Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Sermon 2010

I think if we counted the number of Christmas services held in this place it would come to a substantial total. But what is at the center of it? With all the gathering and recollecting and celebrating, why do we keep coming back, what does it bring to mind, how does it make our life different? I think there are some important things we can remember at this time of year in to keep ourselves focused on the living hope and heart of Christmas.

First God comes to us as a gift. First in the gift of our being. Then Jesus is a picture of how God fits in and lives out life in the middle of the human journey. Jesus comes to Bethlehem as a child to live out the truth that the presence of God can live from moment to moment, day to day, in our world, our neighborhood, in a life as bound by biology and politics and history and economic necessity as the world we live in. Jesus knew all about being human:

And it is a gift which shares with us. That is where we might find the centre of Christmas right now, in the present moment: where, by the Grace of God, each of us is a kind of Christmas present; where each of us is given and holds a gift, a specific and unique aspects of God’s love. A gift from the beginning of creation, in each of us uniquely, each and everybody, both in the visible church and outside, world-wide, a world full of gifts and gift-givers. I think that’s the gift of Christmas!

For each of us, like Jesus, is a gift from God, and so is everybody else! So what if we open that possibility, and realize that God calls us to look at each other and at ourselves, as a personal gift, an individual package, lovingly wrapped and presented, given with love from God.
What if we look at everyone, everything with the question; "What is God giving here? What is this to Love?"

Now this can change things! It means not overlooking anyone. Instead it involves looking with love at the likes, dislikes, proclivities, abilities and disabilities, history and humor of each one of us; all the facets of who everyone is, of who we are. That might seem difficult, but it could be easy! For if each one of us is a Christmas present from God, then letting God love the world in the middle of your life means being where you are, living where you are, loving what you do, going on as you can just like Jesus!

Because, and this is the second thing, you don’t have to be important to be a gift from God, look at Jesus! Born in a small-town in occupied territory, the word of God’s love enters the human family from the inside; joins us in the fragility, the trying times, the tender mercies, the faithful process of dealing with life on life’s terms.

So that means that we don’t meet God by being more than human, we don’t have to be heroes! God knows what it is to be a baby, a small child, a youngster in a small town, a tradesman, a member of a community. Because love can live anywhere, in small places as well as large, in villages and cities, in past, present and future, through good days and bad times, in the times when life goes well and the days that go down in defeat, love lives on, even when it’s done to death, even when your best hope for life lies hanging on the tree like a broken promise.

And then it can be difficult: it is not an easy road, honoring and caring for the pain of the world, in ourselves and in others, by witnessing the places where God’s love and God’s beloved are crucified, damaged, done to death to this very day. It takes effort and time, and it can hurt terribly - it made Jesus weep – and it takes us inevitably to the middle of the day when hope will die.

We see that in Jesus, the rule of God's love, living through difficult times, through hunger, thirst, tears, with family problems, organizational difficulties, clashing with the prevailing political and religious establishment, and finally becoming one with the homeless and sinners, with those who cry and cry out, becoming one with people who have no voice and no name. And being put to death by the state, Jesus becomes one with those who are to be written off as officially expendable.

And he lives through it That is written into his life as clear as love, from the very beginning. He gives himself up in the name of the love that does not end; he pours himself out like living water, food for the thirsty and hungry, the poor and those with no home, wanderers and beggars of God. He becomes good word and loving action, bread and wine for them. He not only acts out but he serves to flesh out an understanding of how God loves us and feeds us and meets us on the road where we are and he takes us along with him!

Remember that! Learn this Christmas that God’s love and God’s life is deeper than death; and that is the gift we are given.
This is the centre of the Christmas message that takes us right through to Easter, a part of that deep surprise that the saints and the tradition and the scripture and the community of faith gathering over space and time all gather ‘round and point to. Love Lives!

In Jesus, God loves from the inside, from being as we are in every way, except he never closes the door on that awareness of connection, of creativity and love in the centre of everywhere. And in Jesus, God is willing to share that life with us!

And so today we’re asked to open that Christmas gift, to take the chance, to bet our lives, that the centre of the whole creation, our very selves, souls and bodies, connections and communities, is woven together with the deepest kind of caring: the creative love of God in everything here and now. We are called to open to the chance that the outpouring of love we see in the life of Jesus is calling out to everyone. That’s what we’re trying to unwrap here; to get that story, that hope, and that gift, that very inspired breathing into our hearts, our minds, our daily lives.

So this Christmas, as we witness the birth of this deep hope, open your present and follow this child Jesus right through the middle of life! Follow his lead, move with his rhythm, walk his walk.

For the life of Christ shows us how to dance with God, to partner with Gods love in the intricacies and rhythms of our own truths in our history and hope, our own life and times, and in all the different communities where God loves to be found. Like any dance, it can begin with a single step, but keep working on it, playing with it, living it out, and it will change your heart, it will change your mind, it will change your life!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent 4A

The Advent question is this: How does a word of God come among us, how is it conceived, raised up, given life? How does a message, a newborn relationship, a call to serve, to heal, to teach, to love, to live out God’s love first take root in our minds, hearts, priorities and purpose? How does God’s life live in our lives?

The answer to that question is in the history of the church, for we are the record of the life and ministry of Jesus, of God’s word in flesh, over time, seen and lived out in history, geography and community. The recorded lives of the saints, of the apostles, of the martyrs all answer that question in some detail. To start with the scripture, the wrestling with revelation and community that we see in the writing of Paul is a part of our history; and in the life of Peter, as we see the disciple changed from saying too much and doing too little; changed to see the hand, the breath, the life of God grow strong in the life of Peter and makes him strong, turning him to a rock of faith, a witness and a martyr, sending him out to preach good news, to be good news.

So the last two thousand years is enlightened by the bright witnesses of saints and martyrs, agents of mercy and forgiveness, of poetry and politics, of repentance and new life. They comes in different shapes and sizes, male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free, quite a variety. Like that rather sweet (some would say saccharine) hymn, “one was a soldier and one was a priest and one was killed by a fierce wild beast.... [and going on] you can meet them in schools or in lanes or at sea; in church or in trains or in shops or at tea / for the saints of God are just folk like me and I mean to be one too!”

Someone just like you and me was Maximilien Kolbe, a Franciscan priest incarcerated in a prison camp in WW2 Germany, he was a neighbor, a friend, a person of prayer and reconciliation to all around him. One day, standing in a room where a group of men were set aside for assassination, sentenced to death, and hearing one man cry out, “but I have a wife and child,” Kolbe said, “send me” and went to his death as an apostle, a martyr, a saint of God’s creative mercy, sacrificial love and saving spirit. These people continue the saving acts of God to be witnesses, lights of God’s love, agents of God’s love.

A lot of us simply try, day after day, with varying degrees of success, “to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” We do what we can, and most of us are, if not rank sinners, are somewhat damaged goods, just like most of the apostles. We all start out slowly just like them: less stained glass saints than sick people getting better, made more healthy by living day by day in the light and love of the life of God we see in the life, the ministry, the death and resurrection, the sacrifice and the salvation offered by this Jesus. In this Peter and Paul are a lot like us. And so are Mary and Joseph.

Mary and her husband offer two pictures of how faith can come to us, as well as two ways of responding to God’s action in our lives. So they serve as models of witness, pilgrimage and wonder. For Mary it seems more clearcut, easier, maybe she is younger, more able to say yes, to be formed with God’s image within her, to be a vehicle for Gods action to be born out of her assent.

Sometimes the message comes and is seen clearly, and we say yes! Even if it’s a surprise, if it takes us into new beginning, if it meets us at our most inexperienced, we say yes, willing to be a vessel and vehicle of a new graceful message, and Mary has this experience.

But other times it comes slowly, over time, after deliberation and at some cost, and Joseph is a model for this experience. Some traditions states that Joseph was older and -- let’s face it, when you’re older these experience, of a new life in faith, new duties, new directions, take more time.

It couldn’t be easy for him. “The woman you are planing to marry is pregnant, and it is not your child!” Joseph shows he’s compassionate right at the start, when he decides to end the relationship without publicity. He could move to a more violent response, it would have been in accord with scripture - and there’s one more reason I am no fundamentalist - but he is merciful, determined to put her away: simply to give her up: maybe he gives the whole matter over to God. And then he has a dream.

Maybe you’re not like me, but I’ve had a few dreams in my life that have been very helpful; where a problem has been solved, a new option outlined. I’ve awakened with more than a few sermons where a new ending came into being, and sometimes my mind has been changed by an insight that allowed a new possibility.

So Joseph has a dream where he is told that the woman he planned to marry is pregnant with God’s child, Emmanuel, God with us. It is not as dramatic, as immediate, as the experience that Mary has in Luke’s Gospel, and we don’t get a pretty speech in response. But Joseph wakes up resolved to do as the angel has commanded and he takes Mary as his wife and gives his life to protect, to father this new beginning as best he can, this new birth of God into the world.

