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Hilda of Whitby: Abbess and Peacemaker

18 Nov

Homily delivered on November 18, 2020 at the mid-week Public Service of Healing, with featured Saint: St. Hilda of Whitby, at Saint Andrews Episcopal Church, Princess Anne, Maryland.

Ephesians 4: 1-6; Psalm 122; Matthew 19: 27-29

When I realized I was going to preach on St. Hilda of Whitby, I am pretty sure I screeched like a school girl.  As referenced in my bio that was emailed before I came aboard, I look to St. Francis of Assisi for guidance and inspiration.  St. Hilda is next on the list.  And really, she probably should be first on my list, simply in light of what she accomplished, as a woman, especially at the time she did, because of what female clergy still currently face at times, regardless of denomination.

St. Hilda of Whitby was one of the great lights of the early Anglo-Saxon church in Britain.  According to the book History written by St. Bede the Venerable, which is the principal source of her life, she was the great niece of St. Edwin, King of Northumbria.  With the rest of her family she was baptized by St. Paulinus when she was thirteen.  Bede wrote, “She spent thirty-three years most nobly in secular occupations” before deciding to “serve God alone.”  As a nun Hilda spent time in a number of monasteries in East Anglia before returning home to found a new monastery at Whitby.  This would remain her home for the rest of her life, and under her leadership it would become an important center for the spread and consolidation of the Christian faith in England.

Ruined Abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire, England. Norman architecture reflected in pond.

Whitby was a double monastery – that is, one comprising both men and women who lived separately but gathered together to chant the office.  In the tradition of Celtic monasticism, in which Hilda was formed, it was not unusual for a woman to preside over such a mixed community.  As its shepherd, Hilda set a standard for holiness, wisdom, and scholarship, promoting through her example of “the observance of righteousness, mercy, purity, and other virtues, but especially in peace and charity.”  She promoted the study of the Scriptures and the thorough education of the clergy.  Bede observes that in her monastery “no one there was rich or poor, for everything was held in common, and none possessed any personal property.”

Hilda also served as a spiritual director, serving not only her monastic children but the wider community.  “So great was her prudence that not only ordinary folk, but kings and princes used to come and ask her advice in their difficulties.” 

Saint Hilda Of Whitby Anglo-saxon Drawing by Mary Evans Picture Library

Five of her monks went on to become bishops.  She was also influential in encouraging the gifts of another saint, St. Caedmon, a cowherd and subsequent ‘discovered’ poet who became a monk of Whitby.

St Hilda High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

As a reflection of the prestige of Whitby, the monastery was chosen as the site for the important church synod of 664.  The synod was called, ostensibly, to resolve disagreements about the correct day for observing Easter.  But this issue was symptomatic of deeper tensions between those favoring the Roman model of authority, rooted in the male dominated episcopal hierarchy, and those inclined to the more monastic model characteristic of the Celtic church.  Hilda favored the latter, but the synod decided otherwise.

Hilda’s last years were spent in painful illness; apparently, she had a high fever for the final 7 years of her life.  But that didn’t stop her from her work.  She never retired from her office nor did she ever fail to give thanks to God.  By her own example she instructed her flock “to serve God rightly when in health, and render thanks to him faithfully when in trouble or bodily weakness.”  Her last counsel to her community was to “maintain the gospel peace among yourselves and with others.”  She died on November 17, 680.

St Hilda of Whitby – A Woman of Strength, Grace & Wisdom – God's Design –  Perth

She epitomized the life worthy of the calling as outlined by Paul in today’s selection from Ephesians.  In light of today’s Gospel passage noting that those who have left homes, brothers or sisters, father or mother, or children for the Lord’s sake, will inherit eternal life, it is interesting that Bede wrote: “All that knew her called her Mother.”

Tradical on Twitter: "November 17th is the feast of Saint Hilda of Whitby,  Virgin: Anglo-Saxon princess of Deira, Columban nun, second Abbess of  Heruteu (Hartlepool), and foundress-Abbess of Streanaeshalch (Whitby), in  Northumbria,

In light of St. Hilda’s loving humility and her approach towards possessions and what today we’d call class distinctions, it is unfortunate we don’t have Matthew’s immediately preceding verses before verse 27 AND the inclusion of verse 30.  What we have today is the ending of the parable of the rich young man (Matthew 19: 16-30).  The rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus first incredulously replied about asking “what is good” and that “if you wish to enter life, keep the commandments.”  And of course, the man’s response, ‘which ones?’ I can actually imagine Jesus rolling his eyes here but he answers about not committing murder, or adultery, or stealing, bearing false witness, honoring parents and loving neighbor as yourself. Now I imagine the rich young man being incredulous in return:  but I do all of this, what else?

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler -

And we get yet another impossible command: If you wish to be perfect, Jesus says, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then after that, then and only then, you come follow me.  The rich young man upon hearing this, walked away “grieving” no doubt with tale tucked between his legs because we’re told “he had many possessions.” 

Encounter #9: Rich Young Man | ENCOUNTER

Ouch!  But Jesus isn’t finished.  He then continues, talking directly to the disciples and explains that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.  It is only after that we today join Peter’s disheartened plea of ‘well, come on now, we left everything to join you, what the heck are we going to get in return?!’ And after we have Jesus’s response, we don’t have verse 30, which formally ends this discourse: But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

The Rich Young Man - Word on Fire

We’re told this man is young.  Although youth is not an encumbrance to discipleship, wealth is apparently is seen as such in this story.  Wealth was a traditional topic for sages, which is what we see in the book of Proverbs, but here we have another example of Jesus’s counterorder wisdom which suggests that, rather than being a sign of blessing, wealth can actually be a hindrance to proper discipleship.  The command before Peter’s heartfelt plea is to sell all possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then and only then, follow Jesus.  Let’s think this through.

Liquidation of assets permits greater mobility and the ability to join the traveling fellowship of disciples (see Luke 8:1-3).  A rich person then is said to be able to enter God’s realm or eternal life only by God’s grace.  In all cases, salvation is a divine action, not a human one.  The theme of heavenly, or eschatological, reward is also a regular one in wisdom literature.  So, Jesus is assuring Peter that there are such rewards in the kingdom for those who have made sacrifices.  Jesus the sage foresees a day of remarkable reversal of fortunes when the last, least, despised, those ratted upon, spat upon and lost, will become the first, most, and found.  Those who are among the elite in this world will also suffer a reversal of fortune.

And this is why I wanted to provide the entire context for today’s Gospel selection, especially verse 30: But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

Pin on Art and J.Sharp

For our modern context, I think this should be our ‘target.’  Several of you are getting to me know me, and you know I am a hug Star Wars fan.  And so, to bring in a Star Wars reference: stay on target.  Wealth per se is not a sin.  But how do we view our wealth in relation to others (see James 2: 1-13), and what do we do with our wealth. And to be clear, wealth is not just about money.  Think back to what I spoke about Sunday, and my encouragement for us not to bury our talents, our gifts, and that discipleship is to share those abundantly for the kingdom of God.

Now we cannot totally relate to St. Hilda, since she was enclosed in a monastery, living in a community, with communal possessions and a communal purse, while engaging the world. We are in the world. But can you just imagine having a high fever for 7 straight years and yet getting up, every day, praising God, serving God rightly, giving thanks to him faithfully while in bodily weakness? 

May we be deeply grateful for the gifts we have received and seek to share our bounty with those in need, for all those who live on the margins – whether the poor, the underprivileged, the migrant, the sick, our homeless veterans, those wrestling with drug addiction.  May their needs be met through just structures and the loving kindness of those around them.

Let us pray a prayer written in St. Hilda’s honor:

O God of peace, by whose grace the abbess Hilda was

endowed with gifts of justice, prudence, and strength to

rule as a wise mother over the nuns and monks of her

household, and to become a trusted and reconciling friend

to leaders of the Church: Give us the grace to recognize

and accept the varied gifts you bestow on men and

women, that our common life may be enriched and your

gracious will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who

lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,

now and forever.


Saint of the Day – 17 November – Saint Hilda of Whitby (c 614–680) –  AnaStpaul

The fullness of talents

15 Nov
What Are Spiritual Gifts? Understanding the Types and Discovering Yours

Homily delivered on November 15, 2020, at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Princess Anne, Maryland.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Psalm 123; Matthew 25: 14-30

For those who pray the Daily Office, you may recall that last Sunday, we prayed Psalm 96.  The psalmist exclaims: “Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!…He will judge the peoples with equity…Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”

He will judge the peoples with equity…He will be fair and impartial.  I cannot help but think that the judgment implied in today’s parable is no where close to fair and impartial but is rather terrifying. “As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The parable of the lazy slave. Tale "The Parable of Talent Buried in the  Ground

Is this the type of God we worship—a God who, for example, rewards the rich and makes them richer and condemns the poor, only making them poorer? Spoiler alert: no!  Unfortunately, the parable of the talents is among the most abused texts in the New Testament.

Contrary to what might be marketed by some best-selling televangelists, the parable does not justify a gospel of economic prosperity. The Bible actually does not support any of our modern constructs or understandings of economics, such as communism or even capitalism, but that’s a separate homily.  Instead, this parable challenges believers to imitate their Master by using all that God has given them for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of the unfamiliar other.

The parable is located in Jesus’ eschatological discourse (24:1-25:46) (or the end times) where he instructs his disciples to endure through difficult times and to live in anticipation of the Lord’s return. Like all the parables in this section, it exemplifies the certainty of the Lord’s coming and how the disciples are to live in the meantime. Since even Jesus did not know exactly when he would return (Matthew 24: 36), the messages of how to live in the interim perhaps seems repetitive…but it probably needed to be.

