Saturday, June 16, 2018
4th Sunday after Pentecost-Proper 6B June 17, 2018 I’ve been thinking a lot about families this week, as I’ve been interacting with our kids through Vacation Bible School, and as my own kids have been out of town all week. And so I was struck by our collect for today: “Keep, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy household the Church in thy steadfast faith and love, that by the help of thy grace we may proclaim thy truth with boldness, and minister thy justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ…” There’s a lot in there that is striking to me. First, we are acknowledging that the church is God’s household and then we are asking God to keep it in God’s steadfast faith and love so that we may proclaim God’s truth with boldness and minister God’s justice with compassion—not for our own sake or for the sake of the church but for the sake of our savior Jesus Christ. I don’t know about y’all, but that’s not usually how I think about church at all. I think about church as how it helps me be in relationship to God and to God’s people, how it feeds me to go out into the world to proclaim God’s love. But this collect is suggesting there is a much larger purpose at work here in God’s household the church. That we are a family who is to be about doing the work of proclaiming God’s truth with boldness and ministering God’s justice with compassion. In our gospel reading for today, we see Jesus offering a couple of parables, and Mark tells us that Jesus only spoke to the crowds in parables but he would explain everything in private to his disciples. The word parable literally means to throw alongside. So rather than being analogy or morality tales, parables serve the purpose of putting two different realities alongside one another. They are narrative contrasts that throw a vision of God’s kingdom up alongside the world as it is and they often challenge us and even goad us into considering new possibilities in light of God’s promises.i In the parable for today, Jesus says that the kingdom of God “is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” So the kingdom of God is like something so tiny that grows into something so great that “all the birds of the air can make their homes in it.” Another homey, image for us this week. I don’t know about y’all, but it’s disconcerting for me because, while I like birds, I would have never thought that a place for all birds to make their nests would be such a priority in the kingdom of God. And here’s the other piece of all this for me this week. I can’t stop thinking about the thousands of migrant children in US custody, many of whom have been intentionally separated from their parents. Now, I know this is an extremely political issue, so take a deep breath and hear me out. I’ve been reading a great deal about this (from both “sides”), and both sides have valid arguments. One side says that children shouldn’t be separated from their parents who are coming here to seek a better way of life and even fleeing life-threatening circumstances. The other side says the parents have broken the law by trying to enter our country illegally, and it is our right to imprison them, but since we don’t imprison children, we will house them separately because we don’t have anything else to do with them. So what are we, God’s household the church-God’s family, supposed to do with all this? How do we, with the help of God’s grace, “proclaim God’s truth with boldness, and minister God’s justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ…” in this situation where there are no clear answers, no clear solutions? One thing I think that we can all agree on is that not a single one of us wants those children to be separated from their parents or immediate care-givers. We can use our own sense of empathy and imagine what it would be like for us as a parent or a grandparent or even as one of the children, to be kept apart from one another and all alone in a strange country. And I would go so far as to say that our God who is so concerned with whether all the birds of the air have a place to nest in God’s kingdom would also be concerned about these thousands of migrant children, regardless of what their parents had done to get them here. For they, too, are a part of God’s household, God’s family. One of my favorite artists is a man named Brian Andreas. He operates the website storypeople and his art incorporates short stories along with his drawings. One that I saw for this week titled Imaging World reads: “In my dream, the angel shrugged and said if we fail this time it will be a failure of imagination and then she place the world gently in the palm of my hand.”ii I believe that we are seeing a failure of imagination on the part of all of our elected leaders, on both sides, on this particular issue. And one way I suggest that we may “proclaim God’s truth with boldness, and minister God’s justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ…” is to demand, as people of faith, that our elected leaders re-engage their imaginations and work together to come up with a better solution than the one we have now. The other thing that we can do is to pray for them—for our elected officials, for the thousands of children, their parents and caregivers and all those who are caring for them right now. Daily. Remember them all before God, whose justice and compassion far outweighs our own understanding. May God give us the grace and the courage to proclaim God’s truth with boldness, and minister God’s justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. iThese ideas were sparked by David Lose’s essay for this week: In the Meantime at http://www.davidlose.net/2018/06/pentecost-4-b-quiet-dynamic-confidence/ iihttp://www.storypeople.com/2013/12/16/imagining-world/