And I wonder if he always had doubts? This morning I hope so, for then he is a model for all of us who sometimes doubt. Because he still followed through, made room and gave comfort for that miraculous birth, husbanded the life that allowed God’s word to be made flesh and blood, born of Mary, “according to your word.” Joseph supported this, witnessed this, gave his life, the life he had to live and to offer, so that God’s word of hope and love and reconciliation might live.

Did Joseph live to see Jesus die? Was he there to see the resurrection light and life at the end of it all, that new beginning. We don’t know. He fades out of the Gospels when Jesus is a boy. Maybe like Moses he dies in sight of that promised land, and will be carried along in hope, like us, Maybe, like us, he gives his life to protect and honor and witness to a newborn life that he doesn’t fully understand, maybe all his days he would still look at this growing Jesus and wrestle with the inconceivable fact of him. Even as he came to love to child he raised as his own, even when he had held the child who would, by God’s grace, become a savior, held the one who would carry him to a larger life. We just don’t know.

So then Joseph is a sign of faith for us. And maybe St Joseph prays for us today, joins us in all our doubts and hopes, as we carry this surprising child, and prepare to try to care for this soon to be newborn hope once again; not with all the answers, not with the great assurance that Mary had, but with resolve to preserve and protect, to hold and watch and witness as we can, to offer support and strength, to husband that hope, to raise that new beginning, as another gift of God comes to be born in our lives.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent 3A

I think that none of us are surprised when John the Baptist sends his disciples to see Jesus to ask, “are you the one or should we seek another?” Because we ask similar questions: Should we keep looking, is our discipleship, our understanding, our faith, our expectation in the right place, or should we seek another parish family, or another mental, physical or spiritual discipline, a better diet, maybe more interesting friends, a regular meditation practice, a new way of being in the world with God? Should we just keep looking?

And it seems like we should, because if you listen to the prophet Isaiah, bigger things are supposed to be happening!

The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy... A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way;

 And that it doesn’t not look like the life we are living, our lives often aren’t as spectacular, as full of vision, as Isaiah’s vision.

So we are like John the Baptist who, waiting in jail for the death he knows is coming soon, sends to see if Jesus is the true Messiah, if he can put his hope there and finally rest in peace. And John the Baptist has reason to rest; he has come from a pretty noisy past, has lived with high hopes. Remember his works in last week’s gospel: coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals, who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire, gathering his wheat into the granary; and burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

And then he sees Jesus. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  I don’t what he thinks, but it makes me wonder, If John is the opening act, what kind of main act will follow, what happens next? Well, if you read Matthew’s account, it seems less spectacular than expected. First Jesus turns down the chances to do three major, even cosmic, miracles when he’s tempted in the desert. Then for the next six chapters of Matthews’ Gospel you start see a different style, to hear a different rhythm and tone than John’s overture might lead you to believe: Jesus teaches, heals, feeds, gathers a community of the poor in spirit, the mournful, meek and merciful; the pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted. To be accurate, there aren’t a lot of people who look like earth-shakers: to be fair, they look a lot like us.

And Jesus tells these people to live righteously, fulfill the law, be perfect; to pray and fast in secret: but not to worry about what to wear or eat; in fact, not to worry about the future at all. Instead to strive for the kingdom of heaven, and ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”  That’s the kingdom of heaven!

But it’s not there yet. John sees that and so do we. It’s not here yet either. Because we know that some of our blind are not receiving their sight, our lame still limp, our modern day equivalent of lepers have a spotty recovery rate at best;
many of the deaf don’t hear well enough, the poor haven’t heard that much good news recently, and there is increasing number of the dead who seem to be waiting to be raised.

So when Jesus tells John’s disciples, “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” We  might not be offended or offensive, but just slightly puzzled, wondering where we go from here.

It’s a big question, and I offer three small and tentative practices that might make it easier to see that we could conceivably be in just the right place.

First, exercise to cultivate optimism. Several months ago I mentioned that I try to say thank you to God twenty times every day. So, following along this path, practice finding places where life goes well, changes for the good. Make a point, a discipline, of looking for them and nothing them, if not just in yourself, than in other people’s lives.

A good friend of mine and I talk on the web occasionally and she despairs of ever finding love. “It will never change” she says, “But you change!” I keep saying. You’re different than you ever used to be: better, older, more alive. You are someone who has never been before. Let the world find you anew, let your world be open to new possibilities, new life. And she can’t see it yet, but I can; so I hold that hope for her.

Hold hope for one another; that’s one way to keep faith with one another, do not grumble but be hopeful and patience and hold each other in honor like miracles that are waiting to happen.
We all know it’s easier to give than to receive; and it’s also easier to hope for others than for yourself. But I will guarantee that you will be surprised with what can happen within your own life. Hope and pray for others and let others hold you in that same way. Because hope and prayer open you to a surprising future.

Then second; know you are in it for the long run. Someone once said that we can only understand life backwards but we have to live it forward. So know that the future will be different from the past, and understand now that you’ll never know quite how it will be then. Be open to seeing life in new ways, hearing good news in a way you did’t expect, allowing room or surprise, for lives that were halt and lame to begin to dance into new ways of being. It takes awhile, often longer that you know, to see life that openly, but out just may happen, for the big truth is that we’re built for eternity.

A wise friend of mine once said, “Don’t leave before the miracle happens!” So, as we used to say in the 60s, “Keep on keeping on!” We may very well die a bit on the way, in fact we likely will: maybe the death of old hopes, often the death of youthful dreams, sometimes the death of those we love, and our own deaths too; but know this: we’ll get through it, by God’s grace and the light of Christ, the miracle will come.

So follow Jesus through the church year and right into the middle of the human condition: into this cauldron called the church; this half-baked but warming up company of people who are trying to live into and out of the love of God. That’s number three. Just love Jesus and his friends the best you can and let him love you while you walk with Him through the middle of life to somewhere beyond death.

Right into the middle of the whole mystery, into that corner where the only thing left is to give over is what you thought you earned or knew or wanted and the only thing to take is the present God offers you as a gift. Take that and get through whatever Good Friday the long week has to offer, trusting that you’ll wake up on the other side of Easter.

But know that here is where it begins, in these timid moments, in witnessing and honoring this small hope that begins right now; in knowing God loves us now and will not leave us alone. That can be just enough for the time being. Frederick Buechner put it this way:

“Our experiences of a real but limited deliverance today orient us to a confident expectation of a full redemption in the future. Christians are people who have been delivered just enough to know that there’s more where that came from, and whose experience of that little deliverance that has already happened inside themselves and whose faith in the deliverance still to happen is what sees them through the night."

And I would add, take us the that new dawn.

So, practice optimism, witness to hope for one another, and know that you are on the long  run on a very Holy Way with Jesus, that can only start right here; but to know that before you are through you will see the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead raised, and the all poor rejoicing to hear this Gospel. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at the Good News of Jesus Christ.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Forgiving it all

Ordinary Sunday 25: 19 September 2010
Robert Whalley
Luke 16:1-13

Today we have the particular honor of dealing with the strangest story in St Luke’s gospel today, and I want to tell three stories as a way to make sense of it, so bear with me.

First, several weeks ago I rented the Vincent Minnelli film, “Meet me in St. Louis.” It has some good moments, but there was one scene I particularly wanted to see again. It happens when Margaret O’Brien playing a very strange child with the preoccupation of death, needing some pastoral, clinical and chemical intervention -- she keeps burying her doll’s with elaborate funeral liturgies, is obviously some kind of closet Anglican -- goes trick or treating on Halloween.

It’s a great scene! The children of the neighborhood are gathered around a camp fire trying to figure out what neighbors they will visit to demand a treat our issue a trick. There’s one house that none of the children want to visit -- let’s say it belongs to Mr Jones -- but Margaret O’Brien volunteers to go and through flour in the face of the dangerous neighbor.

Violin music builds with as the wind comes up and leaves blow past the little girl as she slowly walks up the front steps of the big house where the bad Joneses live. She looks in the front window and the old man and woman are gathered by the fire: the man looks stern, preoccupied, capable of anger, and there is an English Bulldog with thick jaws laying on the floor next to his chair

 The little girl goes up the steps to the front door and stretches up to ring the bell.  There is a long pause and the door slowly opens by the big man who, with the dog stands silently looking at her; the dog sniffing in a way that makes you think he might be hungry.  And Margaret O’Brien rises to her full five-year-old height and says, “I hate you Mr. Jones, I wish you would die!” throws flour in his face and runs for her life. The music goes away and the camera fixes on the  face of Mr. Jones as he wipes the flour away, and smiles like a patient old man who has lived through many Halloween this and still looks forward to the next one. Then the camera pans down to the floor of the porch where the bull dog licks up the flour with a great appetite. All this as Margaret O’Brien rushes away, with the violins wailing up on the soundtrack behind her as she prepares to celebrate the great victory that only exists in her mind.

Hold that in your mind as we look at the parable for today. Here I want to quote at length (and borrow very heavily here from) one creative take by Sarah Dylan Breuer in her blog ( I’ve edited a bit here, but she writes most of the following and this is her take on the story:

A very, very rich man lives in a big city with a lifestyle of luxury from the income of the estate he owns in the countryside, run by a manager, where all of the work of planting and harvesting is done by tenant farmers, peasants. The harvest is never quite enough to pay the rent plus what the peasant families needs, so the peasants are slipping further and further into debt, working harder and harder to pay what can't be paid. The immediate face of this system is that of the steward.