Jesus Faces Conflict: Matthew 19

The teaching of the talents may remind you of another parable, that of the faithful and wise slave who continues to do the work of the master until the master comes (24:45-51). Although the master is delayed, he arrives to find the wise slave doing the tasks that have been appointed to him in the master’s absence.

The foolish slave, however, has neglected his work and abused his power. He receives severe punishment. Likewise, in the parable of the talents, the master entrusts his servants with his property, and punishment awaits those who have failed to carry on the master’s work (24:49-51).

Like the parable of the ten bridesmaids we heard last week, the parable of the talents portrays the kingdom of God (25:14). The kingdom is not simply likened to a man on a journey, but to the story that follows — a story that illustrates how the disciples are to wait.

What Is the Meaning of the Parable of the Talents? | Jesus Film Project

Last week I focused on the fact that we weren’t told which of the bridesmaids faltered and didn’t prepare; we weren’t supposed to know, thereby prohibiting us to judge them. As Fr. Rob talked about at Wednesday’s midweek service, however, all of us will face that ultimate moment where we will need to account for- and judged – on how we waited, and what we offered towards the kingdom. And that we will most likely be surprised at who will be joining us at the heavenly banquet.

Keeping that in mind, today we have three slaves and we are told that one hid the talent in the ground because the master was a harsh man, reaping where he did not sow, and gathering where he did not scatter seed. Well, there’s the rub; we know that’s not Jesus. Jesus the Christ cannot be interpreted as a hard slave-master who demands unjust practices for profit from his servants.

But we should not neglect the time Jesus was less than an adorable, meek and mild fuzzy bunny with people. As we’ll recite together in a few short minutes, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father….[who] by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” A man, born in human likeness, in human form (see Philippians 2: 1-11). Jesus was not shy about expressing and showing his anger and displeasure. In Matthew 23 for instance he launches into a long, emotional tirade against the scribes and the pharisees and it’s jarring, his anger hot: “You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? (v. 33). His entire focus was the fact of how much the scribes and pharisees were hypocrites, or teaching and saying one thing while doing the opposite. And as most know, he also showed his anger when he overturned the tables of the money changers.

The Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple - Tiepolo,  Giandomenico. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

This, oddly, should be comforting. As we continue our pilgrimage, we’ll have times where we are angry. Our Lord can identify with that. But perhaps this too is a double-edged sword: what if that anger – or say the wrath of God – is directed our way, when called to make our accounting?

First, the wrath of God is another misunderstood term in modern imaginations. It comes from the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) but it’s not like when we see a conflict between two humans, with one seeking revenge against the other for some perceived wrong with the purpose to inflict pain or to hurt.

The Apostle Paul guides us. In Romans he talks about the wrath and judgment of God that will come to those who have rejected the truth, the gospel, and followed evil (See Romans 2: 1-17). Romans 2:5 offers a good perspective on just what God’s wrath is, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” His wrath appears to be synonymous with his righteous judgment.

Sunday of the Last Judgement (Meatfare Sunday) - Triodion - Greek Orthodox  Archdiocese of America

God’s wrath is not angry retribution against those who have offended God. Rather it is his righteous judgment against those who do evil. God is righteous. And he will judge us according to His righteous standard. And if you take the time to review Romans 2, Paul begins with yet another admonition about judging each other. For Paul, that’s what God has no patience for.

And so, we remind ourselves that we, all of us, are sinners, and we need God; we need Jesus. And by realizing Jesus is the not overbearing task master in today’s parable, the implied judgment actually should not be our focus. We can now shift our thoughts; there are unusual elements present worth looking at, for one, the overabundance of gifts. The basket – or table – is overflowing.

He Prepares a Table | Erica Pyle | Beacon Essentials | Positioned to Prosper

A talent is a vast sum of money and generously distributed to the servants though in different amounts. The master entrusts his wealth to his servants. Not only is he trusting them with his wealth, he does so over a long period of time. As was so painfully evident the other week, our modern culture, which places so much value on things happening immediately, even instantaneously, has become unaccustomed to waiting. Yet here we have another gift, the gift of time, a “long time” in fact, allowing the servants to live faithfully in this superabundance.

And this is where I actually do wonder if our Biblical ancestors perhaps were better suited than we are today when pondering this parable, because their understanding and experience of time radically differs from our sensibilities with respect to time. But the servants already participate, in a yet incomplete fashion, in the life of their master. Think of the master here as inviting his servants into a fullness, a superabundance of grace that is continually offered. Saint Isaac the Syrian framed it this way: God can only give faithful love.

Did Jesus Say, 'God Loves You'? | The Stream

Since God offers faithful love, we should too, should offer each other a superabundance of grace. We know full well conflict is part and parcel of being in communion with each other; that’s as old as, well the Bible. We pray for God’s grace to be extended to us; can we then extend that grace to each other? We’ll of course make mistakes; we’re human. The hardest thing to do I think is to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make. But we will be held to account for our stubbornness and unrepentant hearts as referenced by Paul in Romans. And lest we forget another almost impossible command from Jesus: becoming reconciled with those whom we have become estranged before approaching the altar, rather than walking away from each other (Matthew 5: 21-27).

Viewpoint: 'Be reconciled with your brother' - The Dialog

What then can be said about the third servant? The judgment still appears to be very harsh doesn’t it? However, by considering this parable as one of invitation, perhaps his plight takes on a different perspective. The master is inviting, continually inviting us into superabundance, grace, and joy (which is really nothing other than an invite into discipleship). Then the only conclusion that can be drawn is the third servant is not able to hear or accept this invitation. The third servant has not only hidden the talent, he has buried himself. The third servant is not so much condemned as he condemns himself to a place—a life—that knows not joy, but knows only darkness, wailing and grinding of teeth. This place, this life, is self-created as a result of an unrepentant heart.

Bridesmaids and Talents – Hood Memorial Christian Church

As those who witnessed Jesus’s ascension realized, endings are a beginning. For you, a beloved ministry is about to end; one is beginning. What was a familiar relationship will change. Endings are a beginning. Let’s encourage one another not to bury our gifts as we approach the unfamiliar. Let’s not bury our talents out of fear. If you feel overwhelmed, sad, or even angry, that’s ok! Burying feelings, even feelings of anger, is not the approach I’m suggesting because it’s not holistic.

Acknowledging Feelings - Sex and Relationship Healing

Like God in Jesus, we are made vulnerable and holy by what we love and lay our hearts out for. We wind our passion like a satin bow, wrapped around what we see as beloved and worthy in our lives. Then, in a thousand different ways, and at the most inconvenient time it seems, God calls us to let go of that precious satin bow, and what it protects, and pushes us to move on. All of us, myself included, are on a lifetime pilgrimage and it just may take us our entire journey on Earth to get over this scandal of our vulnerability. Can we realize we are given the very time of our lives for this very purpose, to be stretched by love, best known and felt in letting go; to have our hearts spread as wide as Christ’s arms spread upon the cross, to lengthen those heart strings.

My passionate Persian desire is for you to develop to the fullness of your capacity and talents. These talents may be latent and you may have to dig for them as you navigate this unfamiliar landscape, but together, we can overcome every difficulty to develop them. It truly is worth every ounce of effort to enlarge natural horizons which then allows the supernatural ones to have room to grow and expand. What I mean is, give Christ room, not only to grow to His full stature in you, but to have a place within you to roam as He may wish, a place for Him to breathe and stretch.

What I pray for is that you then hold on to these discovered gifts, those talents, and offer them, in abundance, for the kingdom, for the unknown unfamiliar other. I know assuming responsibility can feel like a burden. May we be grateful for our God-given gifts and not bury them, even when the reward for using them is greater responsibility. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, we thank you for your love so strong. May that love flow through us to others.
May we be patient when change comes slowly.
May we be kind when life seems harsh. May we be gentle when others feel bruised.
May we be humble when things go well. May we be peaceful when anger rises within.
May we rejoice when the truth is discovered.
Love never fails, but we do.
May we hope when things seem hopeless.
May we persevere when the way is hard.


Perseverance – Limited Edition Canvas | Thomas Kinkade Studios

Awake, O Sleeper

8 Nov

Homily delivered on November 8, 2020 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Princess Anne, Maryland.

1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Psalm 123; Matthew 25: 1-18

This may not make you feel any better, but our readings today and liturgical calendar intersect quite nicely with the current affairs of the world: we’re waiting, with anticipation. We’re waiting for the return of Christ. Liturgically we are approaching another Advent, where in anticipation of the birth of the Christ child, we (hopefully) will push pause and wait, reminding ourselves about the eternal hope we have in Christ. And the entire world waited with us to see how the election would resolve. No doubt, we’ll continue to wait to see how the transition will unfold.

I do lament the heightened consternation that swirls around us right now.  Perhaps we mirror how the initial hearers of Matthew’s Gospel were feeling. The earliest readers of the Gospel had already experienced the dark, painful days after the crucifixion followed by the joyous bright days after the resurrection, and had begun waiting for Christ’s return. This parable then is a challenge to be vigilant and to live in anticipation of the Lord’s coming.

The Second Coming: Will Our Lord Return in the 2020s? — Charisma Magazine

The young women were waiting for the bridegroom. They belonged to the same community, the same group of friends. They fall asleep waiting for the bridegroom to come. We’re not told who has enough oil in their lamps, who has been more faithful. And this really is not for us to know or to judge. No surprise that today the church remains this type of a mixed community. But focusing on who is the foolish or wise would miss the point. The so-called foolish young women also knew the bridegroom, calling out to him “Lord, Lord, open to us!” (verse 11).