Saturday, June 9, 2018
Third Sunday after Pentecost-Proper 5B June 10, 2018 Our gospel reading for today starts off in a strange way. “The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” What on earth is going on here? Why are people saying that Jesus is “out of his mind”? What has already been happening in only 3 short chapters of Mark’s gospel to make Jesus’s family and those of the religious establishment freak out? One of the blog writers I follow, a Lutheran pastor named David Lose, writes about this passage: “Why is Jesus getting so much flack?...All he’s done so far is announce the coming kingdom of God, call some disciples, cast out a demon or two, and heal a bunch of sick people.” [Lose continues,] “Of course, one of those disciples was a tax collector, he cast out the demon and did much of his healing work on the Sabbath, and he wasn’t put off in the least when approached by a leper. Which means that his vision of the coming kingdom of God was rooted in a profound inclusivity that would let neither religious law nor social custom prevent him from reaching those in need with the abundant life he came to offer.”i So what David Lose is saying is that in our gospel passage for today, we see Jesus’s family and the religious establishment of his time thinking that Jesus is either crazy or demon-possessed because of his radical hospitality and his practice of meeting people exactly where they are and not adding or even paying attention to existing rules for them to follow to be healed or to be with him. And it makes them all really mad, and we get that, don’t we? Because we humans love to have ways to determine if someone is “in” or if someone is “out;” or as David Lose puts it: “we create rules not so much for how they help our neighbor but for how they help us to define ourselves and how handy they are as a standard against which [we can] judge our neighbor. When we see someone who doesn’t conform, we call them rebels, or radicals, or unnatural, or immoral. Which is pretty much what’s happening to Jesus.”ii Thinking about Jesus’s radical hospitality has gotten me thinking about our own hospitality as a church. Now one of the gifts of our church is, in fact, gracious hospitality. I have seen it over and over again. We throw some amazing parties, including our Vacation Bible School that is coming up this week. And I also know that we can continue to grow in this, just like all churches can continue to grow in the ways that they follow Jesus and in how they welcome visitors and in the way that they meet people where they truly are as opposed to expecting them to conform to a pre-determined code of behaviors. The vestry and I began talking about some of this a few months ago at our annual vestry retreat, when I introduced them to the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect. Invite Welcome Connect is a ministry that came out of the diocese of Texas and was developed by a lay person named Mary Parmer. Mary and Invite Welcome Connect have since moved to a new home at Sewanee, and our own Canon Frank Logue is very active in this work with Mary. (In fact, Frank is one of the keynote speakers in the upcoming Invite Welcome Connect Summit happening this week.) If you are interested in all of this, I encourage you to check out their website at invitewelcomeconnect.com. You have already seen some of the fruits of Invite Welcome Connect at work in this congregation: in the Moo Cards for seasonal worship services, in our new website, and in our new full text bulletin. And today, I’d like to invite you into the conversation here. And of course, with that invitation comes….homework! I have copies of the Welcome Checklist created by Mary through Invite Welcome Connect that we are going to pass out now.iii Your homework for this week and over the next couple of weeks is to observe this church through the eyes of a newcomer and to fill out this check-list and then turn it back in to us. I’d like to have the completed check-lists back by the end of June if possible. Doing this may take a bit of research on your part, but I believe that this is one way our church can begin to intentionally expand our ministry of hospitality beyond what we are already doing. You can drop these off at the office, mail them, or scan and email them to me, or leave them in the basket in the narthex. You can put your name on it or you can leave it off. (If you find that this work really excites and energizes you, then please, let me know. There is an advanced component I can share with you to help us go even further in our assessment and exploration of the ways that we welcome.) In closing, I want to leave us with a challenge by David