But things change. The landowner fires the steward because of rumors that the steward is squandering the landowner's resources. So the steward is in a desperate and dangerous place, he’s going to be homeless. The farmers aren't about to take him in either, since he's demanded exorbitant rents, run the first century equivalent of the company store, and generally dealt unjustly with the farmers. So maybe he’s without hope.

But what he does is something extraordinarily clever. He gathers all of the farmers who owe him money, and he declares that their debts have been reduced from something very large, to something that maybe could be repaid, all with a few strokes of the (forger's) pen. The steward doesn't tell the farmers that he was fired any more than he tells them that the landowner didn't authorize any of this generosity. But the result is that the farmers believe the landowner is more generous than just about anyone else in his position would be. The landowner is now a hero in the farmers' eyes -- and, by extension, so is the steward.

So when the landowner comes for his customary visit to pick up the wealth the steward has collected for him, he gets a surprise that is both exhilarating and challenging: The streets for miles before he reaches the estate are lined by cheering farmers. They're shouting his name, telling him he's a hero. Then he finds out (probably when he arrives at the estate house) he meets his old manager who trembling tells him what he’s done. And they stand there and look at one another.

Sarah Dylan Bruer says that the landowner can go outside to the assembled crowd -- the people shouting blessings upon him and all his family -- and tell them that it was all a terrible mistake, that the steward's generosity was an act of crookedness, unrighteousness, won't hold water legally. But the cheering will turn to boos. Alternatively, the landowner can go outside and take in the cheering of the crowd. He can take credit for the steward's actions, but he'll have to take the steward back. Mistreat the steward, and the crowd might turn on him. Either way, the steward has forced a deal, gone from victim to victor, made friends and influenced people. If the landowner won't take him in, the farmers gladly will. And they stand there looking at each other.

Years ago when I was at university and was quite shy, my mother said, “when you don’t know what to say to someone or the conversation is lagging just ask someone a question, people love to talk about themselves.”  One evening at a church supper at St Martin’s, Davis, I decided to test this out.

 I was seated next to a student I had not met. She said she was from a town called Yuba City, I said, “That’s interesting, what that’s like?” she talked for a while and mentioned her father had been in the Air Force. I said, “That’s interesting, what that’s like?” She said that it meant that they moved around a lot, and I said, “That’s interesting what’s that like?” You get the idea. For a good hour and a half I asked questions and she held forth and the conversation went on. Finally I left the church hall and met another friend at the end of the evening and I said: “I had a really rotten time!” and he said, “But you looked like you were enjoying yourself so much!”

And I looked at myself for a moment and I realized that I had enjoyed myself, I had learned a lot about growing up the daughter of an Army sergeant in a variety of towns around the world and I had even made a new friend without really trying. People in Alcoholics Anonymous know a great one liner, “Fake it till you make it.” Sometimes you can do the right thing for the wrong reason and it will still take you closer to where you should be, who you should be, lead you to learning something about the world, things that you never thought you needed to know.

Listen: what the steward does is clearly dishonest, yet Jesus uses this as a example for us. What does the steward do that is somehow right? He forgives. The steward forgives debts. He forgives things that he had no right to forgive. He forgives for all the wrong reasons, for personal gain, to compensate for past misconduct, for the wrong reasons, and that might be the moral of this story: Simply forgive, forgive it all,. Forgive it now. Forgive it for any reason you want, or for no reason at all. Simply forgive, it doesn’t even matter if your hears not in it. Just do it!

And maybe God stands  at the big door on the front porch of life and death and resurrection and smiles at you and me and Margaret O’Brien and our little attempts to trick the world and master dangers and get home safely while he still set stands ready to offer us the treat of our lives. So, in that hope, let us make Eucharist. Amen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yesterday had this feeling about it...

“… I putter about the hermitage, make the bed, wash the breakfast dishes, sweep the porch; and something begins to order itself inside me as I order my external world. The ordering and puttering become a kind of prayer, a way of attending to the human which is a way of attending to the divine, charged as we are and the world is with the presence of God.

Domestic chores also become simply something to do. One cannot pray and meditate unendingly. There is a rhythm to life lived anywhere that calms the heart if we surrender to the necessities of the world around us and the world within.”

— Thomas Merton

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sermon for Pentecost 13C

St Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria in the Fourth century, writes that God becomes human so that we might become Godly, and that was what I was after when I joined the church. When I was 21 years old, in 1967, I joined the church to feel important. I was also planning to join a tennis club and a University club, a fraternity, for the same reason to get me invited to some big important dinner party where I’d know I had gotten it right! 
It didn’t last. I quit the tennis club pretty quickly, the fraternity that I wanted to join didn’t ask me and the one that asked me wasn’t the one I wanted to join, so I passed on that too, but the church turned out to be something different that what I had wanted or expected. 
For I realized, after some time, that what was more true, and what I think Athanasius might have meant, was that God becomes human so that he can meet us there, right in the middle on human being, and so that we can be fully human together, fully alive to the glory of God in being human. Jesus had a different idea of the ideal dinner party than I had at 21. Listen: 
When you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 
This didn’t sit easy with me at first, I wanted to be exalted right away: Godly, stained glass and organ music when I walked in, people saying: “He’s very special that one, really holy, watch out!” But that isn’t where Jesus met me, meets us; Christ seems to come from heaven to bring us down to earth, to share his body and blood so that we can be truly flesh and blood, but flesh and blood living right, as God created us, calls us, to be.
I recently watched a video on Youtube called “Breathing”, made by a group called Nooma. It’s about being both Adam and Pneuma, both dirt and spirit. For the Hebrew word Adam comes from the word for earth, dirt, and that’s where we come from too! That’s the truth of what we’re about; we are earthy, sometimes dirty too, we come from dust and return to dust. It hard to live with that, to accept that we are meant to be fragile flesh and blood, limited, aging. We start out so small and we seem to slow down so much. To make a confession, the other day I saw a young man sit down on the floor to play with a dog and then quickly jump up and walk away, and I was so jealous! I can’t move that easy, flexible way anymore. This collection of dirt feels a bit rocky sometimes! T. S. Eliot, my favorite poet, writes, “The only thing we can hope to acquire is humility, humility is endless.” That is not an easy truth. But to come from the earth, humus, and to be a person, human, we need to take up our humility, and that means taking the lower seat. For the plain truth is that unless we accept our earthiness, our dirty limits, we miss the chance to be invited to come higher up, to accept our God-given godliness, holiness. That’s the other side of who we are. We are called to accept Pneuma, breath, God’s spirit, as much of a gift as our creatureliness, and as common as our daily bread, right in the midst of who and where we are. We are called to take on God’s free spirit in the middle of all our human limits; to receive that breath that breathes us, all of us, all of creation, and to take on that gift that calls us higher up, all the way to heaven. 
That’s one of the reasons I try to pray and meditate regularly, to keep open to that clear truth, the message that comes with the breath of the spirit; that God calls us, as ground up by life as we are, to breathe the spirit of God in all that we do and all that we are. For to balance both sides, the ground and the glory, to take on both as gift, takes work. To open our lives and our hands to take this gift we have to let go of a lot: what we thought we wanted to be, to do, to woo, to win, and instead accept the God-given gift of what we’ve got, to bloom where we’re planted, to take what we’re given, to, quoting a 1960s song, “love the one we’re with!” 
As the letter to the Hebrews puts it. “Be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”
And the good news is that graceful acceptance gives freedom, the kind of freedom Jesus lives with and shares with us, a freedom that lasts forever. Not the power that puts you at the top of the table with the select few, but an awareness that you are founded in and grounded in God, in your very humanity, humility, the life you live, the lessons you receive, the world you share with everyone! That leaves room for God to breathe, for God’s spirit to refine our daily routines and realities; to continue to redeem, renew; so paradoxically, a life that lives right now and takes us beyond death to touch the eternal. 
But it it does so in the middle of the very human journey, right where Jesus meets us.  So we can and must, as Hebrews says, “Let mutual love continue” at all times and places! [We] Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for [we know] by doing that some have entertained angels.” Because that common, God-given life of matter and spirit, ground and grace limit and love, opens up room for surprise, where all the world can be seen as the place where God is on the loose with a hospitality that  leaves no one outside. 
There’s the paradox I wish I’d known about earlier: if we don’t get above ourselves, God will lift us up, call us out, bring us home at the end. If we remember we are but dust, and let God remind us that we are spirit, breath, then God’s message of redemption, comes in breathing in and living out Good News by God’s grace, when we take the long way home, and get there living life along with everybody else.  
The celebration is big enough to include those in prisons of any kind, those tortured by whatever tyrannies hold them captive; the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind in body, mind and spirit. For in God’s good reign, all of us can come to a place where blessings can happen, where new life, eternal life can come to be, to be given, taken up, offered, accepted and transformed. 
To quote the song from the sixties, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” and Jesus is free, a gift from God who gives us freedom inasmuch as we let ourselves be free to follow him deep into that dance where love weaves dirt and water into bread and wine, into life, into spirit, into love that lasts forever. 
This meal, this Eucharist, is the opening course in that great banquet, and we come here to confess our sins, to hear God’s word, to pray for the world and wish peace to our neighbor and the stranger, and to the accept the honor of being loved by God. This is the great feast, the heavenly table, and God is calling each of us, humble creatures of ground and grace, substance and spirit, to come further up, to join in the beginning of the heavenly banquet. Amen. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Mini-Sabbaths