That they remain unrecognized by the bridegroom though raises the question of knowledge. What is it to know the bridegroom? What is it to recognize the one called “Lord?” And in turn, what is it to be recognized by the one called “Lord?” The cry “Lord, Lord,” should sound familiar; it takes us back to the earlier chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). And the lamps (or torches) are also a familiar image previously used in the Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (5:16).

Let Your Light Shine: The Power of Jesus by Lonnie Ollivierre | The Black  Art Depot

Living and waiting (or maybe even sleeping) with enough oil in our lamps, when set in the context of Matthew’s earlier chapters, suggests that it is this spirit of the beatitudes that, above all else, distinguishes those who the bridegroom recognizes. This beatitude spirit is the spirit of the cross, which disrupts and confounds all of our categories, divisions, and all of our judgmental predispositions. The life into which the beatitudes invite us is a life not centered on our works, not even on our faith per se, but on the cross, and how God is glorified through us, through our very lives. 

To live in vigilance then means that as disciples we do the tasks we have been appointed to do in preparation for the Master’s coming. Looking again at Matthew’s Gospel for guidance, those tasks include bearing witness to God’s kingdom by welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned (25:31-46), and making disciples in all the world (28:19-20).

Rushing to judge is not supposed to be a part of the spirit of the cross. Judgment is purely reserved for God who alone knows or recognizes each individual; we’ll focus more on that next week. For now, grace is in the cross that shines forth a light, a light so unique that people do not praise our good works but rather praise God who is acting and giving life in the midst of suffering, life in the midst of death, opening the door to those who have engaged the way of the cross, who have engaged the way of death. The world simply cannot understand this way. It does not recognize the Lord though it continually cries out, “Lord, Lord!”

But Christ’s return is actually not a one-time event at some “end point” but rather a continuous event that involves us, the community of Christ, the body of Christ, in our baptismal vocation, our Baptismal covenant: we are to live in the light of the cross, which is walking humbly, in mercy, not in judgment. Our Lord’s return is not just simply about a far-off event but includes Christ’s continual presence with us, now, through our living (even sleeping) and all of our waiting.

Walking Humbly with God | Oblates of St. Benedict

However, too many for me have become caught up in trying to determine the day and the hour of Christ’s return, while others have indeed let their lamps run out.  I thought of St. Francis, Assisi while pondering the readings.  He courageously and humbly walked in a holy wisdom, of being alert.  He often struggled with the sense that the people he encountered daily had become drowsy, sleepy, unaware of the presence of God within them and around them. He desired to help them come awake, alert and to see and to encounter the living and loving presence of God in their midst.

Francis himself went through many conversion experiences throughout his life. Once awakened, Francis no longer saw Jesus the Christ simply as a historical figure, written about in scripture and preached in homilies. Through Francis’ ongoing conversion he experienced Christ alive, who spoke to him and became exceptionally vibrant for him through all of creation. Reading about Francis’ experiences would definitely be worth your time.  Francis’ desire was for everyone to also have this experience of the living Christ.

I ask can we (myself included) be awakened from our slumbering drowsy souls to the brilliance of this Divine Love and Light, the presence of Christ, who shines even in these dark times of the Covid pandemic and the pandemics of violence on our streets, increasing economic disparities, as well as intense political polarization?

With that I invite you to join me this Advent for a facilitated weekly adult gathering to study and discuss this booklet: Living Well through Advent 2020- Practicing Hope with all of Your Heart, Soul, Strength and Mind.

This invite is for everyone.  We can figure out logistics later but know I am open to perhaps meeting in person with folks, for example immediately after service on Sundays since we are able to appropriately space ourselves.  I am also willing to host a virtual gathering in addition to an in-person discussion, which I can set up via Zoom. There is no charge for the booklets and if we run out of copies, I can provide a PDF link which can be assessed free of charge.

This comes from the Living Compass Program. The booklet is a resource that provides a foundation for seeking a deeper experience of Advent, an experience that will help prepare us for the true meaning of Christmas.  Underlining the program as a whole is the concept of wellness: having a sense of balance by nurturing and tending to all areas of wellness, including spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, and vocational.  Grounded in Scripture and the tradition of the Church, the Living Compass program provides resources, education, training, and support to individuals, families, and congregations who seek to enhance vitality and to live into the abundant life that God intends.

Let us – together – desire to walk in the way of holy wisdom like St. Francis, so that our slumbering and drowsy souls may be awakened in Christ. May this awakening give us the strength and the courage to speak out and to proclaim our faith boldly.

Awake, O sleeper,

rise from death,

and Christ shall give you light,

so learn his love—

its length and breadth,

its fullness, depth, and height.

To us on earth he came to bring

from sin and fear release,

to give the Spirit’s unity,

the very bond of peace.

There is one Body and one hope,

one Spirit and one call,

one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism,

one Father of us all.

Then walk in love as

Christ has loved,

who died that he might save;

with kind and gentle hearts forgive

as God in Christ forgave.

For us Christ lived,

for us he died

and conquered in the strife.

Awake, arise, go forth in faith,

and Christ shall give you life.


4 Ways Jesus Gives You Abundant Life

Which Commandment is the Greatest?

25 Oct
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT - Uchenna C. Okpalaunegbu Reflection

Homily delivered on October 25, 2020 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Princess Anne, Maryland

1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:34-36

This morning we join Jesus at the end of a long series of debates and challenges he was subjected to by a variety of groups.  I do not want to diminish the importance and seriousness of the moment, especially since not soon afterwards, some within these groups actively plan to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him (Matthew 26: 3-4).  But I have to admit; I had a bit of a chuckle when I, a former lawyer recently ordained deacon beginning a new ministry, first reviewed this morning’s readings: and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Bishop San with the deacons

…. Oh, we lawyers just can’t seem to get a break. Though, to be fair, while we refer to lawyers as someone trained to represent people before a secular court, in the Bible, and with today’s selection, ‘lawyer’ had what we today would call a religious connotation.  This person was undoubtedly an expert and scholar of Mosaic law or the codified system of rules and regulations meant to govern Israel in God’s ways as the nation lived in the Promised Land.

And it was these rules and regulations that Jesus routinely had to address during his ministry.  While the bulletin indicates the Gospel reading is from Luke, it’s actually from Matthew 22:34-46 and I’d like to note that Matthew’s gospel is the most Jewish of the gospels.  What I mean by that is Matthew was written when there was still a living relationship between Jesus’ followers and the Jewish community.  There is considerable concern for the observance of the commandments and Mosaic law.  Indeed, a famous, uniquely Matthean sentence even says that none of the law will pass away until all is accomplished (5:18).  In short, this Gospel seems to be written by and for a community of Jesus’ followers who were overwhelmingly Jewish, not only in terms of ethnicity but also in orientation and patterns of daily living.  And that way of living emphasized wisdom for believing and living a godly life.  The Evangelist has skillfully woven together his source material to produce a compelling portrait of Jesus as both sage and Wisdom itself, as both the revealer of God and Immanuel (“God with us”).

Message: "Immanuel - God With Us" from Phil Helfer — Los Altos Grace

And in Matthew’s rendition, we see this, with Jesus demonstrating he’s cleverer than his adversaries.  And with today’s selection, Jesus ‘gives it right back’ to the Pharisees when he questions them about the messiah and his relationship to David, by quoting Psalm 110.  They are stumped and finally silenced.

But, before the silencing, we have that dreaded lawyer: ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’  Jesus’ answer fits well with his teaching on the Law or Torah across Matthew. Jesus has already demonstrated that right interpretation of the Torah must view all God’s commands through the lens of the weightier matters of the Torah consisting of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (23:23). Jesus previously cited Hosea 6:6 (Matthew 9:13 and 12:7), emphasizing mercy as central to reading and obeying the Torah. And he has highlighted love of neighbor as the pinnacle command of the Torah (5:43-48). So, keeping in mind the background of Matthew with it being ‘the most Jewish’ of the Gospels, we should not be surprised by Jesus’ quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 (love God with all of your heart) and Leviticus 19:18 (love your neighbor as yourself) as the greatest of commands upon which “all the law and the prophets” hang (22:37-40).

The ancient rabbis put it in similar terms: “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Law.”  Too many times I hear broad brush descriptions of Jesus as a rule breaker or that he wouldn’t agree with organized religion today.  Matthew would push back. 

The Greatest Commandment

The Evangelist bends over backwards to demonstrate Jesus is the one who not only rightly interprets the Torah but as one who commands adherence to even its finest points (see Matthew 5:17-20; I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill; he encourages people to go further than say the Pharisees and Mosaic law by extending ‘thou shall not murder’ to include an injunction against being angry with fellow believers in Matthew 5:21-26). Jesus’ greatest critique of the Pharisees is not their desire to keep the Torah in its smallest detail but their tendency to fall short on obedience to central values of the Torah (See Matthew 23:23).

The message today then emphasizes that the Torah is rightly understood when it is read through the central lens of love for God and love for neighbor (with even enemies considered neighbors; Matthew 5:43-44). While this truth is not difficult to understand or to preach on its face, embodying love for God and love for others is the greatest of challenges. The sheer breadth of these two commands makes obedience to them a lifelong effort. The all-inclusive reach of these two commandments might be best coupled with some very practical examples of love.  Since Jesus quoted Leviticus 19 with “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” let’s go back to Leviticus 19 to see just exactly how someone loves their neighbor.  A person who loves his or her neighbor:

• Will not reap the fields bare, but will leave some for the poor (vv. 9-10).
• Will not steal (v. 11).
• Will not deal falsely (v. 11).
• Will not lie (v. 11).
• Will not swear falsely by God’s name (v. 12).
• Will not defraud a neighbor (v. 13).
• Will not keep a laborer’s wages overnight (v. 13).
• Will not “revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind” (v. 14).
• Will not render an unjust judgment (v. 15).
• Will not be partial to the poor or defer to the great (v. 15).
• Will judge the neighbor with justice (v. 15).
• Will not engage in slander (v. 16).
• Will not profit by the blood of the neighbor (v. 16).
• Will not hate your neighbor (v. 17).
• Will not take vengeance or bear a grudge (v. 18).

