent is not a season of escape. Advent is a sacred time and space for both comfort and challenge.

In this season we use some very strong language… about repentance and forgiveness of sins, freedom from Satan’s tyranny, victory over death, closing the path to misery, ceasing of human divisions.

One place you can see something of how Advent works to both comfort and challenge by weaving together the past, present and the future, is on the panel for the O Antiphon O Key of David. Eileen Jackson has included a number of powerful images and texts about unlocking God’s Reign of Peace.

Especially poignant is Langston Hughes’ poem from 1936 “Let America Be America Again”. In between his painful description of what was not going well in 1936, he inserts in brackets this phrase

(“America never was America to me”)

He who was Black, gay and brilliant had the wisdom to see what America could be, but was not yet, (then) while at the same time speaking hopefully with faith and vision to describe an America of Peace and Justice for everyone. That kind of prophetic wisdom and vision is very much what Advent is about.

How does Advent offer this wisdom and vision?

As Karl Rahner says it…

Ask not, doubt not. You have, my heart, already chosen the joy of Advent. As a force against your own uncertainty, bravely tell yourself. “It is the Advent of the great God.”

Say this with faith and love, and then both the past of your life, which has become holy, and your life’s eternal boundless future will draw together in the now of this world. For then into the heart comes the one who is Advent, …

This kind of waiting,,, with space in-between allows us to do the kind of reflection that simply does not happen in a hurry; we see so much more when we are not rushed and having to work with only small bits. When we reflect in a hurry we do come up with insights, but they are those from the top rather than those that come from deeper down within the depths of the season.

This past year has been very challenging in many ways. The intensity and complexity of that challenge had led me to think that over-all it was not a “good year”.

And, yet,…when there was the time to look back at the many marvelous experiences that showed up on my FB this past week, I realized what I had not realized before.

That while it was in some ways a difficult year, it was also a VERY good year. One of the best of my life. But I did not see that when I thought quickly from the surface.  I needed to go deeper.  I needed Advent.

Advent offers us a distinct Frame through which to look, think, feel, pray about, and live through the month of Dec. BOTH Comfort & Challenges. Both!

Tools – images, ideas, songs, colors… that serve both to comfort and to challenge.

A simple and inexpensive Christian liturgical Calendar” is one of the most powerful tools. This practice of living according to more than one calendar allows Christians and others whose lives are shaped by calendars of faith, to simultaneously hold multiple worldviews and self-understandings which provide strong strategies for dealing with the considerable challenges of post-modern life.

By using that “App” of the Liturgical Calendar we “in-load”, take into our hearts, heads, minds, bodies…. a distinct set of colors, images, words, icons, sounds…. which, working together, allow us to see something going here, that we cannot find or buy at the mall!

And we can do this while also still being part of that other secular calendar of “Global Christmas culture,” as long as it is the qualities of the Advent Season that contribute most to what goes on inside of us.

That “Advent App” brings us powerful forces to cut into and loosen some of that overwhelmingness, lostness, discouragement, confusion, anger…fears.” Powers to  shake up… shed light on, loosen… re-frame, cause a 2nd 3rd look at the events of our lives.

Comfort AND Challenge: From the prophet Isaiah we hear Comfort, comfort, and from the JB we hear challenge.  There is a gentle spaciousness about Advent that does not rush us into either comfort or challenge. We are invited by these texts, images and stories to take our time as we prepare for the One who is Advent.  

The Comfort….comes from even the smallest notion that in this extremely busy time of year, we can carve out some sacred space and time… (Even a bit) to take a step back from the beauty and pain of our lives to consider how all of that fits into the bigger picture of God’s world.

This kind of waiting allows us (even for a little while) to enter into that sacred space and time of Advent…where in the calm and beauty we can listen and see what is going on. The comfort, for me, comes in the colors, the songs, the candles. Advent has a distinct flavor to it… we can hear that in the hymns:

Rejoice, rejoice Believer, Lo, he Comes with Clouds Ascending, O Come, O Come Emmanuel,Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding, Creator of the Stars of night, Sleepers, Wake! A voice astounds us, Prepare the way O Zion, Come thou long expected Jesus, Comfort, comfort ye my people, The King shall come when morning dawns, On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry, People, Look East!