In the 1980s, while I was at seminary, the professor of pastoral care had a great one-liner: “People came to seminary to become Godly, and often ended up somewhat Lordly instead.” It is so true, so often, for so many of us, and it’s always been that way. We, the church, the people of God, still tend to get caught in Lordliness as much as the religious establishment in the Gospel for today,

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

That response takes the focus away from what had been a story of a woman being healed, removing the yoke, satisfying the needs of the afflicted, opening to mercy, healing the wounds of time, and that Lordly response confronts us with the wrong kind of religiosity, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, and the narrowing of Sabbath, time set aside for the most intentional refreshment recollection and renewal, whittled down into a time when certain things just shouldn’t be done,

But what should be done, what is the right way to live into the Sabbath, to remember our lives belongs to God? Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote” "Living is not a private affair of the individual. Living is what I do with God's time, what I do with God's world." But how do we get there from here, into God’s time from the nonstop noise and numbers of our increasingly busy world? How do we remember to keep the Sabbath as a time and place we remember the big questions and the bigger answer?

My working hunch is that you start with something small and do it often. When the poet Rilke was asked, “How do I learn to love?”, he replied, “Start small: love a rock for a little while, then a tree, work your way up.” So instead of keeping a day a week to honor and remember and recall God and the who where and why of it all; maybe we just can take a few minute every day, perhaps a few times a day, for a mini Sabbath, starting small.

One of the best ways to do that is the Lord’s Prayer. Almost everyone knows it, lots of people say it every day already, we say it a little later in the service. But if we said it several times a day, taking a little time for it in our daily ritual as an exercise in sacred time, it might stretch Sabbath into the middle of everyday, everywhere: to remember the who and where and why of God’s time, God’s world.

Listen to how the prayer begins:

“Our Father in Heaven” is literally close to “Dada of the Universe.” And what does that say? That the realm of the prayer is both so big, before the sunrise beyond the night, beyond all the black holes and supernovas and any notion of space and time: and yet still so intimate, that this great God invites us to call out  “Abba,” like Dada, or Mama for that matter. Common and close as the father or mother of a newborn babe, close enough to trust, close enough to call out to under any circumstances, at any time, That God could go that far yet come that close has to make us pause, begins take us to the realm of Sabbath.

Then there are three imperatives that we call for and proclaim: First, may your name be hallowed, holy, may I keep my understanding of your name, your attributes, your power, beyond my tendency to manipulate, beyond my business day trips, and nighttime fantasies may I keep your holy knowing beyond all my profane imagination. Instead may your kingdom, your values, your vision, your compassion and justice and love come and may your will be done, here, on Earth as in Heaven, and (here’s the clincher) may I be part of that ongoing liturgy, work, action.

That part of the prayer is weaving the world into one, into our daily lives, and weaving us into the world of saints, pilgrims of Sabbath times of all times: like Mary, “Be it unto me according to your word,” like Francis, “Let me be an instrument of your peace.” commissioning us as part of the great call and ministry of mercy, of creativity, as part of the ongoing work of God, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, Nicholas Berdyev wrote that “we are the eighth day of creation. And it starts right here.

That is a stretch, but the genius of the prayer is that it takes up from there to the starkest necessities of human life together, to being children of earth.

“Give us today our daily bread.”

Food can mean so many things, it can be junk food, or feast, both nature and nurture, it means refreshment and fuel, ecology and economics, connection and company, The bread we eat, the wine we drink means grapes and water: yeast and fat and oil and wheat mixed and kneaded, warmed and transformed, many backs have been bent; many hands have stretched out over the seasons to give us food at our daily tables. Many have gathered to ensure this harvest to make that daily bread rise.

And when Jesus says, “This is my body, this is my blood!” He is saying I am willing to be known in this Eucharist, and I tell you I will be here, but prepare to meet me in the entire world, because in my love I have taken up with the body and blood of all humankind and all creation. This bread and wine are means of my love to you, but I mean to love you in everywhere, in everything, in everyone! Give us today our daily bread, let us know who we eat with, and how and why!

So in Sabbath we learn to celebrate God meeting us in the particulars of our own flesh and that of our neighbor, our lover, the stranger, the enemy, God is coming to meet us in the wideness of the whole world, and that means we need to be careful: because the prayer is taking us into tough territory, maybe the most difficult part of being a Christian, following Jesus, living this prayer.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

I was in my thirties when it hit me that how you judge might be the way you will be judged, and if God were only just, than that might be all we can expect; but there may be more in the Sabbath. For Sabbath means rest and renewal and forgiveness and a new beginning; it is best if we can participate in that creative renewal fully, and let everyone else do so as well. And that means participating in God’s forgiveness fully as we participate in the rest of God’s creation, even when it’s tough, and letting people, even people who’ve sinned against us, all poor captives, be forgiven, go free, to seek their own Sabbath.

Then the second, “Lead us not into temptation (Save us from the time of trial) and deliver us from evil.” Nobody wants to go there, but the glory of the community of the church, when we gather in that place where sabbath makes an end and God grants a new beginning, to the week and to the world, is that we find out we all go there, even God goes there. Everytime we gather as the church, when we pray, when we share peace, when we eat the bread of life, the cup of salvation: someone is dying, someone is born, someone’s in trial and someone’s been tempted, someone’s found peace and someone wakes to glory. This is the way of God, where we share in the cup of salvation given by the one who knows all about it, who will carry us all the way home right through the time of trial, , like a mother hen, like a just and faithful king, like the ruler of the universe.

So wisdom adds the ending like a coda: “For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, Now and Forever” and the prayer ends close to where it begins, deposits us not far from where we started, but now changed, by remembering the close caring and compassion in which we are held, recalling where we come from, where we’re going and the one who meets us on the way, who is our Lord and our God. Amen

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Towards a Theology of Tennis!

Sunday Sermon - 8 August 2010
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Wangaratta

Jesus says "Be ready", but this section of scripture, with the slave and master, always seems a little kinky to me, like that bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is coming soon, look busy!” It rings wrong, because I think the readiness he’s looking for is not that of a fearful slave, but more like a seasoned dancer or a trained athlete. So I want to talk about a theology of tennis as a model for good discipleship. 

I’ve been thinking about tennis a lot lately. It’s been over ten years since the last time I was on a court, but I played tennis most of my life. I joke that, since I wasn’t raised in a church, the tennis club served that purpose. It gave us community, shared purpose, both discipline and joy and a way to meet the world. I played a lot as a kid and an my early teens, but I had a tendency to lose focus, get too tight when the score was against me, try percentage shots that didn’t pay off, and I didn’t like to practice that much. 

But I will never forget my father, while we were watching a tennis match together – and either Ken Rosewall or Arthur Ashe was playing - saying: "He looks relaxed, but he’s playing smart, he knows what’s going on, nothing gets by him, he’s ready for anything." 

So in my late twenties, one summer when I had been working in our families printing business for a few years and was preparing to return to University and finish my undergraduate degree, an older friend and I spent two or three late afternoons and most Saturday mornings every week meeting on some public courts and working on our game. We even went to the local club and got lessons back to back so that we could take each other through our homework which, in my case, meant a lot of work on my backhand and a lot of time on the backboard; but by the end of the summer, when I returned to Uni, my game was better, more consistent; I was more disciplined and, paradoxically, also more free, livelier and lighter, in my game, in how I met the ball, and in how I lived my life. 

In the early 1980s I worked on a Masters degree in the History of Religion and I spent part of one semester working on a theology of tennis called Serving God: to serve, receive and return bright vehicles of meaning. I realise that sounds terribly California, but playing the game well taught me how to live life better. 

And that’s where tennis meets the Gospel for today. Jesus calls us to be disciplined in thought, word, deed and action: “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those…waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him.” Alert and ready
when he comes; prepared, ready for action, like a good servant, like a good athlete, ready to serve, receive, return, all the bright opportunities, that come in living with the possibility of God. That is why we’re here, to prepare ourselves for what is wanted of God’s servants, God’s disciples, friends, in preparing for the the great heavenly banquet which just might, by the grace of God, start right here and now. 

We are here to remind ourselves, in body, mind and spirit, of what we agree to in our Baptismal vows:

“to strive to live as a disciple of Christ, loving God with your whole heart, and your neighbor as yourself.” 