• Will rise before the aged, and defer to the old (v. 32)

.• Will not oppress an alien for the alien is to be as a citizen, loving the alien as yourself (33-34).

Love Your Neighbor | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

These verses make it clear that the love of which Leviticus and Jesus speak is different from the warm emotion that we think of as love. Another example to look at is Matthew 25: 31-46 which also demonstrates Biblical love is instead, a way of acting in relationship to our neighbor.  But our culture has equated love with intense emotion. To love is a stronger response than to like. We like chocolate: you can unlock my heart with chocolate peanut butter. We just cannot help ourselves. We love a movie: it entertains or moves us. We love a boy or girlfriend: they make us happy. We love a spouse: they complete us. All are measures of a passive response to something outside us.

Biblical love, however, is not passive and it is not strictly emotional. However, we should not forget the times Jesus is moved with compassion. But the love referred to today by Jesus is the active response of the faithful person to the love of God.  In turn, God’s love is also active. God chooses to love Israel above all nations and to bring his love through this chosen people. To love God with all one’s heart, and soul, and mind, is to choose to respond to God even as God chooses to love us. Feelings and emotions do not enter into the equation.

It refers to what can be called loving-kindness. It is not reactive emotion, but active mercy. It is marked by patience and generosity.  In short, Biblical love is a choice, not a feeling. 

Honest Student Cliparts - Cliparts Zone

Which is helpful because to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul seems nearly impossible when we think of love as an emotion. How does one conjure up feelings for something as remote, mysterious, and disembodied as the concept of God? We cannot look into God’s eyes, wrap our arms around the Spirit, or even see the face of Jesus.  But we are commanded to love an intangible God. Perhaps you may feel like a failure in feeling a deep, abiding affection for a God who is often distant and unknown. I’ve certainly have had my moments of well, being angry at and with God.  Nonetheless, to love God is our duty as Christians.

Love Sums it All - eCommunicator

Likewise, loving our neighbor is difficult. If love is merely our passive response to the person next to us, we are likely to be more indifferent than moved to love. How can one legitimately look into the face of an enemy and feel unqualified love? It is nearly impossible.

Love your neighbor as yourself.” | Dr Ken Baker

Biblical love is something we do. It is merciful action that is both generous and continuous. And that is truly the good news for us as Christian people! A martyred Catholic Sister once said: “Believing in Jesus is believing in humanity, and that is, I believe, the great challenge of our time.” To love neighbor as oneself is to act toward the other as one would act toward those close to you. We treat the stranger as well as we treat those that we love emotionally.

Love your neighbor as yourself; but don't take down the fence.' Carl  Sandburg. | Sally says . . . eat, sleep, work, read, play, draw, bark . . .

Interestingly Leviticus 19 also says “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor” (v. 17), suggesting that love is tough where toughness is needed—or, at times love is to be confrontational so that wrongs might be righted and obstacles to relationships can be removed.  And while not readily apparent, this is partly Paul’s message in this morning’s lesson. 

Although Paul is writing as the founder of the community, the characteristics he upholds are to be reflected in each and every one of the members of the community, not just their leaders. These perhaps can be described as “characteristics of community builders,” and each one of us is such a community builder by our very participation in the Christian community.

Christian Community

As Episcopalians our language is different, but the concept is the same. I encourage you to scroll through our Catechism which begins on page 845 of the Book of Common Prayer, paying particular attention to page 855 with the label The Ministry and its first question: Who are the ministers of the Church? The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons. 

Keeping that in mind (did you catch that lay people are referenced first?) the first characteristic Paul describes is speaking boldly.  Unfortunately, we have lost this with the translation to English.  He traces some history for the Thessalonians, reminding them that when he and his companions first arrived at Thessalonica they had recently spent a tumultuous time at Philippi (Acts 16). Nevertheless, while at Thessalonica, Paul and his companions “had courage … to declare to you the gospel of God” (v. 2). In writing this, Paul uses the Greco-Roman philosophical concept of “bold speech.” This expression was used in antiquity to indicate freedom of speech and courage to speak in the face of opposition.  Paul’s expression draws upon the tradition of a type of speech which is characteristic of ancient philosophers. 

When we are community builders, or ministers, we need to speak boldly and “tell it like it is.” Often the easier route is to avoid conflict and allow things to carry on as always. Yet, to truly build community, the gospel message−the love of God and the love of neighbor−must be proclaimed boldly. To be fearless in speaking out, when one notes moral laxity or the abuse of power taking place within the Christian community, will lead to true community.

We have entered into a covenant to do this.  I encourage you to spend time with the Baptismal Covenant, which we affirm from to time to time, mostly at baptisms. “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? – I will, with God’s help. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? I will with God’s help.”

Baptismal Covenant – Amy and Joe in Pasadena + Cormack

The second characteristic Paul highlights is personal integrity when he talks about God’s testing.  In Jewish scriptures, God’s testing is a frequent theme and we see that with Jesus’s sojourn into the wilderness before he begins his public ministry.  But I want to move on and conclude with Paul’s third characteristic of community: being a soul sharer.  True community is built upon openness and sharing. We need to open up, to be vulnerable, and to share with those around us.  

Proclaiming the Gospel of loving God and neighbor- requires us to not only share what we know, but how we strive to live what we know and the failings and doubts we have encountered along the way. The images that Paul uses are of a nurse tending to young children (2:7) and later, just beyond today’s selection, a parent, who pleads with them to live a life worthy of God (2:12).

10 Signs Your Partner Is the World's Best Spouse - Signs of a Healthy  Relationship

What have we learned on our own journeys of faith that would make us trustworthy guides to others? To what degree do we need to let others discover their own paths? As they do so, what gifts of knowledge, faith, and insight might they return to us if we are willing to receive them?

Let us pray:

God of Light, shine on us; 

God of Peace, dwell in us; 

God of Might, protect us;

God of Love, enfold us;

God of Wisdom, enlighten us. 

Let us go out as your witnesses

to share the good news of your love


Wherever You Go, You Will Always Leave a Footprint: Footprints In The Sand  Journal - Motivational & Inspirational Quotes - Caribbean Tropical Beach:  Journals, Wild: 9781074952754: Books

Wounded Healers

25 Aug


Message shared at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, Morning Prayer, Sunday August 25, 2019

Readings: Psalm 71: 1-6; Jeremiah 1: 4-10; Hebrews 12: 18-29; Luke 13: 10-17

….Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen (Psalm 19, NRSV).

“For indeed our God is a consuming fire”…well that’s a comforting thought, ‘eh? But let’s be honest, discipleship can certainly feel like that at times, as we muddle about in life, loving God and neighbor.  Case in point, allow me to share a misery of mine from this past week because misery seeks company, right?

As many of you know, I unexpectedly began living here, in Salisbury, just about five years ago. I help my mother care for her partner of 38 years, who has advanced dementia and congestive heart failure. While 90 years old, recently, she has been staying up beyond when mother and I go to bed, watching the Game Show network.  She just loves Steve Harvey and Family Feud.  Because of medical issues I have, I am quite committed to getting to bed at a certain time.  So, I was happily snug as a bug in a rug in my bed, for just over an hour, when all of a sudden, a loud noise and bright light jolts me awake.  With heart racing, I open my eyes and can just make out the door had been opened, with the annoyingly bright hallway light pouring in.  My attention is quickly drawn to a dark figure hovering over me.  The figure starts frantically exclaiming: “I can’t turn off the tv! The remote isn’t working!”  Sadly, I can’t tell you I was the epitome of St. Francis, because my first thought was ‘could you not see I was sleeping, you know, the closed door, darkened room, me under the sheets…no?’


I gather my senses and realize that the noise was her walker banging against the door as she was opening it.  So, I get up and try to respond in an assuring way, and tell her let’s see what’s happening.  I pass her, and head out the door, take a couple of steps and my right -sockless- foot is consumed and sinks in something wet, cold, and…well chunky.  Evidently, our 15-year-old dog had thrown up after I had gone to bed.


So, you can no doubt just imagine my posture, and thoughts, as I am still trying to wake up and still trying to gather my senses.

And of course, the issue wasn’t with the remote itself; she was simply using the wrong remote.  But, with dementia, anything out of the ordinary can be considered -and felt- as catastrophic, so once the t.v. was turned off, she calmed down.  And we both went to bed, which, for her culminated in another sound, restful, peaceful night.  And for me, – after cleaning my foot- I had a restless night, with deep sleep hard to resume or come by.

So…one of us, was restored; healed?  Well, with dementia, at least temporarily; that particular moment’s distress and anguish had indeed been alleviated.  And the other…wounded?  By dog vomit? Subsequent lack of sleep, with a sluggish day that followed?

…..Healing. Restoration. Renewal.  With today’s Gospel, we are again reminded that a great portion of Christ’s time was dedicated to healing and curing. We know the stories well.  We know he healed all kinds of people: the blind, the paralyzed, the lame, the deaf, lepers, those who had fevers, many with chronic illnesses.

In fact, earlier in Luke’s Gospel, we learn that John the Baptist sent two messengers to Jesus. They were tasked to ask him whether he was the one who is to come, or whether they were to wait for another. Luke specifically points out that Jesus had just cured many people of diseases, plagues, evil spirits and had given sight to many who were blind.  Jesus responds: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.  And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Luke 7: 18-23 NRSV).