Lose, something for us to think about as a church. “So maybe the question isn’t, “Why is Jesus getting so much flack?” But instead should be, “Why aren’t we getting more?” Why, that is, aren’t we pushing the boundaries of what’s socially and religiously acceptable in order to reach more folks with the always surprising, often upsetting, unimaginably gracious, and ridiculously inclusive love of Jesus? And if that is the kind of love we want to offer, we might go on to ask whether we [are] communicating that message in word and deed loudly and clearly, both inside our doors and outside to the community as well.”iv i. Lose, David. Blog post: Pentecost 2B: Offering a Wide Welcome published June 1, 2015 at http://www.davidlose.net/2015/06/pentecost-2-b-offering-a-wide-welcome/ ii.Ibid iii.This can be found at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55e0acc3e4b0fc91a8f511f7/t/59fcbfa08e7b0ffcd27877b3/1509736352816/WELCOME+Check+List.pdf iv.Lose, David. Blog post: Pentecost 2B: Offering a Wide Welcome published June 1, 2015 at http://www.davidlose.net/2015/06/pentecost-2-b-offering-a-wide-welcome/
Saturday, June 2, 2018
2nd Sunday after Pentecost-Proper 4B June 3, 2018 Then [Jesus] said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” When is the last time you thought about Sabbath and its relationship to your life and your faith? Now, I’m not talking about a day off, or the weekend, or leisure time, I’m talking about Sabbath which in Hebrew literally means “stop.” If you haven’t really thought about it lately, don’t feel bad. You are not alone. Our culture is one that, I believe, has come to value progress over rest, productivity over stopping. So it is no surprise if you have not thought about Sabbath in a while. In our gospel reading for today, we see Jesus and the Pharisees get into a squabble over Jesus’ treatment of the Sabbath. But what’s the big deal? Just a few weeks ago at our spring clergy conference, our Bishop invite a husband and wife team, Dr. Matthew and Nancy Sleeth to come and speak to the clergy of the diocese about the importance of Sabbath. In that time listening to them, I remembered some things and learned some more things that I’d like to share with you as we think about Sabbath together this morning. Sabbath keeping is one of the 10 commandments given by God to Moses to help order the lives of the children of Israel after God brought them out of bondage in Egypt. The first three commandments are all about God. (You can see this for yourself. They are printed in our BCP—Rite 1 p 317; Rite 2 p 350) So, commandments 1-3 are about God: I am the Lord your God. Don’t make idols for yourselves. Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain. Commandments 5-10 are all about our relationships with others: honor your parents; don’t commit murder or adultery; don’t steal; don’t bear false witness, and don’t covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. But the fourth commandment is wedged in-between the two sets of commandments, making it the fulcrum or the bridge between the two sections: “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” And what you don’t see in the BCP is that in scripture, the 4th commandment is the longest; it takes up the most space. In fact, the 4th commandment is longer than commandments 5-10 put together. For the children of Israel, Sabbath keeping is a luxury that they could only indulge when they were no longer slaves. It is a holy time that was made to protect the vulnerable; it is a time of integration or re-integration and a time of healing our fractured parts. This is what Jesus is getting at when he says to his disciples and the Pharisees who are challenging his keeping of the Sabbath: “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” Sabbath is the gift of rest for us; a reminder that God is God and we are not. My husband David’s Uncle Joe would always have a saying for us when we would join them for Sabbath time at their lake house. He would say, “it feels so good when you finally stop.” That is the gift of Sabbath. I think we find ourselves at odds with the gospel reading for today. Instead of being bound up too much by the law to keep the Sabbath like those who questioned Jesus, we have lost the Sabbath. We hardly ever stop. So, how do we reclaim Sabbath in our busy lives, in our busy times and seasons? What would it look like for us to keep Sabbath once a week, to receive this gift from God of healing, reintegration, and rest? What would it take for us to carve out a single 24 hour period when we remembered that God is God and we are not, so the world will go on around us even if we stop and rest for a bit? The definition of work and rest has changed so much since the 10 commandments were written down, and the definition of work and rest varies from person to person. (Some of y’all like to garden or do yard work, and for me, that is not restful at all. In fact, I usually manage to acquire poison ivy when I try to do yard work, so it is the very opposite of restful for me.) So in some sense, what is Sabbath is going to vary from person to person, from family to family. The pastor Eugene Peterson says there are two components to Sabbath keeping that can help us think about how