At this time of year when it is dark, and cold and we’d probably rather take a nap, we are challenged and comforted by these commands and powerful images.  – Lo, Hark, Wake UP, Come, Look, Prepare, Comfort,…in spite of the weather and events around us. This is no time to fall asleep. This is time to prepare… for a coming again of God who is with us, but who now comes to us again for another round of Holy Light, Life, Healing, Wisdom, Justice, Reconciliation, and Peace.

The images are intense: Advent is an exciting liturgical season; it is powerful.

a wild man who wears unconventional clothes and eats a diet foraged in the dessert, is preparing the way for God!

time is not linear; “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years,  and a thousand years are like one day. “

The past, present and the future are being used interchangeably as though they all connect now!

Jesus, the One who has come, is coming and will come again, is depicted in many ways: as Wisdom, Law Giver, Strong Light, Living Branch, Key, and Desire of Nations… something for Everybody.

And all shrouded in Myst ery…as Thomas Merton describes it:

Advent is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.”

The Advent Wall … is a mixture of the Comfort and the Challenge. In an effort to see how these ancient O Antiphons fit into our context. I hope that you will take the time to ponder some of what is there and see how it might help you to prepare for the Coming.

Of the many comforts and challenges on that wall…it is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem from 1958 “Christ Climbed Down” that most deeply challenges me. I want to do what he mentions in the conclusion of this poem:

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candy canes and breakable stars…

Christ climbed down /from His bare Tree / this year / and softly stole away into /                   some anonymous Mary’s womb again / here in the darkest night / of everybody’s anonymous soul / He awaits again/ an unimaginable and impossibly/                      Immaculate Reconception / the very craziest of / Second Comings

The Challenge…   John he Baptist calls those who go out to the dessert to “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. So what is that for us now? We may think that we are NOT waiting for God to come in that way, that we don’t want more of that extreme preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. But we very much need it.

It is one thing to deal with one’s own sin; Forgiveness of sins is about our own sins. Yes, it is.

Advent is different from Lent. It is about repentance, repentance within this spacious, gentle beauty…calling us towards this Holy Coming again. I am very certain there are a number of things for which I need to repent. I am also certain that my unawareness of the unintended consequences of much about my life insures that I am often unaware of where I need to turn around.  Advent offers me a time and place to ponder that, gently. That measure, mentioned in the collect for today,…is the way that I live “worthy of Christ?”

Forgiveness of sins is also about “Our sins”….all of us. The forgiveness of sins matters now more than ever.  For we live in a world, that for the most part, has no effective means for bringing back together again what has come apart, through some kind of process of Truth and Reconciliation.  The big picture of “repentance and forgiveness of sins” is more about the all of us and not only isolated individuals apart from each other.

The deeper purpose of communal repentance and the forgiveness of sins is the ultimate bringing back together again of what has come apart. The forgiveness of sins has a lot to do with the list from that group last Sunday:

Renewal                                                                                                                                                      Truth                                                                                                                                                          Civility                                                                                                                                                        Returning of Light                                                                                                                                    Compassion                                                                                                                                                Healing of brokenness of many kinds                                                                                                  Respectful coming together of people across differences

How do Advent and Christmas connect?

As bizarre as it is to hear Christmas carols in October at the store…once in a while…even there some of the marvel that we await comes through. This glorious Feast of the Incarnation is part of what we long for. It holds out Light, Wisdom, Peace, and Love.

 We need this “Immaculate Reconception of the Second Coming, as well as practices of repentance and the forgiveness of sins that serve to reconcile, rather than banish.  And that is what we are offered in the larger picture of the Birth, life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.


Last weekend at the concert on Sat. night…PNW Musicworks and the Whidbey Island Music Festival,  Feliz – Baroque – Navidad…. I heard a description of what it is that I am hoping  Advent leads me to this year: in one of the songs, sung in Spanish.