Again, we know these stories well.  Perhaps too well; unfortunately, to our detriment.  We can’t possibly relate to the people observing or personally experiencing these healings nor do I think we can relate to the exhilaration that Luke’s initial target audience must have experienced when hearing about the healings during those first initial years the gospel was shared. Imagine this incredible newness; the awe; the wonder.  Perhaps feelings of…renewal?


We know the woman in the synagogue is healed, on the sabbath.  We know Jesus chastises the hypocrisy of the synagogue leader.  Don’t try Jesus’s patience, on the sabbath of all days! But, do we know to read verses 18-21, in conjunction with this healing episode?  Those four additional verses are other well-known stories: the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast.

When you get to a Bible, I encourage you to spend time with not only today’s Gospel, but also verses 18-21.  Because it’s clearly Luke’s intent that those parables go with the synagogue healing story, with a ‘therefore’ in verse 18 and an ‘again’ in verse 20.  ‘Therefore’ and ‘again’ are words that tie the story of Jesus healing the woman to his parables of what the kingdom of God is like (see Pervasiveness and Persistence by The Rev. William L. Ogburn, The Anglican Digest, Summer 2019, Vol. 61 No. 2).

And parables, in short, are tangible and engaging analogies that challenge us to encounter reality in a fresh way; parables are central to the way Jesus proclaims God’s reign (ibid p. 38). And when Jesus shares a parable, he is asking us to enter into the scene and to imagine ourselves there (ibid p. 39).

Let’s then briefly focus on the parable of the mustard seed, keeping in mind, it’s connected and tied to today’s Gospel story of the disabled woman who Jesus healed on the sabbath: He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like?  And to what should I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Luke 13: 18-19 NRSV).

I’m not a gardener. And let’s just say I wouldn’t encourage any of you to ask me to look after any house plants you have should you be gone for an extended period of time.  But on the occasions that I have had the opportunity to accompany friends or family to any type of gardening type store or farm, I look at seeds, in awe and wonder – these tiny little seeds – knowing that if properly cultivated, it’ll – transform – into not only something bigger with totally different dimensions, but will bear a totally different character from a little seed.  A truly living entity.

We of course know that for that transformation from tiny seed to a full-grown tree, capable of hosting a bird nest, takes time.  And usually, as time passes, additional assistance is needed, whether rain from the sky, or other human endeavors to foster growth.  And then just imagine standing under that tree, consumed in its shade on a hot, hot day; you’re looking up, and seeing the birds of the air taking advantage of that full-grown tree.  Perhaps those birds, shall we say, plant little seedlings of their own (baby birds).  Oh, if those birds could talk, they’d probably be extremely grateful for the shelter and protection that nest provides, saving them from the elements and most predators.

Remember, the parable of the mustard seed is the first that Jesus shares to the synagogue leader, after he heals the disabled woman.  Therefore, the seed sapling to full grown tree, where the birds are eventually saved from toil and care, and where we can perhaps be renewed in its shade during a hot day, is like the kingdom of God.  Once planted, the living tree blossoms.


I find myself back in that synagogue.  I am imagining how that woman will blossom, after 18 long years of suffering.  Jesus saved her from further physical misery.  The birds in our tree are saved from discomfort.  Jesus saves.  That, and Jesus is the way to salvation, unfortunately has become a loaded phrase in our culture, with both being weaponized way too many times.

Interestingly, the Latin root of the word ‘salvation’ or salvus literally means…healed. Christian philosopher and Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich wrote on this and explains that healing perhaps can mean a reunion with God, a reunion with God’s purpose for the world, a reunion with God’s purpose for our lives.   Salvation then is much more than simply not dying but it has to do with truly living.  And how do we truly live?  By letting go.  By letting go of that which is not ours to begin with: control. We did nothing to create or own our life, it’s a gift and we can do nothing to preserve or save it (see Saving by Rev. Aaron Houghton, March 16, 2018).

The woman had 18 long years of crippling misery.  My mother’s partner has no control over the literal loss of her memory.  The woman was cured; alas, my mother’s partner probably won’t be.  But she’s still saved.  St John tells us that we, whether encumbered by illness or not, are saved because God saves us – heals us- by loving us.  And God wants to be in relationship with us, right here, right now, even when we stray from God’s purpose.  Jesus reminds us that God is God of the living, not of the dead (Mark 12: 18-27, NRSV). We in turn, of course love God, but we can’t just stop there.  We love God, by turning towards Christ, and by loving and being in right relationship with our neighbor (see Saving by Rev. Aaron Houghton, March 16, 2018; see 1 John 4: 7-12, NRSV).  St. Ambrose of Milan reminds us that no one heals themselves by wounding another.


We also heard this morning Jeremiah’s call.  While not many of us receive a prophet’s call, we can look to a portion of Jeremiah’s call for guidance and strength as we pray on our vocation: consecration, insecurity, building up and planting.  God knows us too.  At baptism, we are consecrated for service to the Lord. This community does a mighty fine job building each other up.  And what about planting?  Where is God calling you to plant?  Where is God calling St. Albans to plant?

……Your kingdom come; your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.  Yes, the woman is healed and therefore, remember, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree.  To put it another way, think of it, not as God in the world…but the world in God.

Where is God calling you to heal?  Did you think of yourself as a healer prior to today?  Grant it, while Christ dwells in us (Romans 8: 9-11, NRSV), most of us will not be graced with beyond human ability to tenderly touch someone and immediately cure a devastating, physical ailment.  But I join you if you’re having doubts or feeling insecure as Jeremiah felt when he comprehended what God had in mind. ‘Healer’ would not be the first word I’d use to describe my character or essence.

A seed and a tree is one thing; it would sure be nice to have a blueprint wouldn’t it?  Even assuming everyone outside these walls were Christian, and we find ourselves in the midst of a Christian society, suffering is simply part of the human experience.  How can we heal being wounded ourselves, with the multitude of burdens we carry?

Poet T.S. Eliot addressed this.  He used in one of his greatest poems an image of the wounded surgeon: the surgeon who operates on the sick person but is himself bleeding, wounded, and suffering. This is the Christ-image, which, yes, is stark and shocking as the crucifixion should be stark and shocking had we not become…well, do I dare say, dull to it in many ways.  Calvary is our blue print (see The Crown and the Fire: Meditations on the Cross and the Life of the Spirit by N.T. Wright, p. 110).

Christ carried the burden of God’s consuming fire throughout his ministry: misunderstanding, from family and the disciples, long days, weary nights, combative conversations, to betrayal and eventually a battered, broken body, nailed to a cross.  We proclaim Christ crucified, whose weakness is far greater than our strength (see 1 Corinthians 1:23-25 NRSV).  But the cross is empty.  The good news remains; awe and wonder does too…with us.


Which means, we, as wounded healers, have a job to do on this side of the kingdom, not just within our families and this congregation, but beyond these walls and in the community.  And the time is now.  Trees do take time to grow; no time like the present to plant that little seed.

What would this look like?  Well, in Eucharistic Prayer C we are reminded that we are not to go the Table solely for solace or pardon but for strength and renewal. So, I encourage folks to consider becoming a Eucharistic visitor.  Talk to —— about training opportunities.  You can be commissioned to take the sacrament to members who are unable to be at worship.  Also, pay attention to the monthly Herald and the community corner, where ——, —— and I have been highlighting local opportunities or places to serve – to heal- the Christ in others.  We are part of the city of the living God; sustained by God since our birth.  May we, with God’s help, seek to sustain others within the city.

Almighty God, give to us and all your people such a vision of your love, and such an understanding of the needs of our society, that we may be the means of bringing the two together, to the glory of your name and the healing of your world: through the fire of your Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (The Crown and the Fire: Meditations on the Cross and the Life of the Spirit by N.T. Wright, p. 117).


Do you know your King?

2 Dec

Carrie and Chuck

Photo courtesy CPT-Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team. November 2015. CPTer’s Carrie Peters and Charles Wright, along with CPTer Peter Haresnape (not pictured) accompanied and supported Haudenosaunee hunters who conducted a deer harvest in the land now known as Short Hills provincial park, in the face of protest and harassment. The team was part of a local coalition to support the hunters and honor the treaties.

Romans 13: 1-7

In November 2011, President Obama with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon began a publicity campaign describing how the United States would “pivot” towards Asia.  “After a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region,” President Obama said while addressing the Australian parliament. Several years later Tom Donilon described the policy as “economic engagement” and “sustained attention to regional institutions and defense of international rules and norms.”

With the pivot emerged a secretly negotiated trade pact, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”).  If passed, signatory countries will probably include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Although called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not solely about trade. Of the 29 draft chapters, only five deal with garden variety trade issues. The TPP is actually a grave threat to the planet because it undermines climate change measures and authorizes de-regulation of mining, land use, and bio-technology.  Alarmingly, the TPP intellectual property chapter also provides international legal protections for corporate patents on plant and animal life, granting companies ownership and sole access to all of creation.

We only know about TPP’s implications because of ‘unauthorized’ leaks – we, the public, are not permitted to see the text. Even members of Congress, after being denied access to the text for years, are now only provided limited, specified sections. Incredibly, more than 500 official corporate “trade advisors” have special access to the entire document.

The TPP has been under negotiation for six years.  The Obama administration, now with an appeal to patriotism, wants the deal signed in the coming year. Opposition to the TPP is growing in the U.S. and throughout the world.

While most of the U.S. coverage about the TPP analyzes overall implications for ‘every day working Americans,’ with a dash of environmental vignettes, another significant aspect needs to be addressed and highlighted: TPP’s detrimental impact on First Peoples and indigenous communities located within each nation state.