“to know Christ’s forgiving love and continue in the fellowship of the church…[and to proclaim] by word and example, the good news of God in Christ… 

So our liturgy is a kind of practice sessions, a lesson, even a dance class, in working out, living out, moving out: a choreography of belief. Visitors and newcomers notice that more than those of us who are regulars in the weekly routine: for they see how very odd it is. We sit, stand, kneel and bow. Some of us cross ourselves this way and that, we pass and give and receive, move forward and back. Finally returning to the same place, but changed, somehow, by the motions we go through. You can see newcomers looking around, thinking, “What in God’s name are they going to do next?”  But what we are acting out in this place is a kind of spiritual workout routine, for the rest of our lives in the rest of the world. 

Because if you really look, you can learn to see our whole liturgy, from Baptism on, as nothing less than a dancing class or a tennis lesson. Here we learn the radical choreography, where we come to move in the world with the God in whom we live and move and have our being. In the end, it is all about the we way we prepare, wait, respond, return: all the actions that we learn here. 

We come to church on Sunday, bringing nothing less than our selves, our whole selves, souls and bodies, to the Eucharist. Bringing all our particular questions and concerns, issues and ideas, histories, hopes and fears, the best and worst of who and what we are, where we come from and where we are going. Taking all that when we get here and mixing it up with this liturgy of confession and praise, mercy and glory, in listening and responding to the words in psalm and scripture, the articulation of the community of faith gathered through history into the present day. Presenting our sins, our concerns, our thanksgivings, all our self-offerings: and then joining with Jesus in his self-offering as disciples and friends, taking part in this eternal communion. Taking all that we have and all that we are, and giving it all over, giving it all up as we take his body and blood, and remember that we are members of his body. This is what we do: this is who we are.
So what you see here is really faith moving on; that’s the point of the whole courtly dance routine, the larger game. We come to reach for Christ; and Christ comes to us and uses our ministry to reach out to the world. We come to get a grip on him; and we stay to learn to hand him to the world and hand the world back to him. For the hands which grasp the body and blood of Christ here, are the same hands -same body- that touch the world in daily life in the places where we make business, peace, war and love, touch the lives of friends and strangers, spend our days. The love of God in Christ reaches into the particulars of all our daily liturgies so that we come to move like Christ in all these places. 

Each and every one of our ministries happen when we create, redeem, and relate like God, wherever we are: where we give our gifts. It doesn’t matter whether it be how to throw a ball, cook a pie, write a paper, fix a fixture, apply an appliance, tell a tale or do a deed. Ministry happens when you lovingly act to share the part of the world that you know well, where the actions and attitudes are clear to you, where you act to give that clarity and light to others, so that they can take part in that relationship, that action as well. Some people heal with kindness, others love the stranger, listen well. Some make justice, visit the sick, give to the poor, live cheerfully, tell the truth. Sometimes we just show up, but we do what we can. 

For each one of us, as members of Christ’s body, is called to proceed – play or dance, if you like - into the world which God loves, day after day, year after year, time after time: to take on the tasks of stewardship in this wonderful world: to be present to family, friends and strangers, in tasks, hobbies, jobs and joys, present in the times of frustrations and puzzlements, present in agreements that must be honored, in situations that must be met. All of these are places where we act out, serve out, flesh out, live out the reconciling life of Jesus  - in serving love of every kind - in the ministry of acceptance, love, and forgiveness. For those are the places and the actions where we shall both find and serve the very God who loves and serves us. 

May God give us grace today to take up our lives and our ministries as gifts to be received and gifts to be given, and all in Christ’s name. Amen.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martha, Mary and other sibling rivalries....

Today I want to end up talking about the two sisters Martha and Mary, these two friends of Jesus, but first I want to begin by looking at two an earlier parable in Luke’s Gospel, the story of the prodigal son.

The prodigal son is one of two brothers. While his older brother tends the field, watches the livestock, comes home every night, fills in all the required categories in the job description; this younger brother cuts his father dead, travels to a far country, wastes time and money and substance, breaks hearts and dreams and in the end loses everything except some shred of self-preservation that tells him to go back home and start over. And he heads back with a well thought out repentance speech, a plea for pardon, hoping that he’ll forge an agreement that will let him get back on the old homestead as a sort of servant. He’s willing to cut a deal.

He’s not a likable person, this wastrel son: his prepared pardon plea is designed to get him a consolation prize, to upgrade his personal comfort level, asking to be taken back into the family business as a slave, but I there is no real sign that he is sad for breaking his father’s heart, breaking apart the family inheritance, breaking down in his duty, he is really looking out for what he needs.

But when we look at the older brother, he might not be much better. When the father prepares a feast for the returning son, the elder brother breaks out with a tantrum, telling the father that he -- the good son -- had worked like a slave and never received even an expected part of what was due him; so there’s a self-righteousness there that smells a bit suspect. Both boys are less than wonderful. The elder had been living as a son, but with the attitude of a slave, while the younger, the prodigal, in asking the father to take him on as a slave - and shows quite surprisingly that he loved him and trusted his father as a good and loving man.

So to bring that story into the Gospel for today, these two brothers, next to these two sisters. See the similarities, for the moment when the prodigal begins to come home is like the moment when Martha’s sister Mary moves to sit and listen hard to the words of Jesus, to come to see him face to face. It is a kind of baptism.

Our baptism happens when our need brings us to Christ. We might have been carried into the church as children on the day we were baptized, but our baptized journey returns us to this table, this meal, this festive feast, because of our need to be renewed members of the family, our need to start over, our need to be nourished with good words, good food, good community. It is our need that brings us home again. Just like the prodigal son, that younger brother, just like Mary moving out of the kitchen to listen to the words that bring her to life with Jesus. That’s something we hear all through Luke’s Gospel: God honors us in our need!

Simply put: the prodigal gets a break because he so badly wants one. He is unashamed in his manipulation, unrepentant about his misuse of the family resources, showing little sign of proper parental respect, he’s going home because there’s no place left to go; and still the father loves him, because he is in need. And the same with the two sisters. While Martha is doing what she probably should, fixing dinner for the men, doing a daughters or sisters or a wife’s chores; Mary is pushing boundaries, hanging out with the boys, being where she  certainly shouldn’t be according to the culture of the time, because of some compelling need in her to listen to and be near this  Jesus: and that’s good enough for Jesus, because like the prodigal, she’s gotten there just in time.

The Greeks have two words for time: Chronos has to do with linear time, clock time, accumulating time; but Kairos means time as opportune, time for planting seeds, for making harvest, time showing up or turning around, time to come home, time to sit down and listen to the word of life: time to know what you need and where you need to go to get it. And in Luke’s Gospel Mary and the prodigal need move to that place at the right kairotic time, and that is, God willing, where the Gospel finds us today.

Go back to the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, they may be good or bad, they may be unconventional or not, they may be on the margins of society, people you would rather not meet in a dark alley; the Good News seems to be that if they turn around and reach out for the larger life they see in the Lord Jesus, then he will hold his hand out to them and bring them home for the feast.

Most of us in the church are older sisters, older brothers. We work hard to do the right thing, perform the right action, say the right speech at the right time, and the fact is that  there are these other people invited to the party; people who work less, are less worthy of respect, more likely to have compromised the principles we’ve worked hard to flesh out, because we thought we were supposed to believe in: that might miff us, and it’s understandable. Because it almost seems like God loves them equally -- maybe, under the circumstances it seems as though God almost loves them more than he loves us.

And there is something in that it does not feel fair: fair for the older brother or for Martha, it feels unjust! But there is something bigger than being just, and that is being merciful, and I think that’s a better place to pitch our tent. God will be merciful to those in need, merciful to those who hunger, to those in darkness turning towards light -- half blinded by new possibilities, inarticulate of where they come from or what they want or where they might be going in the end, just beginning to listen, to turn towards the light of the Lord, and he will rush towards them with his arms held wide, welcoming them into this new Kingdom of love and that is Good news.

Maybe in the end it doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad, maybe it doesn’t matter if you’re faithful or unfaithful, if you tried so hard in the past or if you just woke up this morning and thought, “I’m going to try something new,” then, in either case, God is with you, God is loving you, and God will bring you home to the celebration party.

St. John Chrysostom wrote this in the late Fourth century, listen:

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.

He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,

as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.

He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed 
He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!

Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. 
Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the Good Samaritan

The California writer Joan Didion wrote that maturity happens when you accept yourself, whether you want to or not, and I am almost there. I am much easier, more neighborly, much kinder towards myself, than I used to be, and I think that’s better. When I was younger I wanted very much to have my life under control, well-balanced, together. I desperately want a system that would save me from the terrible business of choosing wrong.

Once I even went to a workshop where all the participants took large sheets of newsprint and pens, crayons and magic markers to write down how they wanted to live, what they wanted to do, in the next few years. One women made a map of what and how and where she was going to be for the following five years - with a place for everything and everything in its place; it even had color coding! I could have worshipped that map! How wonderful it would be to look towards the future with such certainty.

So, when I hear about the lawyer who comes to Jesus for advice, I think I can understand him: he was looking for color coding! The Gospel also says he comes to “test” Jesus, and I think there are a lot of us who have lived our lives as If there were going to be a pop quiz, a surprise exam, or an unscheduled bed check arranged by “the authorities” in order to make sure that everything is in decent shape and approved order. So we all try so hard to keep it all together, to pass the course.