!Tu mi Dios entre pajas!  Esteban Salas, Cuban (1725- 1803) Trans. Henry Lebedinsky 

 The cradle in which / The Sun of your divinity is [humbled], / Is the world in which / The fire of your love shines. /Jesus! Jesus what a flame! /  What an ardent radiance! / In it the soul is embraced, / And the heart is kindled.

As we wait together this Advent “…in the darkest night of everybody’s anonymous soul”, May we notice and join in this “… unimaginable and impossibly Immaculate Reconception the very craziest of Second Comings.”

I am waiting for the One who is Advent.                                                                                            I am waiting for my heart to be kindled again.                                                                                 I am waiting for that very craziest of Second Comings

 What are you waiting for?

Posted in Advent Retreat, God in Struggle and Distress | Leave a comment

Post No. 8 – Home Again

Post No. 8 Coming Home – Fairmont, Montana to Coles Road, Whidbey Island

Perhaps we leave home because of home, not so much to escape home, but more to intensify our view of home, to help us see so much more clearly why home is home?

These are far from complete reflections; they are beginning excavations into a rich and complex experience that is only just a little bit understood.

Something happens out there on all of that land, those 1,000’s of miles and acres. Something happens there that does not happen here. (Or if it happens here, I don’t notice it as much.) I’m still chewing on a suggested distinction between how First Nations Peoples and Euro-Americans relate to land, to a specific land. Part of what I can see from this point is that I relate to the land “there” in another mode from the one I use here at home. It may be about a degree of attention, of being more able to see what is there without the immunity or blindness that comes from extreme familiarity. But, incomplete as the relationship to that land may be, it still makes a huge mark upon me, on who I am, on my “identity.” For one thing, that land stops me and causes/ allows me to see that this land isn’t the only land, that my world is not the center of the Universe, and that however grossly “different” that land may be from this land, we – all of us – are still bonded together in spite of / through the distinctions.

I am home again, here in this land that is stunningly beautiful, AND I am also still struck by the other kinds of beauty (and pain) that I saw in Eastern, WA, Idaho, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Montana.

I used to think that it was only air travel that has this time-delayed-adjustment-factor as a side effect. Now, even though I’ve been home for two days from a “road trip”, some part of me is still back there in Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming. I’m not at all sure when those parts will catch up to these parts here in this land. And I’m also still trying to figure out what those other parts are. At the very least, those parts open up   new spaces, desires, and connections within me.

I am profoundly thankful for those new spaces, desires and connections.

And next week we go to New York City, and take on yet another distinction.

Posted in God in Creation, God in Relationships, Journey | Leave a comment

Post No. 6 As Far as the Eye Can See

Post No. 6 As Far as the Eye Can See, (September 1, 2017), Bismarck, ND)



I suppose that anyone who has traveled here knows all of this, but since it is new to me, I write about seeing as far as the eye can see. When I say “as far as the eye can see” I’m not using the strict scientific definition of clear human vision. (There is some dispute, but eyes cannot see all that far clearly with or without flat land.) This is something less than clear, yet clear enough that something is seen. And with that kind of vision it cannot help but change the seer on the inside. At least, it is changing me.

After this many days on the road, good days on the road, I have lost track of any clear separation among the many striking things that we have seen. One of the phrases that keeps coming back again and again is that one about “as far as the eye can see.”

There is so much out here to treasure and to remember and to learn from. And that desire, to learn from it, was at least part of why I was writing these posts. But now that we are about to turn around and head toward the other direction, I’m wondering about what I can remember and learn from this experience.  There is so much here that I don’t know what to do with it.

As a person who was born and lived most of my life on the West Coast, in Seattle, Shoreline and now Whidbey Island, it is becoming even clearer how much that land and those vistas are deeply built into who I am. I’m not at home here in ND. As beautiful as it is, and it is a strong beauty of its own, it’s not home.