I wonder if St. Paul would really sneer, saying the organized opposition is resisting what God has appointed. Some may say people of ‘good conduct’ can resort to international law, or rules, with appropriate tribunal authorities to seek remedies and protections.

Putting aside the known problematic provisions within the TPP regarding dispute tribunals, international law is the ‘go-to’ for everyone it seems, regardless of cloth, from Christian Peacemaker Teams to multinational ‘think-tanks’.  International law is a body of generally accepted legal rules that are supposed to govern the conduct of nations vis-à-vis other nations.

The concept of agreed upon rules of conduct ironically originates from the Doctrine the Discovery. The doctrine was developed between the 15th and 19th centuries and used by European countries to justify their presumed claims to sovereignty over Indigenous Peoples.  It also was used to govern disputes between themselves over exploration, trade and colonization of “the New World.”  And we proudly continue to be a ‘nation of laws.’

I write from the U.S. as I observe the Thanksgiving celebration.  Even after working alongside indigenous communities for the past several years, it actually remains one of my favorite holidays- the concept of giving thanks anyway.  In our ever increasing consumeristic society, setting aside at least a day to acknowledge the multiple blessings in life, regardless of challenges, is certainly a good holy discipline (See Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17; Luke 17:11-19).

While many refuse to budge from the notion that, while “such a darn shame,” the conquest is ancient history, many others are attempting to live in right relationship.  An increasing number do look to indigenous voices, in humility, for guidance.  I am quite thankful for this.

And at times, living in right relationship requires open defiance of established norms.  Thus, as a Christian, I applaud the TPP opposition.  Like St. Paul, I look to Scripture and embrace mystery.

Paul’s relation to Scripture was not for pure memorization but that of a disciple of Jesus living the text.  Paul let the Spirit use the Scriptures to form Christ in him.  And throughout Scripture is endless mystery, of which he delighted in: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).  Mystery for Paul was simply the very nature of who God is and how God works.

To believe is to obey and to obey is to believe wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship. Living the text does not mean we can simply cherry pick a verse or two to support a position.  Paul references conscience when “one must be subject.”  Peter and John also referenced the principle of supremacy of conscience over even religious institutions by telling the Temple council, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20).

Indeed, Jesus was quite clear that the demands of the state and the demands of God are not the same (see Luke 20: 22-25).  He does suggest that it is quite possible to meet both at the same time, but he does not command that obeying one is exactly the same as obeying the other.  We are not to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and also give to Caesar what is God’s.”  Even those in the early fledgling community knew a time would come when obedience to God would mean blatant disobedience to the emperor.  Returning to Acts, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).

We are to obey-and submit- to the will of God. Dallas Willard, author of Hearing God, advises us to look to circumstances, impressions of the Spirit and passages from the Bible.  “When these three things point in the same direction…we [can] be sure the direction they point is the one God intends for us.”

Scripture has countless examples of God taking the side of the marginalized, often in unexpected ways.  When will we truly get that God does not see as mortals see, and God’s ways are not the world’s ways (see 1 Samuel 16:7)?  Bartolome de Las Casas (1484-1566), a Dominican friar and known as “Defender of the Indians” repeatedly challenged the Court of Spain to realize that no salvation in Christ is possible apart from social justice.

I often wonder how ‘the church’ would be today had it chose to follow the monastic model of the Celtic church vs. the Roman model of authority at the Whitby church synod in 664 C.E. I also question if there is any hope left for what I cheekily refer to as “American Christianity.”  The institutionalized literal seems to have replaced the living ruach.

Our ancestors too were once an oral history peoples, with many accounts combining to form “the story.”  If we could remember this, we would have a better appreciation for Noah.  The recent movie, from a Jewish director, thankfully did not indulge dominate U.S. cultural norms.  He pulled from the Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, Book of Enoch and other extra-biblical sources that we Christians have simply lost awareness of and appreciation for.  Noah then represents the very fact that we do not walk with God for ourselves alone.  The call to righteousness carries with it a responsibility for all of creation.

Do you know your King?  We continue to anticipate the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, liturgically waiting, remembering he initially came as a little vulnerable, weak child.


…..God’s blessing be with you, Christ’s peace with you, the Spirit’s outpouring be with you, now and always. Amen. (source: Celtic)

Pray Always Without Becoming Weary

17 Nov


“And when we had invented death

had severed every soul from life

we made of these, our bodies, sepulchers

and as we wandered dying, dim among the dying multitudes

He acquiesced to be interred in us

and when He had descended thus

into our persons and the grave

He broke the limits, opening the grip

He shaped of every sepulcher

a womb


….Everything holds together, everything,


in whom all things hold together


…….He comes, a little child, to bless my sight,

That I might come to him for life and light.


in whom all things hold together


………………….Have you ever seen God on the ground?

Palms pressed to the floor

Sweat dripping on the dirt

The cut and stretch of being human

A sacred shelter of presence

The fullness of He

creator of kingdoms and galaxies

of principalities

and every moment crafted

through time the Divine

placed wholly in human flesh

the infinite squashed down into finite

like fitting ten thousand angels on the top of a pin

like the entire ocean is poured into a pool

like the wine is running over

like it’s bursting at the seams

The Christ

He was bursting at the seams


in whom all things hold together


While I re-arranged the lyrics for purposes of this post, this song has accompanied my personal mourning observance since Paris once again received world-wide attention.

And for me, it’s not just Paris…but my continuing compromised body with Beirut, Sinai, Hebron, Turkey, Raqqa, Alison and Adam, Charleston 9, Oregon, Sandra Bland….what a brutal recent “news cycle” for all of us indeed.

But be not afraid.  Advent approaches.  Joy to the World….?

“Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Therefore put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:11-15).

Incredibly, that passage was the selected reading for the evening of Friday, November 13th (by way of Give Us This Day, Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, one of my daily devotional aids).  Would any of us have been able to keep this in mind, while forced to lie deathly still on the floor, palms pressed to the floor, within the Bataclan Theater?  I ask myself: could I stand fast with hell yet again unleashing its cruel fury around me, with the bodies and sepulchers of human whimpering flesh around me, bursting at the seams?

Courtesy Richard Rohr, “in Paul’s letter to the Romans (14:7) he says quite clearly “the life and death of each of us has its influence on others.” The Apostles’ Creed states that we believe in “the communion of saints.” There is apparently a positive inner connectedness that we can draw upon if we wish.”  Science and religion are finally intersecting.  Rohr continues: “in the world of quantum physics, it appears that one particle of any entangled pair “knows” what is happening to another paired particle–even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which are separated by sometimes very large distances. Could this be what is happening when we “pray” for somebody?”

“In whom, all things hold…..together……”

#PrayforParis erupted across social media.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.  He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.  And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’  For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.”  The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?  Will he be slow to answer them?  I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  (Luke 18:1-8, Gospel selection, Daily Mass, Saturday, November 14th, Give Us This Day).

“Our prayers are with the people of France tonight, but that is not enough,” said Hillary Clinton at the Democratic debate, held barely 24 hours after the attacks.  I saw another tweet, from a young woman purportedly from Germany, that read, “Don’t pray. Think.”  Even the Dalai Lama apparently has told us to stop praying.  So prayer is now taboo, as is peace and love?

Well, to be fair, the Dalai Lama, as Secretary Clinton, emphasized that prayers alone are simply inadequate to solve the overwhelming dilemma facing all of humanity right now.  Human action is required.  And I do agree with that.  Anyone who actually knows me, is well aware of the life I actively lead prior to recent physical infirmities.  Even with all of my many flaws and inadequacies, I try to embody James’s cry for faith and works (See James 2: 14-26).  However, while active at several barricades, police lines, protests, and campaigns, I utterly failed at times with adhering to basic faith necessities:


Being still.


Even with the anger, sadness and confusion within the heart.

“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.  No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Hebrews 4:12-13, evening reading, Give Us This Day, Saturday, November 14th).

And because of the recent physical infirmities and perceived loss of control over what I actually never had control of, prayer and grounding in the silence of the thin veil that separates me from the Divine, is the main ingredient of my life right now.  The hardest to learn is truly the least complicated. 

“Everything holds together.  Everything….and coheres. Unfolding from the center whence it came.  And now that hidden heart of things appears, the first born of creation takes a name.”

As I write, so many hearts are breaking.  Devastated.  Angry.  Confused.  Numb.  Squashed to finite.  Tears are bursting at the seams.  From Paris. To Beirut.  To Raqqa.  To Hebron.  Charleston.  Russia.  Virginia.  Oregon.  And even in spite of anonymity, and for those broken hearts that do not have a hashtag, there is never nothing.

With that, at least for those of us engaged on social media, and aware of the countless hashtags, let the breaking hearts know you are praying without ceasing (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10: 24-25, NRSV).

Since I am no longer physically able to be at the barricades, I cannot emphasize how many posts I have seen within the past year, as I have watched the world seemingly fall apart, thanking, liking or ‘favoriting’ the various expressions of compassion.

And our compassion can extend far beyond the social media echochamber.

“…… Required to obey gravity,

we occupy open space with substance,

all of us on the skin of the planet created

to lift against the earth’s pull yet sustained entirely.

We live out our singularity along with olive and

almond trees, oleanders, tarmac, huge trucks, until

size becomes irrelevant: smoke blue coastal range,

stem of dry grass, brittle eucalyptus leaf,

pebble ground into the ground—each bears love’s print,

is held particular within the universe.

Even the small, soft moth on the window of

the rest area’s dingy washroom, unaware of our scrutiny,

its russet wings traced with intricacies of gray,

owns an intrinsic excellence..

….Everything holds together…everything.

In whom…all things hold…together.”