So the lawyer comes to Jesus to asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” How do I get prepared? And rather than giving him a straightforward answer, a plan, Jesus asks a question in return: “What is written In the Law? How do you read it?” (The implicit question here is, “What’s most important?”). The lawyer answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus answers him, “Right! do this and you will live.” The exam has been passed!

So, “desiring to justify himself,” the lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Do you see what’s happening? Color coding coming, easily filed categories: the most important commandment, love; the most important persons, God and neighbor. He’s building the map, and soon he’ll have a whole new system with dietary laws, holidays weekends, hints for etiquette; everything in order.

But Jesus makes trouble for the man when He tells a story about a traveler mugged by robbers and left for dead, ignored first by a Priest, next by a Levite, finally found and cared for by a Samaritan. Because what the lawyer wants are rules and regulations that stay in place, and what Jesus gives him is a story that’s a cross between a puzzle and a moving picture. It won’t stay still; it turns everything around. Nothing (and no one) is ruled out. And all the truisms that “everybody” in the old conceptual neighborhood knows  -- Priests and Levites are good and Samaritans are bad -- fall flat because there is a new definition of neighbor which turns everything in life around.

You see, the person Jesus uses to show the quality of Neighbor is the last one you would want in the neighborhood. The lawyer, like most of his geographic neighbors, did not like Samaritans. They were outsiders, considered unclean, with suspect religious preferences and doubtful cultural practices. Our categories might nor be as blatant as his, but try this exercise: “if I were mugged on a city street, the person I would least like to come to my rescue would be....” and put that one in place of the Samaritan. It doesn’t matter who comes to mind, but hold on to the feeling, “I would just rather it not be...”  Then think of the Samaritan! It grates our sensibility to think that person might hold the definition for neighbor. can carry the sign, be a directional signal, a call from God, an icon, for something as important as the way to eternal life.

The lawyer gets a lot more than he bargained for; all he was looking for was the master list of who qualifies as a neighbor in order to build the plan on how to win eternal life. He wanted a blueprint, a diagram that would make the world safe: but what he got was how someone might be a neighbor to him. All he wanted was a ruling; what he is getting is a community, much more than he expected about who God is and how God loves and how God’s word is encountered. Jesus tells him a neighbor is simply one who does neighboring things: shows mercy and compassion; anyone who seeks out and acts up and does the daily business of living, breathing and caring as a neighbor. That is a way of meeting the world that has room for anyone, and it is both very big news and very intimate information; it makes the world more complex and maybe much more simple too.

Let me tell a story: some twenty five years ago. I took a year away from my school to work as a youth minister in a small Northern California town.In the middle of that year I took a three hour bus south San Francisco, walk a few blocks, then catch the subway to my seminary in Berkeley to report on how the year was going. All the way down I had been writing in my journal about how good the it was, how I was getting it right, I was getting it together! And as I was waiting in the subway to catch the train to Berkeley, this black guy, African American, came up alongside of me on the platform and I could see that he wasn’t walking too steady and his clothes looked a little rough and he might have smelled, though from work or dirty clothes or booze I don’t remember: and he said, “Where do I get the train to Oakland?” and he was right next to me.

So I looked towards the track to our right and said, “I think you’ll find it over there.” And he raised his voice a bit and said, “I don’t want to know what you think, I want to know what you know.” And I thought, “Well, I am going to get mugged or worse, here it comes. And I said, “It’s right over there.” And he said, “Look at me!” And I took a breath and looked up at him – and I saw a man who was probably a bit older than I, and tired, probably harder working than I had ever been, who had a few scars and some real serious dignity that he had likely had to fight for over the years.  And I felt sorry, both for him and, surprisingly, for me, and I wasn’t afraid anymore. And I looked at him and said, “the train for Oakland will be on this platform. And he looked at me for a minute and then said, “Thank you,” and walked away.

And I saw something about me that I hadn’t seen before: how narrow I was, how snobbish, self-serving, insulated by my own concerns from a world that was big and unpredictable and unsafe and full – maybe – of messengers of God that I might have overlooked. I saw that day that I didn’t see much, about myself and about Gods’ word and Gods’ world at all. It’s been twenty-five years, and I can still see his face. I still wonder who he was.

For Jesus gets sidelined, mugged, murdered on the side of the road while a lot of good and careful people: Priests, Scribes and Pharisees, overlook what is happening for fear that they might fail the exam, and they end up missing the train, they end up missing the point of it all!  Just pray we don’t! And Jesus says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself... Do this and you shall live.” in the name of Christ.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Meals and Eucharist, Debs too!

I want to talk about some meals and the Eucharist today.

In 1986 when I finished a year as a youth minister in a small town in Northern California, I  was invited by a local doctor and his artist wife to a posh private club for dinner. It was all quite grand: their Cadillac was whisked away by the parking attendant, we were led through marble halls and seated in the main dining room with great ceremony, the menus were huge and handed over with suitable flourishes, there was lots of very french-sounding food: but the conversation was forced, and at one point after a long pause, the wife said, “Aren’t we having fun?” And we weren’t! It was what kids used to call play-acting, The conversation and the company neither reached the ground nor came to life. And we lost touch not long after that. Meal number one.

Number Two was about 5 years ago on trip to San Francisco when I took a new friend to meet two old friends who have been together for over 20 years, had recently bought a new house and always provided easy simple and brilliant meals with conversation to match. But something was wrong here. The talk turned in strange directions, there were odd pauses, and finally, when they both left the room I turned to my friend and said, “What’s going on, there’s something happening here and I don’t know what it is!” When they came back they apologized and let us know that we had walked into the end of a major argument There was a bit of a pause there, but then the meal turned into a pretty good time with good company and I admired both their honesty and their willingness to let us into the inner workings of a long term marriage that has endured. They will likely see this sermon on Facebook and I hope to see them when I visit San Francisco in 2012.

The third meal never happened. I was on an afternoon off from campus ministry at the University of San Francisco and went into my favorite cheap Mexican restaurant for a good burrito followed by a wander through a good used bookstore and then a walk down Market Street towards the Embarcadero. Then I had a pain. Two words here: Kidney Stones. In 15 minutes I was on Market Street trying to get a taxicab and realizing I had to sit down on the sidewalk because I couldn’t stand with the pain. And when I did I became invisible: I was a large man sitting where I shouldn’t and making distressing noises I shouldn’t make and I was going nowhere in the middle of the path and people were going on their way, giving me more than enough space and looking elsewhere. The short end of story is that I got a cab and went to the emergency room of a hospital where some very kindly and professional people took me in hand, injected me with some great pain medicine, gave me lots of water, and the crisis and the pain passed with no further crisis.

Finally, the St Luke’s Debutante Ball and Supper in your Town Hall on Friday night was wonderful! I told someone that, as the official representatives I felt a bit like Anne and I were playing Camilla and Charles, but I’ll admit there was more. I felt a little like Jesus Christ! The privilege of witnessing so much love in the room. These kids were so nervous, taking it so seriously, you could see it in their brows, the way they moved, their lips pursed together in recollection and action: and they were so beautiful, and when they got to us we all nodded and said good things and smiled - with the parents and families and noisy boys yelling and all of us rightfully proud to be together in this moment of meeting and celebration. I will never forget last Friday night.

So let those four meetings be background music to the Gospel, this curious meal, with people making social conversation a bit over the top and the stranger, the crisis, the tension that’s always on the other side of town or the sidewalk sneaking into the scene. A medieval painting shows  the woman under the table, almost unseen, overlooked, unspoken, unwelcome, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. Above daily life goes on, table conversation proceeds, social conventions observed; but underneath, secret stories are told, strange necessities disclosed, wrong roads are rited, returning children welcomed, sins forgiven, life begins again. “Aren’t we having fun?” Well, yes, but so much more than fun. For holiness and healing are happening here and we so often overlook it.

Twenty years of tertiary chaplaincy left me with some odd images for what the Kingdom of God, God’s reign, is about, and what we are doing here: but you have to meet people where they are and sometimes the strangest images can carry the most punch. So let me tell you about the giant cosmic pizza (and it works best if you visualize us meeting in a circle). We come together here, we came together Friday night,  all those kids,  all of us, like little pieces of pizza on a pan meeting in the center: all our individual histories spreading out widening out, like witnesses behind us, the people who put us forward, people who  stand behind us, the moments that made us who we are, the good and bad choices that continue to this moment, the effects that continue, must be endured, all spread out behind us like mountains of sausages, piles of cheese, mushrooms and capsicum, whatever, and here’s where it gets even stranger!

All that stuff behind us is the past, the social graces, the wreckage of an old argument, the pain that’s getting worse, the glorious evening, but the future is coming too (and here’s where the image must break apart too); for what comes is the unimaginable future with unknown pains, new pleasures, forgiveness and renewal, grace and gut-wrenching glory. Remember those beautiful children Friday night, see them with their horizons stretching so far into the future. All that must be accepted, moved towards, endured, given thanks for. And these of us further on the way, facing the same, promises and pains and mystery, to be met in our travels, with that same face of grace, not Camilla and Charles, but Jesus Christ, who takes our incomplete journeys and bows to accompany us into his unfinished pilgrimage,that big and god-given future, where we too struggle to get the steps right, make the turns correctly, remember the music, keep with the rhythm, taking it with all the seriousness and the proper joy we know it deserves.