we keep sabbath: pray and play. He says that true Sabbath must have some components of both prayer (reconnecting with God) and play (finding joy in each other and the gifts God has give us). When talking to us clergy, Dr. Matthew Sleeth gave us a simple prescription for figuring out how to keep Sabbath: “figure out what ‘work’ is for you, and then don’t do it.”i My invitation for you this week is to think about how you keep Sabbath. Can you begin working toward consecrating a whole day of your week every week to play and pray? If that seems overwhelming, then maybe start with half a day? What would that look like for you, for your family? What would be the “work” that you would need to set aside for that period of time? Talk to the people in your life who might be affected by this. If you have a family that lives all together, then get everyone’s input on what Sabbath time would look like and try to make space for all of it. And then try it. This week. In closing, I’ll share with you this short poem by the poet Wendell Berry: Whatever is foreseen in joy Must be lived out from day to day. Vision held open in the dark By our ten thousand days of work. Harvest will fill the barn; for that The hand must ache, the face must sweat. And yet no leaf or grain is filled By work of ours; the field is tilled And left to grace. That we may reap, Great work is done while we’re asleep. When we work well, a Sabbath mood Rests on our day, and finds it good.ii i. Notes from Diocese of Georgia’s Spring Clergy Conference 2018 at Honey Creek. Speakers Matthew and Nancy Sleeth ii.Berry, Wendall. “Whatever is foreseen in joy” from Sabbaths by Wendall Berry. 1987.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
First Sunday after Pentecost-Trinity Sunday Year B May 27, 2018 In her book Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor writes about telling several anecdotes to her Atlanta friends to explain her decision to leave a large Episcopal church in the city to take up the call as rector of a small church in a small town in northern Georgia. She writes, “When my friends in Atlanta asked me how things were going in north Georgia, I told them that I was living in a Flannery O’Connor story. I would spend one afternoon visiting a septuagenarian who lived in an octagonal house that her late husband had built for her, eating kiwis that she grew on her clothesline and listening to her reminiscences of Isadora Duncan. The next day I would take communion to a man who was back in the hospital for the third operation on his knee, which was crushed when his pickup truck rolled backward and pinned him against his trailer. After church on Trinity Sunday, I came out to my car to find a miniature Three Musketeers candy bar on the hood. Underneath it was a note from the deeply eccentric woman who lived across the street from the church. ‘One for all and all for one,’ the note read. ‘Happy Trinity Sunday.’i Today, on this first Sunday after Pentecost every year, our church calendar designates this as a day when we focus on the Trinity. I suspect, like me, you have all had your own experiences of really good and really bad Trinity Sunday sermons. I feel certain you have heard, at least once, many of the theological concepts behind the doctrine of the Trinity: a Trinity Sunday sermon that consists of phrases like: “that the one God exists in 3 persons and one substance—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one, yet self-differentiated; the God who reveals Himself to humankind is one God equally in 3 distinct modes of existence, yet remains one through all eternity.”ii Or “that the Latin word personae which we translate as person (as in the 3 persons of the Trinity) is the same word used to talk about the masks that actors used to portray different characters in the theater.” Or perhaps even: St. Augustine compared the Son and the Holy Spirit to processes of human self-knowledge and self-love. He wrote that the Son came from an act of thinking on the part of the Father and the Spirit was a result of the mutual love of the Father and the Son. But even more than intellectual constructs, the notion of the Trinity resonates more through metaphor over the years: “from the Desert Fathers comparing the members of the Trinity to the source of light (Father), the light itself that illumines (Son), and the warmth when you feel the light (Spirit) to Augustine's Lover (Father), Beloved (Son), and the Love shared between the two (Spirit).”iii There was even the hapless seminarian who once preached a Trinity Sermon Sunday comparing the Trinity to a fidget spinner. And metaphors are good. They do get us to dance a little better with the mystery that is the Trinity. But today, I want to talk about the implications of the Trinity in our daily life. What significance does it have for us? In the midst of life, at the beginning of this long, green season of Ordinary Time, today we stop and remember the important truth that our God is a relational God, a God who created us specifically to be in relationship with God and whose three different aspects exist in a kind of playful, joyful dance that really makes God more accessible to us. We remember that all of God delights in us, too, and invites us to