…ah, yes, the hardest to learn was the least complicated.  Joy to the world!


3 Sep

Alison and Adam

I have spent nearly a year now staring back at my own mortality (I’m 41 years old).  Sometimes my arms are crossed; other times admitted indifference, my shoulders shrug; still other times, resignation. At least I have had extended time to sit with this.

In January I was advised this is benign; with rest and recuperation, the body will stop twitching and jerking.  This came after a 3 year stint with what many would call a faith based human rights organization.  We’d go to ‘conflict’ areas, unarmed, assisting communities who are pushing back against state occupation, resource extraction, defending their way of life by way of nonviolent methods.  We did so by bearing witness and documenting the various happenings.  I worked primarily with indigenous communities.

So during that period, at times, not many, I found myself quickly staring back at my own mortality, wondering if the guns pointed in my general direction (no, not directly at me), or the circling, angry, screaming crowd, will be my last glimpses of this realm.

But that’s a path I chose.  And I continue to have a stare down with my own mortality as the medical journey continues in light of recent possible complications that emerged. But I remain committed to social justice, and attempt to help raise awareness regarding the Black Lives Matter movement since returning to the United States.  I do so primarily through my writings, but in my faith circles too.  Because for me, as a Christian, by reading all of scripture, we are repeatedly led and called to the same place: the margins, to the ‘least of these.’  And while there, by assisting justice and righteousness with its holy kiss of peace, we are saved.

Regardless of that brief background and context regarding me (since I do not know whose eyes will ultimately read this once this gets to the public sphere) I was absolutely horrified by what greeted me when I logged onto Twitter that fateful morning.  Mortality flashed before our eyes in a very cruel, diabolical way.


#Alison Parker.

#Adam Ward.

More hashtags.

But wait, white faces?  Oh dear.

The various- white- spiritual progressive sites and the -white- spiritual ally pages that typically give me nourishment, strength and resolve, were not providing me what I needed that morning.  Why are you not saying their names?  Where’s their photo that the station and others were requesting to be immediately disseminated?  Why are you not demanding the videos be immediately withdrawn?  Why are you immediately politicizing this (within hours after they died) and taking positions that insist that the videos should remain and we simply have to deal with it?

Guess what–Friends– I saw so many people of color that morning demanding just the opposite. Take it down! Deactivate his account! Don’t watch! And: Saying.Their.Names.



With prayers.  And soon thereafter with other pictures.  Happy pictures.  Smiles.  Bright pictures. Beacons of Light, desperately trying to penetrate through the darkness. Personalities too have emerged a bit with some of the photos that I have seen.

But not from the sites that typically give me the encouragement to continue, within what seems to be a continuing dark, stormy, gloomy sea that seems to surround humanity right now.

We could tweet and post photos after Charleston…9 separate photos to be exact….but we couldn’t tweet or post two photos of smiling, bright, engaging souls, also ruthlessly and horrifically cut down.

Oh, the humanity! If you take the time and read the various public postings on this site, you will see a reoccurring theme with respect to humanity: specifically my concerns regarding divisiveness, separateness, even within activist circles.  If we stay within what some would call a tribal consciousness, believing our way is the one and only true way, humanity will continue to be surrounded by cruel, violent seas, becoming a “horror picture show” at times for us to see.

On the surface we may look different- skin color- perhaps act different- different frameworks-world views- different life experiences to be sure- but “there is the free fall into the boundless abyss of God in which we all meet one another, beyond all distinctions, beyond all designations. This is the oneness that includes all distinctions” (James Finley).

While I come from a Christian framework, I have been greatly influenced by indigenous world views and teachings…many of which are actually amazingly similar and intersect with Christian beliefs.  Intersect is the key, however.  In other words, we interconnect with each other, which implies co-existing, co-dependence upon one another and not monopolizing, coercion, dominating, or controlling.

Many indigenous prayers, “often close with ‘all my relations’. Whatever has been said is said in the presence of all these relations. The gathered human beings are merely the start of these relations. ‘All My Relations’ includes the entire created world, animals, fish, plants, winds, and more. Imagine calling on the whole to witness your prayer, your commitment, your good words. Imagine being responsible to all of that.” (Peter Haresnape).

Ok, time for a disclaimer: Peter and I worked together. While we both find ourselves on Turtle Island (aka North America), I jokingly say he’s in the Northern end (known to many as Canada) and I’m in the mid-section (known to many as the United States) and I miss him terribly.  I am quite moved by what he wrote.

Let’s continue: “How are we known? By our fruit. Good fruit or bad fruit in relation to other people, of course. In terms of Christian service and good works. But there is more. I don’t think fruit is simply a randomly chosen metaphor. I think it speaks to our relationship with place, with the world, with the land. Do grapes come from thorns? Is our mission to the world one that feeds, and blesses, and nurtures growth? Are we a natural part of this region, harmonious and worthy? Or are we a fierce, invasive species, poisonous and thorny and choking out other life?”

I was also deeply moved-to the point of deep, deep heartache- by the fact that the Charleston 9 were praying and studying the Parable of the Sower before hell unleashed its fury upon them (Mark 4: 1-20).  “And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, and sixty and a hundredfold” (verse 20, New Revised Standard Version).

We are to raise each other up, higher and higher. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11) by nurturing growth among each other.

Even when we are in intense pain, wondering when we will feel the presence of our Living Sustainer and waiting for the weeping to stop.  Let’s honor each other. We can venture towards the center of the room and intersect.  This is not supposed to be about the number of likes, shares or re-tweets. We can certainly lift up prayers. We can certainly disseminate smiling, beautiful faces, regardless of ultimate opinions with perceived slanted media coverage or how this particular horror relates, or differs, with the many police shooting images and those lives also tragically affected.

All of us simply want to be remembered and known, for who we are.  We usually have a choice with that: how we identify, dress, occupation, how we live our lives and interact with the world-our relations.

Hours before he died, Tywanza Sanders, the youngest of the Chareleston 9 (26 years old) put up his final post on Snapchat, a meme with a quote from Jackie Robinson. It read: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Just as with the Charleston 9, and the countless others, we are again seeing just how much people we did not personally know impacted all their relations…which, now, includes us.

But you know- it always has included us….We.Are.Interconnected.

I join WDBJ7: “We will not let the way Adam and Alison died overshadow the way they lived.”

So will you link arms with me, and other people of color with that?

Alison Parker…..¡Presente!

Adam Ward…..¡Presente!


Mitakuye Oyasin – Lakota Sioux Prayer

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin….

All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life with me today. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer….

To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.

To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.

To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.

To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.

To the human nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.

To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the Ages, I thank you.

To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.

You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.

Thank you for this Life.


….. Selah.

Become as a Hazlenut

7 Jun


When I saw an article on Aljazeera titled “US Government Report says Fracking is Safe,” I engaged in what my Star Trek aficionados could probably affectionately dub the ‘Sabas Maneuver’: I rolled my eyes.

With that, I have to admit, it seems hard to believe that I am nearing the end of my Spirit driven U.S. wilderness camino of rest and solitude.  I recently marked the year anniversary of another camino- or path- that of the Camino de Santiago.

Reminiscing with fellow pilgrims brought me great joy.  Of course, adding to the joy was that some of the reminiscing occurred while enjoying my continuing daily morning, multiple cups of java, with the ever so healthy International Delight Hazelnut creamer (no neurologist, not giving it up).  While re-viewing the many photos I snapped while walking, I was a bit surprised at myself of ‘forgetting’ the sheer majesty and brilliance of the various landscapes I encountered.


Climate focused rhetoric is at its usual velocity within U.S. mainstream circles, with at times interesting approaches.  Within recent months, a climate change denier held a snowball while addressing his fellow members of Congress about the topic.  He is of the “God destroyed the world once by way of water and will never do it again” club…you know the Noah tradition..(no, not the Russell Crowe brand). And so with that, we don’t have to worry about rising sea levels, the world is our oyster!  Huzzah!


…..“God saw everything that [she] had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31 (a).

Well now….how in the hell did we make such a mess of things?

Not long ago, I read several devotional readings centering on the Franciscan philosopher and theologian St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274).  In Bonaventure’s writings, refreshingly missing is the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and atonement (which has saturated Christianity beyond tolerable measure the last five centuries).

Bonaventure simply states: “Unless we are able to view things in terms of how they originate, how they are to return to their end, and how God shines forth in them, we will not be able to understand.” For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is very simply a full circle: and to be perfect, the circle must and will complete itself.

For Bonaventure, the lynchpin holding it all in unity is the “Christ Mystery,” or the essential unity of matter and spirit, humanity and divinity. The Christ Mystery is then the template for all creation.  To specify further, the crucified Christ, who reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal, keeps all things moving toward ever further life.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about my service with the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team (formerly the Aboriginal Justice Team) with Christian Peacemaker Teams.  So many times, I would feel refreshed when I had the ability to connect with the land (landscapes) as well as when I would hear Indigenous teachings with respect to the Earth, air, fire, water, four-leggeds, two-leggeds…all of creation.  About that very full circle Bonaventure wrote about for our ancestors, so many years ago.

Again, how in the hell did we, and let’s specify, we Christians, make such a mess of things?

Ok, maybe I am being a bit unfair.  Not all Christians.  The ‘Celtic Christian’ tradition offers seven distinctions from popular (secular and even non-secular) assumptions regarding the Christian brand: first distinction is hope – “let’s look for the good rather than the evil in all things.”  Yes! God made everything, and it’s very good indeed!  Alleluia!


That’s a …good…first step.  But, alas, a steak also tastes mighty good after it meets a Weber grill as well as cheaper gas and oil prices are so very good for wallets and pocket books.  And hey, fracking is good…right?