I like being here because this is a congregation that knows how to worship; and I see this is not only on Sunday morning but on Friday night and other times as well: to show up to worship and witness, to show how much it matters, how much there is to gain, how much there is to lose. It is hard work to make this ministry, these meetings happen: the dance given shape, the meal shared, to provides places for people to remember how high are our hopes, how wide our world, how good God’s grace.  As Philip Larkin writes at the end of his 1950s poem, Church Going”

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

I think that’s what Friday night and Sunday morning are about, and every other day too. We come here, in the midst of the living and the dying and so much more, to take the world more gracefully and more seriously, to recognize and robe up for our deepest destiny: to try great things, to stand in the middle of all the history and hope, all the pains and pretense and pleasure and  to recall, forgive, renew; to love the world in all its life,to dance with it all, as the friends and followers of the great lover, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to whom we give glory now and forever.  Amen.

Monday, June 07, 2010

St Augustine's Patron Day 6 June 2010

In the late sixth century, on their way from Rome to the wilds of Britain, Augustine and his companions paused on the way, lost their nerve a bit, and wanted very badly to turn back. then with the encouragement (and maybe more) of Gregory their Bishop of Rome, Augustine and his company of not very nervy missionaries and evangelists, they went on to arrive at Canterbury in 597 and stayed  to recall and reform and renew the English church from that time on.

But they started small, with some fear and trembling, some shakes on the way, and that gives me hope. Because Augustine’s call as a minister of Christ is so like ours, even though 1400 years separate us. It is found in today’s Gospel: a charge with four very basic facets: you look for welcome, you eat what you’re given, you cure the sick, and you say, “the kingdom of God has come near to you”.   The good news is that a very rich and satisfying ministry is found in welcoming, sharing nourishment, in the work of healing, and in proclaiming God’s good news. It Is a very big call, but we can do it, in fact we must do it, in very small ways.

Here’s my working answer on how.

First, you look for welcome by being a person of thanksgiving and mercy - and this can happen by getting two simple habits.
First, say thank you to God at least twenty times a day. Now that may sound simple, but it isn’t easy. Sometimes it feels uphill, but when I leave my home, walk out the door, I start giving some thanks; for the people walking or driving by, for fresh air, green trees,  small birds singing in the shrubbery and passing parrots proclaiming their own kind of Pentecost. And slowly or suddenly I begin to see again that, “the world is charged with the Glory of God”. It almost always works before I get to ten! And I recommend it as a spiritual practice for every occasion.

It is not too difficult: you can make it a kind of fireworks prayer ascending to heaven in thanksgiving for wiggling toes, hot water in the shower, good coffee, breakfast; fire up some thanks for friends, family, passing strangers, all through the day, from morning to night. Allow yourself to give thanks for every new facet of creation that catches your eye as a very helpful habit.

Then, to balance it, ask for mercy: say, “I’m sorry” 20 times a day as well. Not just for breaches in etiquette or falling short on your own personal potential or agenda, but for the fact that life is tough for everybody, it made Jesus cry, took him to the cross, has been painful for saints and strangers throughout biblical times, up to Augustine, and every day since. So accept sorrow, penitence and empathy, then move through to forgiveness and the mercy that is found there, and go back through grace to giving thanks again. That is the texture of our life and the shape of our ministry as the people of God.  Give thanks and call down mercy on the fragile world and on the friends of Jesus in all their distressing disguises.

Once, for a quiet day in Melbourne, I told people to go to a nearby tram stop and look for hidden friends of Jesus; people with sore back and bum legs, with worried eyes and furrowed brows, and prayerfully offer God’s mercy for those beloved companions on the way. I recommend this to anyone, you can do it anywhere (even facing the mirror!), and it will open your heart to find the places where God is welcome. I guarantee that!

Now sharing food means company, not just company for dinner, having friends in to share substance and spirit, though that is certainly part of it: but company as in a group of people, many, different, working together in separate ways that come together in a common cause. The Eucharist fits here. This simple meal is a sign of community. For bread and wine means grapes and water: yeast and fat and oil and wheat mixed and kneaded, work of human hands, to be taken away to warm and transform, to rest and rise. All this before it comes to the table to be broken and shared. Like the Eucharist, all food has been touched, gathered, lifted up by workers in the fields, harvesters, processors, moved to market by many hands holding, refining the food from the land; bringing it all together.

 And there are so many different foods so many different tastes!  To share people’s food means to meet them where they are, to honor the way they spice up their life and season their existence. It can be a surprise but it can open us to new and better ways of being in the world. I have been in Australia for 10 years now, and I still remember the first time I found there was an egg in my hamburger. At first it seemed wrong, not the way we did things at home, now it is my preferred option. I have others. I still like peanut butter and jelly with bananas on toast, and that turns many native born Australians pale. So maybe we all have something to learn from one another

And Jesus says, “This is my body, this is my blood!” Jesus says I am willing to be known in this Eucharist, and I tell you I will be here, but prepare to meet me in the entire world, in sharing food with all people, because in my love I have taken up with the body and blood of all humankind and all creation. This bread and wine are means of my love to you, but I mean to love you in everywhere, in everything, in everyone! So in sharing food, eating what’s put in front of us, giving thanks for it, calling down mercy occasionally at some meals, we experience and celebrate God’s good taste in new ways and in new company. And the world is better for it.

Then the big one. Jesus calls us to cure the sick, and I admit that most of us do not have the gift of healing to any great extent,‘though some do, and I thank God for their ministry. But I also think that almost all of us underestimate the amount of healing we can do this in so often wounded world and, again, it can start in a very simple way.

First we accept our own need for healing, then we share the journey with others who need healing, then we do what we can in sharing both vulnerability and vitality. That can be surprisingly healing in a world where so many are lonely and hurting.

For people are in pain and need, and Christ’s mandate is that people need to be served, cared for, honored, and our lives must be shared. For this work we need to be very small saints who are willing to bless the meek, meet the poor, celebrate in solidarity the very fragility of humankind. And this is a tender ministry. But the good news and the paradox is that  we are just asked to participate in God’s healing ministry, asked to begin, we don’t have to know that much about how it will end.

Have you ever had someone come to you and say, “When you said this (or did this) it meant so much to me!” And you don’t remember doing it? So many easily forgettable moments of sharing and caring can blossom in the lives of other people in ways we can never foresee and need not remember. We do need to be present to win but we don’t have to keep accounts. God’s work of healing can continue with our compassion and cooperation on the way. All we have to do is put ourselves out there.  All we have to do is begin, and that is why we’re here. You all know these words:

“We offer ourselves to you as a living sacrifice through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.”

We just have to begin, And we are not alone. Maybe that’s what Augustine found in France. Maybe that was gave him the heart to continue the journey to England to begin that great work: that in Christ God has come into the very middle of this fragile human journey, will precede us, follow us, accompany us all the way, has, in fact, been here already, “The Kingdom of God has come near!” In that call we live out our call: there’s a great paradox here; that it doesn’t depend on us, but we can depend on it: that the spirit will help us begin, that we shall see the heart and face and the God on the way and Christ will bring us home at the last. And that is our good news.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday morning check in...

Day off, 8.30 on Monday morning, day off,  on a cold day with rain likely later. I just listened to J Alfred Prufrock and The Wasteland, courtesy of Youtube, and remembered what major poems they are and what a great poet Eliot is. I first read them in 1968, 42 years ago, and they were life-changers; incantatory openings to an awareness of the narrow way of doubt and faith together, not an easy piety or a master plan, but a living mystery that felt both threatening and welcoming.

That was the year after I was baptized and confirmed, discovering (the year after the summer of love in the Haight-Ashbury - which I missed entirely) something about sex, drugs, rock and roll (I still like the early Jefferson Airplane) and a horizon of possibilities that was bigger than anything I had known before. So I smoked grass, made love, and got lost in the bigness of things. I dropped out towards the end of the year and went back to my parents house, worked a bit around my uncle’s ranch, took a couple of classes at the local junior college and read, several time, cherishing each chapter as a kind of song sung to me, Walden’s Thoreau; another milestone that I still carry in my heart. Not a millstone, not at all.

This week I started reading a book about Americans writers in Paris in the 1920s. In my teens and later at University I specialized in that era: Pound and Eliot, Hemingway, Stein, Sherwood Anderson, especially F. Scott Fitzgerald were all considered: the poetics of exile and pilgrimage in an era that had lost its faith. The Wasteland came from that time as well: Eliot around Paris and London and Switzerland hammering the jazz rhythms of disbelief and hope with the old classics into a composition that would be a standard of the age.

Over 80 years since the poem was written, over 40 since I read it in a survey course at the University of Oregon, in a season with too much rain where flowers grew and fell over in saturated ground, and I was changed forever.