participate in this joyful, playful, delightful dance with God. The German mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg says it this way when she has God saying to us: “I, God, am your playmate! I will lead the child in you in wonderful ways for I have chosen you. Beloved child, come swiftly to ME for I am truly in you. Remember this: The smallest soul of all is still the daughter of the Father, the sister of the Son, the friend of the Holy Spirit and the true bride of the Holy Trinity.”iv So instead of talking theology or doctrine or even more metaphor today, let’s talk poetry. I once read a poem that captured the notion of Trinity for me in a new and different way, and in my rediscovery of it, it has captured my imagination about how my life with my family, my prayer life, and all aspects of how I am in this world in relationship to God and others could be different. It is called Playtime by Michael Hare Duke. Playtime It takes a kind of courage To find time for play… Thank God for the dreams in which we mount our fiery imaginations and ride off into the misty mountains. Night takes to task the busy day; but why am I ashamed to claim the right to conscious play within the waking world? When I can sit and let my mind catch fire I understand how God sang for fun calling out of nothing all creation. Wagtails bounce and flip their feathers salmon leap, the world turns, the planets wheel, tiny or vast orchestrated into a joyful tune, the models of all making. Dreams, imagination and God’s laughter in creation invite me out of my industrious solemnity, to take the task of playing seriously until my marred manhood is recreated in the child I have denied.v Where have you encountered God’s laughter in creation or in other places in your life this week? Where have you tasted God’s delight in your life? That is the Trinity at work in your life and in the world: indefinable, unbridled laughter and joy that cannot be contained and that delights in you and creates, redeems, and sustains all relationships. That is what we remember, celebrate, and savor this day. So. Happy Trinity Sunday. Let’s have a little bit of play today and do something you may have never done before. Eat chocolate in church. I have Three Musketeers for everyone that I will pass out now, and I encourage you to eat yours while you pass the peace. May it feed you to look for God’s laughter in creation in your life in the coming week as you witness the delight of the Trinity at work in the world. And remember, “Happy Trinity Sunday! All for one and one for all!” i.Taylor, Barbara Brown. Leaving Church. Harper: San Francisco, 2006, o. 67. ii.Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. ed. F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone. Oxford: 1997, p 1641. iii.David Lose at http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1617 iv.Fox, Matthew. Christian Mystics. 365 Readings and Meditations. New World Library, 2011, p 64. v.Playtime by Michael Hare Duke. Resources for Preaching and Worship Year C. Ed. Hanna Ward and Jennifer Wild. Westminster: Louisville, 2003, p 174.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
The Day of Pentecost-Year B May 20, 2018 Four years ago, I was on an 8 week sabbatical in Hawaii where David was working for 10 months. Our family had a wonderful time and experienced so many unique and interesting things. One night, our friend Paul convinced both David and me to go skydiving with him and a group of our friends. [Let me just say I have no idea why I agreed to this! (But I will say there may or may not have been whiskey involved in the decision making process.) As most of you know, I am one of the least likely people to agree to go skydiving. But I did.] As we went to bed the night before our skydiving trip, I lay awake for hours absolutely terrified. I lay there imagining what it was going to be like to stand in the doorway of the open side of the plane and to have to jump out into the great wide open. And I thought, “I don’t know how I’m going to do that.” But I had committed to going and didn’t want to back out. When the day finally arrived and we got all suited up for our jump, I was introduced to my tandem jumper, a very large Russian man named Viktor. As Viktor tried to make small talk with me, I think he quickly realized that a). I was absolutely terrified and b). I couldn’t talk much because I was trying not to throw up. We took off in the plane as Viktor was religiously checking and re-checking all the buckles and straps of our two harnesses by which we were thoroughly attached, and all too quickly, it became our turn to go. The moment I had most feared loomed before me. I made my way to stand in the doorway of the plane (which was rolled open on the side of the plane like a garage door), and I remember thinking that there was no way I was going to be able to do this, when Viktor did something that surprised me. He shouted in my ear to sit down on the floor of the plane and dangle my legs out. I felt a certain degree of momentary relief as I followed his instructions, and the next thing I knew, I was out of the plane and hurtling through the great blue sky. Now, what I only realized later after talking to our friends was how Viktor