Bear with me as we head back to medieval times.  During a near death experience in 1373, Julian of Norwich had a series of visions which she called ‘showings.’  Through these experiences, she became convinced that the true nature of God is only love.

One vision involved a hazelnut:

“During this time our [Creator] showed me a spiritual sight of [Her] simple, homely loving.  I saw that [She] is to us everything that is good and comforting to us.  [She] is our clothing, which wraps and embraces us in love.  [She] completely enfolds us in tender love so that [She] might never leave us, being to us everything that is good, as I see it.

In this [She] showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball.  I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding and I thought, ‘What can this be?’

And it was generally answered thus: ‘It is all creation.’

I marveled at how it might continue to exist, for I thought it might suddenly fall into nothingness because it was so small.

And again I was answered in my understanding, ‘It lasts, and ever shall, because God loves it, for all things have their being by the love of God.’

In this little thing I saw three properties: the first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it and the third is that God keeps it.  How am I to understand this maker, keeper and lover I am not sure.  But until I am made one with God in my very essence, I will never have complete rest or true peace; that is to say, until I am so fastened to [Her] that there absolutely is no created thing between God and me.

We must understand the littleness of creatures, and to count as nothing all of creation, in order to love and to have God, who is not a creature.  This is the reason why we are not fully at ease in heart and soul: for we seek rest in these little things, wherein there is no rest, and do not know our God, who is almighty, all wise, and all good.  [She] is true rest.

… These words are truly loved by the soul, and most closely touch the will of God and [Her] goodness.  For [Her] goodness encompasses all [Her] creatures and all [Her] blessed works and overpasses everything without end, for [She] is true endlessness.” (taken from A Revelation of Divine Love, Julian Norwich rendered by Walter William Melnyk).


Medieval missives may indeed still be off-putting, even with gender tweaking (cue Indigo Girls).  But let’s focus on the message: let us not seek rest in the little things (i.e. tasty steaks or what it takes to get cheaper oil prices) but let’s remember our smallness; we are very much part of creation, part of the circular repetition of loss and renewal.  What we choose to do (or not do) inevitably affects the symbiotic whole, to include our very own God.

To put it another way, let me turn to an Indigenous voice: “Humankind did not weave the web of life.  We are but one strand within it.  Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves” (Chief Seattle, 1786?-1866).  While continuing to think solely in terms of buying and selling, we only continue to enslave ourselves.  As Seattle noted, “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?  The idea is strange to us…Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.  Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experiences of my people…We are part of the earth and it is part of us.”

Many people probably don’t realize that Chief Seattle and many in his community converted to Christianity in 1830.  Putting aside questions as to what prompted that decision, and how totally “free and informed” it was, in reviewing his life and credited statements, he clearly saw the similarities between what I’ll term the two traditions.  When will we begin to look to our ancestors, to include Julian of Norwich and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, who continue to remind of us what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ? Why do we continue to make it so damn complicated and self-destructing?  Having dominion was supposed to be about collaboration and relationship with God for the care of our world, not wreaking havoc.  The world is not so much for us as we are for the world.  As Christ taught us, “On Earth, as in Heaven.”


Let’s seek to know and be at one with our God, our Daughter and Son, our Holy Spirit, who is “all wise and all good….all is true rest”….or the Biblical Shalom referenced countless times by our very own prophetic ancestors.

By becoming one with God, we become intimately linked with the circular camino with all creation, whether it be vegetation, plants, yielding seed, birds, sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, such as cattle, creeping things and other wild animals (See Genesis 1:1-25).

We can start by thinking of ourselves as and becoming little bitty hazlenuts.

And hey, speaking of, would you like to try some of my good sweet tasting International Delight Hazlenut coffee creamer during coffee hour?



“What do you want me to do for you?”

29 Mar


Mark 10:46-52

AND… here we are, entering another Holy Week, called upon to remember, to reflect, to grieve, to engage the continuing mystery of what it means to identify as a Christian.

The rest of the Christian world has now marked Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I find myself this year not wanting to follow the crowd- typical of me, I know- but even with Jesus at the front; not wanting to shout in glee, and not wanting the Passion to unfold.

Nope. I wish we could just stay in Jericho for a bit. Why couldn’t you just hang around a bit longer Jesus? What’s the rush? What’s the hurry anyway to drink from that wretched cup?

I mean I “get” the Passion, meaning I have the superficial luxury that the original 12 didn’t have then, with respect to “knowing” what comes next, and why. But sometimes when I re-visit Mark’s Gospel, I feel like I am reading another Dan Brown novel (no disrespect!) and I just want to sit down. And….to belabor the point, remember that scene from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers? “We’re not going no further till we’ve had a breather!” (Insert some dramatic, heavy British accent.)

“As soon as,” “immediately,” “And then,”… “And.” Mark’s Gospel moves at such a breathless pace, always in a hurry to get the whole story out.

But that’s life too, right? We live in such a hurried world, as we rush about, from task to task, place to place, Tweet to Tweet, Facebook post to Facebook post, meeting to meeting, email to email, report to report, person to person. And…. we, even as professed Followers of a 2000+ year new, not-of-the-flesh way of living, try so desperately hard to keep up.

We at least have Sundays, however. “Your Sunday services last how long?”

Ok, well, so much for the reflection to last past high holy days (or weeks) to grasp how God continually contributes to the whole of our lives, either within us, around us and even beyond us.

And…then there’s another fun-dark-of-the-flesh-worldly saying: be careful what you wish for; you may get it.

And then… my left cheek began to twitch ever so often…oh right, spots appeared in my eyes some time ago…and… then my left hand begins to jerk a bit..and…then something underneath my skin begins to bubble up and down, from my wrists, forearms, biceps, torso, cheeks, my shins, my calves; my left foot becomes numb. And then…ringing, in my ears, with my new center of gravity gently rolling front and back, like a ship at sea, amidst the waves. Did you see my pinky? My thumb? It just jumped. Did I just slur my sentence? (no alcohol involved) And then….medical leave.

Oh. The breather?


….Jesus stood still and said, “Call [her] here.” (See Mark 10:49a).

While Mark runs us ragged, he wants us to notice everything within the flurry of the activity, even the smallest things. Let’s look at some of the details Mark provides us about Jesus throughout the Gospel: we read Jesus is moved with pity, warns sternly, looks around with anger, and is grieved. He feels compassion, indignation, love and distress. He even sighs a couple of times.

And with Bartimaeus, he stood still. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus cries out…twice. No doubt all of us at times have wanted to say, “uh, hello God, just me here…um notice anything with me? I could sure use a sign here.”

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Really? Wait. Time out. You…finally- not immediately I’d like to add…stand still….AND…well, it’s obvious!

“The devil is in the details, isn’t it?” (I can actually imagine a bit of an amused sly, grin with that retort. And… I sincerely smile in return with that.) Right. The details is the stuff of faith and it brings out all kinds of feelings, reactions, and emotions. It certainly did for our Teacher when he was with us.

And….you know, not only are we called to be in relationship with each other, but also with the Triune God. This is to be an open, mutual relationship meaning we need to truthfully, name what we want, preferably during a time of extended, one-on-one time alone time with the Sacred. No, we may not get it, but having that open, mutual conversation (which includes a possible ‘no’ in return) actually deepens and even strengthens the relationship. Imagine how much further you get with someone you love when you say more than what you think you should say. And…it’s a way of expressing our limitations, our frailness, our weakness, our needs, our humility, indeed our flawed, imperfect, always screwed up, humanity before God.  This kind of understanding sets us free.

As soon as….I received confirmation that my bodily happenings would at most be a ‘simple’ chronic condition that may accompany me for the rest of my Earthly journey, The Last Song by Elton John came my way. It has been a part of my Lenten reflections this year for a variety of reasons, not just for what may be readily apparent.

Indeed, the ‘no’ can be heart breaking, painful (both physical and emotional) and confusing. Just as Jesus is fully human, he is fully divine. I embrace the miracles and find it quite unfortunate that our Western, rational, analytical ways have explained away the significance of the miracle stories. Paradox. Mystery. That’s the stuff of Holy Week. That’s the stuff of faith.

And…..even with our frail, weak, humanity, we are still called. By name. Perhaps like Bartimaeus we will…immediately… jump up, enthusiastically, throwing off our cloaks, or our worldly webs that prohibit us from fully following our Sustainer. Regardless how it happens, we decide to follow.

And….. let’s not forget the place of Bartimaeus’s healing and calling: just before that triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Just before the Passion. This underscores the central focus of Christianity: discipleship leads to engaging, to serving, to offering our gentle hands to humanity…we are led to places of inexplicable suffering….and shameful rejection.  To be still and re-focus, and to know Love sustains us, without need for vindication for our suffering and rejection, sets us free.

Right. I continue to misjudge Love. But that’s ok. Thanks for stopping and offering your gentle hands. I know. I know. It’s time to go. I may hobble as my skin still burns, but I’m with you… and…. now I offer my hands.

Later Jericho. It’s certainly been real.

The Last Song
(by Elton John)
Yesterday you came to lift me up
As light as straw and brittle as a bird
Today I weigh less than a shadow on the wall
Just one more whisper of a voice unheard

Tomorrow leave the windows open
As fear grows please hold me in your arms
Won’t you help me if you can to shake this anger
I need your gentle hands to keep me calm

`Cause I never thought I’d lose
I only thought I’d win
I never dreamed I’d feel
This fire beneath my skin
I can’t believe you love me
I never thought you’d come
I guess I misjudged love
Between a father and his son

Things we never said come together
The hidden truth no longer haunting me
Tonight we touched on the things that were never spoken
That kind of understanding sets me free