Early that year I told a guy in my dorms that I was going to be a priest; and it took over 40 years to get there. Is that when I started the path that brought me here; or was there ever another path? Who knows? Misquoting Peter Berger, “Reflection and projection may be part of the same motion.”

I will try to make this a Sabbath day. Rest, read, pray, write, cook and clean a bit too. (I might also work on the brochure for the Fair, maybe a second one for the Bishop’s Certificate? Maybe not)

On Saturday I sat in a Mazda RX8, very sexy seat and dashboard, it felt great to be that close to the ground, ‘though it was a little tough to climb out. Face it, I am besotted with sports cars! Lord won’t you buy me (though I wouldn’t say no to a Mercedes) an MX5?

I am also besotted with priesthood (and I am aware that this juxtaposition shows me as a fairly superficial creature - which may be true!) but both show up with a young energy, a boy’s delight. Yesterday celebrating the Eucharist in Wodonga was such a measured joy. My hands are starting to feel like they know what to do and where to go, I feeling like I can lean on the text and say the words and move through the service without getting unfocused or off-centre, I can follow the path and mediate it for others without getting in the way, for me or them. And I really love it!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost 2010

It is good to be here on the Feast of Pentecost, a great day in the church, and in order to try to understand what led up to that outpouring of spirit that day in Jerusalem, how it came to be, and why we are called to share in the spirit of Jesus; I want to share something called Spiritual Directions; which started out as three ideas, moved into a design and  curriculum for quiet days and retreats as well as parish-based classes on building and remodeling your own spirituality, and is in the works as a diocesan resource in the coming year.

The first idea or image: picture a round table in the middle of your head; 12 people, more or less, sit there and try to run your life. They are probably not always the same people, and maybe you don’t even know who they all are. Speaking of my own table, my mother and father are often there, good friends, heroes and teachers and characters from books and stories I’ve heard, occasionally advertising slogans and songs and sometimes people show up who don’t like me very much. Everyone thinks it is a board of directors meetings and they are the ones in charge, so it gets noisy at times

I started inviting people to this table when I was a little boy: other people’s ideas of good or bad or right or wrong, popularity or principles, what was worth working for, who I could trust. They can be a very mixed bag.Where do they come from?

Let’s go back to the myth of the Garden of Eden, God takes Adam for a walk in the garden and Adam names things: cow, sheep, light, dark, good, bad, and all the rest of it. My table is my participation in walking with God, my attempt to make the world makes sense, to hold together, safe for me; but it isn’t a lively enough, it falls into idolatry, because it is only a child’s exercise. We participate in the process that God goes through, turning nothing into something, chaos into order and cosmos. We arrange the world like God does, naming it like Adam does, and we make mistakes along the way.

So the table is one idea and here’s the second. In my early 30s I realized that the most essential gesture of being human is walking along and coming to place on the path with a corner, where the road takes a curve and you can’t see the way ahead, and you have to go on by faith. This pattern happens all the time: a child starting the first day of school, beginning a new job, falling in love, getting married or getting divorced, dealing with illness, the death of a loved one, facing our own death, any failure or success or surprise; life turns corners and we must travel blindly with whatever faith we can lay hold of in that minute.

That is where Jesus meets us on the Way, the most faithful pilgrim walking the curving road, sharing his life, his teaching, his hope, his questions, his death, and an understanding of God that is open hearted and open ended, with an invitation to come together on that long journey, so that we don’t get lost on the way.

We are reading John’s Gospel this season, where Jesus is speaks as a teacher and a master, that’s John’s focus. But in Matthew, Mark and Luke there is another subtler picture of a human being, full of the glory of God, walking along a path with everyone else and being surprised by chaos and community and gift and grace and life and death and all the rest: There God in Christ is on the human way, walking our unfinished journey, where the open-ended quandaries and questions take us in new directions, makes us new people in a new world. Jesus meets us on that incomplete journey, knows the contours of the road, as God’s good news and Lord and Savior and friend on that unfinished frontier brings us home at the last.

So that’s one and two: Table and Journey, and there’s always tension between them: the table argues from history and tradition, goes on what worked before, doesn’t want to upset things, then the journey calls to give up your life as a committee meeting and take it up as communion, as pilgrimage, over moment by moment, day by day, here and now. Just like Jesus; dying to those old laws so that we may rise up into this new love. And that’s why we need the spirit, that is why we come to Pentecost..

Between the table and the journey there is nothing except a breath of fresh air and that’s number three: the same spirit-breathing the words, “Let there be light!” at the start; the same breath calling “Repent” by the Prophets when Israel starts worshiping money or power, or religion for that matter; moving away from the God of the journey, who taught them to walk by faith, leading them to the promised land by the long way home; the same breath as the angel speaking to Mary and and the same breath in Mary’s, “Let it be to me according to your word:” the same breath in Jesus saying “Blessed are the poor”, the same breath saying, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

Israel usually doesn’t know what to do with God’s breath and God’s word in the middle of daily life, and neither do we. We have to be saved by letting God’s breath breathe us day by day, here and now, with all our living and our dying, with all the gall and glory that Jesus found on the way, so that we all share in his resurrection. And the fact is that we can’t get there from here on our own.

So at Pentecost the gift that Jesus calls for in the Gospel of John comes forth, to the middle of the city, the middle of the table, to inspire us on an amazing journey, in the middle of all our curving ways, to turn our wandering into pilgrimage and our pilgrimage into homecoming by the gift of God’s Spirit in our lives.

This does not save us from uncertainty, but it assures us that God breathes us, God’s spirit inspires us, now and always, and there is no place where we can be separate from the love of God, the creativity of the father, the compassion of Christ, the indwelling of the spirit, whether we know it or not.

So three things: as God creates the world, we create a world at our table and usually get it wrong. Then Jesus joins us in our journey though the middle of the life to help us to see the crucial difference between being incomplete and unfinished, call us to take the pilgrim path, leaving the table to follow the way where nothing is certain and everything can be a gift from God, and where the spirit is willing to breathe new life into our old bodies at every instant on the way.

This may not make life simpler, likely won’t lead to easy certainties, but (according to the tradition and our biggest hope) it can enable us to find God’s glory and Christ’s call and compassion in every moment on the way. And finally, that spirit, that breath will send us back to feed the hungry table where we started with the bread of life and the cup of salvation. It will let that board meeting become a community called out of love, called into community, called to take the pilgrim way. It will lead us to make Eucharist in the middle of the world. And that is why we come to Pentecost.

In the name of Christ. Amen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Prayer to God the Father on the Vigil of Pentecost by Thomas Merton

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you. The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you. The distant blue hills praise you together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light. The bickering flycatchers praise you together with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there. I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers, and they all give voice to my own heart and to my own silence. We are all one silence and a diversity of voices.
You have made us together, you have made us one and many, you have placed me here in the midst as witness, as awareness, and as joy. Here I am. In me the world is present and you are present. I am a link in the chain of light and of presence. You have made me a kind of centre, but a centre that is nowhere. And yet I am “here,” let us say I am “here” under these trees, not others.

For a long time I was in darkness and in sorrow, and I suppose my confusion was my own fault. No doubt my own will has been the root of my sorrow, and I regret it merciful father, but I do not regret it because this formula is acceptable as an official answer to all problems. I know I have sinned, but the sin is not to be found in any list. Perhaps I have looked to hard at all the lists to find out what my sin was and I did not know that it was precisely the sin of looking at all the lists when you were telling me that this was useless. My “sin” is not on the list, and is perhaps not even a sin. In any case I cannot know what it is, and doubtless there is nothing there anyway.

Whatever may have been my particular stupidity, the prayers of your friends and my own prayers have somehow been answered and I am here, in this solitude, before you, and I am glad because you see me here. For it here, I think, that you want to see me, and I am seen by you. My being here is a response you have asked of me, to something I have not clearly heard. But I have responded, and I am content: there is little to know about it at present.

Here you ask of me nothing else than to be content that I am your Child and your Friend. Which simply means to accept your friendship because it is your friendship and your Fatherhood because I am your son. This friendship is Son-ship and is Spirit. You have called me here to be repeatedly born in the Spirit as your son. Repeatedly born in light, in knowledge, in unknowing, in faith, in awareness, in gratitude, in poverty, in presence and in praise.

If I have any choice to make, it is to live here and perhaps die here. But in any case it is not the living or the dying that matter, but speaking your name with confidence in this light, in this unvisited place: to speak your name of “Father” just by being here as “son” in the Spirit and the Light which you have given , and which are no unearthly light but simply this plain June day, with its shining fields, its tulip trees, the pines, the woods, the clouds and the flowers everywhere.

To be here with the silence of Sonship in my heart is to be a centre in which all things converge upon you. That is surely enough for the time being.

Therefore Father, I beg you to keep me in this silence so that I may learn from it the word of your peace and the word of your mercy and the word of your gentleness to the world: and that through me perhaps your word of peace may make itself heard where it has not been possible for anyone to hear it for a long time.

To study truth here and learn here to suffer for truth.

The Light itself, and the contentment and the Spirit, these are enough.