and I actually got out of that plane. Our friends confessed how horrified they were to watch as Viktor actually threw me/us out of the airplane. Today is the feast of Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. The word that Jesus uses that is translated as Holy Spirit is Paraclete, and that actually has been translated in a variety of ways. One way is as Comforter (which I talked about last week). Another is Advocate; another is Helper. Some equate the Holy Spirit with Wisdom or Sophia (from the Old Testament) who is personified as a woman. Another way of translating Paraclete is “the one who comes alongside.” But regardless of how you translate it, the readings for today are clear. When the Holy Spirit shows up, the Holy Spirit brings change, and change is hard for us (I’ll refer you back to the Romans reading.) And you know, as much as I like to see that lovely comforting Holy Spirit show up with a cup of tea and words of comfort, sometimes the Holy Spirit shows up, comes alongside us, checks and double checks that we are harnessed together securely and, like Viktor, throws us out of the airplane because there is just no way we are getting out on our own. And thankfully, the Holy Spirit stays connected as we free fall for what seems like an eternity but is really only seconds and then deploys the parachute with a tremendous jerk that leads us to land (sometimes softly, sometimes not) at our next destination. (It’s interesting to me to note that the only other time I’ve shared this sky-diving story in a sermon was exactly a year ago today, when I was interviewing with another search committee in another church, exactly one week before I came here and met your search committee. I knew the Holy Spirit was in the process of throwing me (and my family) out of the plane, but I had no idea she would land us here in Savannah. And oh, how thankful I am that she did!) How has the Holy Spirit shown up in unexpected ways in your life or in the life of this parish often during times of change or transition? In what ways might God be calling you to trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, as unexpected as it might be? What are the lessons that the Holy Spirit may be trying to teach you right now that you are not able to learn on your own? Where are the airplanes that you have to get thrown out of because there’s no way you’re going to jump on your own? In closing, I’ll share with you a quote from Thomas Merton that I came across this week: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and the challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”
Sunday, May 13, 2018
The 7th Sunday of Easter Year B May 13, 2018 We find ourselves in a strange, in between time, liturgically today. Today is the 7th Sunday after Easter-The Sunday after the Ascension where we find ourselves dwelling in a liturgical “already-not yet.” Jesus has already ascended to be with God, and the gift of the Holy Spirit has not yet been given to his disciples. Our gospel for today is a portion of Jesus’s prayer for his disciples when they are gathered for the last supper together in the upper room, and the Acts reading shows us a glimpse of the disciples, immediately after Jesus’ ascension, where they are working to “keep calm and carry on” in finding a replacement for Judas. But today, on this in between sort of liturgical day which also intersects with the secular holiday of Mother’s Day, I find myself drawn to an image in today’s collect when we demand of God: “Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before…” When I first read that collect, I heard echoes of something else, but I couldn’t remember exactly what. So I did what any sound preacher would do; I googled it. And when I googled “do not leave us comfortless,” John 14: 18 popped up, when Jesus prepares his disciples for his leaving and says to them, “I will not leave you comfortless.” Except the Greek word that is translated as “comfortless” is actually orphanus. Orphans. I will not leave you as orphans. So, our prayer to God, on this weird, in between Sunday which also happens to be Mother’s Day is “Do not leave us as orphans…” Off and on over the last year or so, I’ve been haunted by Gillian Welch’s song Orphan Girl. Do y’all know this song? I am an orphan on God's highway But I'll share my troubles if you go my way I have no mother, no father No sister, no brother I am an orphan girl I have had friendships pure and golden The ties of kinship have not known them I know no mother, no father No sister, no brother I am an orphan girl But when He calls me I will be able To meet my family at God's table I'll meet my mother, my father My sister, my brother No more an orphan girl This past week, we celebrated one of my favorite saints on our church calendar: Dame Julian of Norwich. On that day, I was reading through some of Julian’s more well-known sayings, and I found this one: “Our Savior is our true mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.” If that is true, then where does this feeling, this fear of being orphaned, of being left comfortless come from? There are so many ways that our own actions or even the actions of others can make us think or believe or act like we are estranged from