Here, as far as the eye can see, the eye sees land, and sky and more land and more sky as though there were no end to either the land or the sky, as though there were no limits to how the land and the sky are used, abused, misused. I can “see” why someone here might not feel any urgency about protecting the land. There is so much land here; we wouldn’t miss a bit of it, if it were to be turned into an oil field – a coal mine – a highly chemicalized field of soy beans – a shopping mall – another track of houses…

Seeing all of this sparks a glimmer an of idea as to why people in a town of 91 people or maybe 486 people would be sure that if someone were to have an unwanted baby, someone else in town wants and needs a baby and the town REALLY needs people. Badly.

Life does not look the same out here as it does “back there.”

And, yet life is life, wherever we live it. Isn’t it?

Thanks be for this powerful land, For

all of the people who live here,

now and in the past.

For all of the creatures,


rivers and streams.

May we honor it.


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Post No. 5 Felcitas and Chief Washakie


(This post is out of order in terms of the calendar; it’s been soaking within for days.)

 This kind of experience is why travel offers us something one cannot otherwise obtain. Yes, there were more than a few dollars spent to get to the experience, but the extremely valuable experience itself was offered, and gratefully received.

The State Bath House of Wyoming is the smallest of the three options for trying the “healing waters” of Thermopolis, WY. The area just beyond the pools is layer upon layer of mineral deposit sandwiches, looking something like a rock version of Jabba the Hut.

The other two options have water slides, etc. and large full-size swimming pools along with soaking pools. I had no idea which was which, but since all I sought was a brief soak in the “waters”, I choose the State Bath House of Wyoming.  As the woman at the desk who greeted me said, “The price is right. It’s free.” And then she told me about Chief Washakie. As part of the Treaty of 1896 it continues to be required that there be free access to these waters. And there is.


“The Shoshone and Arapaho tribes gave Wyoming the hot springs in a treaty in 1896, with the provision it remain accessible to the general public with charge. You can still visit the State Bath House in Hot Springs State Park free of charge.”



 Chief Washakie, Eastern Shoshone, “Shoots the Buffalo Running”

We recognized each other to be women of some kind of shared view on life. At first, she asked me “Are you Native American?” (It is an honor to be asked that. My honest answer is that I don’t think so, but that I hang out with Native People whenever they allow me to do so.)

Thus, there was a wonderful conversation about how she, who is Arapaho and Mexican was there, with her (beige) husband, because these waters are healing. And she was there to bless them with the blessings of the Four Directions.  We talked about the waters in a spiritual way. Such a gift. It made being there in that pool, because of its origins more than just being on vacation, etc.

Arapaho name for “white”…”Blue Eyed Angels” vs. Lakota (via Martin Brokenleg) People who wear bad clothes, (bad clothes = clothes that don’t make a sound, no bells, shells, etc.

At first we talked “Indian Country”… who is from where.  And I had just seen the sign for the Trail of the Sand Creek Massacre.  (It is one of the things we dealt with in that Doctrine of Discovery video I worked on. O so horrific! To be in that place is not a comfortable place to be. More like Blue Eyed Devils!)


“BLUE  (or green) it (inan. subj.) is blue: ceeneeteeyoo’; he (she) is (painted) blue: ceeneeteeneiht;  sky blue: hono’ceneeteeyoo’; dark blue: biikooceneeteeyoo’; green (“grass blue”): wonooxotiiceneeteeyoo’

WHITE it is white: nonoocoo’; it is turning white: nonookunoo’oo’; it is white (anim. subj.): nonookeiht; it was white: nihnoocoo’; I have white hair: nonooke’einoo; my hair is turning white: nonooke’ei’onoo; white man: nih’oo3oo; white mouse: nookookuuhttp://www.colorado.edu/csilw/arapahoproject/language/dictionary/dic_frame2.html


At one point she told me where she told me her name, “Felicitas” and she said it in Spanish, not English. And then we switched to Spanish and had a whole other layer of conversation en Espa~ol.

I don’t know if Pilgrimage is “supposed” to be about seeking something specific and know beforehand, or rather perhaps this being able to recognize the unplanned for gift when it shows up. How so few minutes make such a deep impression. Thanks be to God for Chief Washakie, the Shoshone and Arapaho people, and Felicitas, the healing waters of Wyoming!

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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



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.





 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,


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.


Posted in God in Relationships, God in Struggle and Distress, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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