God, that we are orphans, left comfortless to the fates and furies of a cold, heartless world. And then we live into this reality. We act like we are orphaned, like we have been left comfortless, and our actions estrange us from others and further isolate us from God’s love. Our invitation today is to remember Julian’s words and to seek to always dwell in the truth of them: “Our Savior is our true mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.” To not act out of our feelings of abandonment, of being orphaned, of being comfortless because they are not of God. They are created by our own sin, by our estrangement from God and each other, from our tendency to seek our own way above all others. And when we act out of our orphaned feelings, we continue the cycle by creating estrangement with others. Our prayer this week to Jesus our mother is “do not leave us comfortless.” I invite you to spend some time this week, tenderly examining your life, looking to see if there is some place in your life, in your heart or soul where you feel orphaned by God or others, where you feel estranged, comfortless? Tenderly examine your actions and ask yourself, “In this instance, am I acting out of a feeling of being orphaned, or am I acting out of a place of belonging? Then offer it to the loving gaze of Jesus and pray: do not leave me comfortless. And rest in the heart of God where you will always created to dwell. But when He calls me I will be able To meet my family at God's table I'll meet my mother, my father My sister, my brother No more an orphan girl
Saturday, May 5, 2018
The 6th Sunday of Easter Year B May 6, 2018 A letter to Marin Tarpley and Payton Hunt upon the occasion of their baptisms Dear Marin and Payton, On this day of your baptism, I want to share with you some of Jesus’s parting words to his disciples as he tries to prepare them for his death and resurrection: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” As you embark on this journey of faith that begins today and will last throughout your entire life, you can carry in your heart this promise from Jesus. But what does it mean? What does it mean to abide in Jesus’s love? How do we do that so that we may taste that elusive joy which he promises? One way of thinking about this, Marin and Payton, is to hear his words a little differently. Jesus is actually telling his disciples and us: “make your home in me and I will make my home in you.” Now, this is something you girls know a little more about. Your parents have created for each of you a home where you are safe and secure, where you are loved and cherished, a home where all your needs are met, and where you are loved beyond all measure. By making your home in this home already created for you by your parents, you already know something of what Jesus means. You grow and you flourish in this home. You will stay there until you are ready to be out on your own. You will learn from those who love you, and you will teach them as well. (I suspect, even though you are both quite young, you have already taught your parents a good bit!) You will bring certain gifts to your family, and they will learn how to use them, and you will all work together to grow you up into a healthy, joyful adult. So making your home in Jesus’s love, abiding in Jesus’s love, is similar. It requires the same things: connection, dependence, and continuance. You are connected to Jesus; you learn about him through your parents, godparents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, and the other caring people in this your community of faith. We promise to teach you about prayer, the chief way that we are connected to Jesus, and we also promise to try to teach you to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” You remember that you are dependent on Jesus. At some point, sweet girls, you will fall. You will fail. You will be heartbroken and weary. In those times, we must all help you remember that you may cast your cares on our Lord, and that he will show you the way that you must follow to be returned to his joy. And the final way of abiding is continuance. This means staying put, blooming where you are planted. Today you are being baptized into the body of Christ in this particular community of faith. We make promises to you and to God that we will work to support you, to nurture you, to help you connect to God and with all of us, but you must be here for us to do that. In all of these ways and so many more, Jesus makes his home in us, and we make our home in him. But, lest you get bogged down in this to-do list as a way that you can achieve this joy that Jesus’ promises, you must remember the final part of what Jesus says to us this day: “You did not choose me but I chose you.” The grace of God, the joy of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit have already been given to you. You have already been chosen by Jesus, claimed as God’s beloved from the moment of your birth. There is nothing that you can or have to do to earn this. All you have to do is abide in it. And that is the beautiful truth of this day. May your life be lived at home in the God who loves you, and may you know and taste God’s joy on this day and on all days. Your sister in Christ, Melanie+