Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What I Learned This Summer

Even though it's not August yet, it feels like summer is over. Possibly because I am already doing work on High Holy Days.

Thus, I am joining in with Emily's chatting at the sky link up on things I have learned:

Santa Barbara beach

1) naps are essential. I can't nap at work but I definitely need time to nap on the weekend. I spent the first two days of my retreat doing a lot of sleeping.

2) I need to "do" less and "be" more.

3) I can watch the sky for hours.

4) God's love and mercy is for all. All. (Thank you, Rob Bell for articulating this so well.)

5) balance, balance, balance.

6) I can say no (although I still say yes and then I say no. Hey, it's progress.)

What have you learned this summer?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Moment of Morning Sabbath

Every time I come back from Mt. Calvary, I want to keep that moment of morning Sabbath going.

Here's how it happens at Mt. Calvary:

6:00 a.m.  Mission bells toll the Angelus: three times three rings, followed by an almighty clanging. I wake, usually during the first group of three, mentally mumble the Angelus response, which is all I can remember of it ("Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."), each of the three times and roll over and go back to sleep.

6:30 a.m. The usual time I get up at home. I listen to see if the shared bathroom is in use, plan getting up. Eventually do, and then go shower, and dress. (The Great Silence is still in effect. No talking until after breakfast.)

7:00 a.m. Downstairs, having made a mug of tea (Earl Grey) and am sitting outside on this:

looking at this:

7:30 a.m. Mt. Calvary's bell calls me to Lauds (morning prayer), with breakfast following.

Here's how it happens at home (often):

6:30 a.m. or thereabouts, the alarm goes off. I let my hubby get up first, then I rise, shower and dress.

7:00 a.m. or thereabouts, dog has already been fed, and I get myself a drink of something (tea, orange juice, iced chai) ... and do a mental battle as to whether I'll go upstairs and check my email/Facebook, etc or sit and watch the morning.

7:05 a.m. Most of the time, sitting wins. So I sit, dog at my side, who is happy being scritched, and watch the patch of sky between the back door and the patio cover. Because if I look at the patio or the garden, I see all that needs to get done and I get anxious. So patch of sky it is. And I stay there for about half an hour or so, then I might eat something, or go do further meditation (yin yoga or scripture reading) before eventually heading out to work.

So far so good this time, but I would like a better view to enjoy!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

God's Love Stories: Because I Have Better Things to Do

Like clean out my study. I posted on Facebook this week, that 8 or so years ago, when our rector came to Good Sam, I was working on 12 boxes of papers pulled from surfaces in my study in order to spring clean and am down to two boxes and fresh piles of paper.  He's leaving for a new ministry so I'm wondering -- could I actually get it done before he leaves at the end of August?

Possibly not, if I am on my laptop writing this blog post and then plan to go through and edit pictures from my retreat last week at Mt. Calvary.

No Blogging the Lectionary from me this week either. I got caught up in reading the Borg & Crossan book about Paul (which I took on retreat but didn't start to read until on the way home). Really good stuff. Besides, the lectionary post would probably go something like: "The kingdom of God is like morning glories -- beautiful until they choke the crap out of your favorite plant ... " It went downhill from there. All based on how a mustard plant is the last thing you want in your field and how leaven is icky. But pervasive, persistent and transformative. Or something.

On with the links of interest over the last month or so.
  • from last week's Sunday Superlatives (Rachel Held Evans): "The Importance of Eating Together" at The Atlantic. Along with scruffy hospitality (see the last God's Love Stories), moving from eating in front of the TV (on the floor at a coffee table) back to the dining room table might be a good thing. Mind, I grew up where my family ate together at the dining room table but we had to be quiet so Dad could watch the news.
  • Kathy Schwanke writes about how she is "preapproved by God" over at Jennifer Dukes Lee's blog. The Preapproved series has been running since Jennifer's book Love Idol came out, which I'm going to have to get some day, I suspect: “Some of you are listening to too many voices and you should only be listening to One.”
  • Feeling Empowered to Share Your Photos by Vivienne at Be Your Own Beloved, a blog I've just started following. A really good piece on sharing for you and not for the approval of others.
  • and just discovered as I was noodling from Vivienne's blog to another's to ... (well, you know how that time waster goes!) "Courageous Living (when life is tough)" at your courageous life

And a video on the Eucharist by Rt. Rev. Michael Curry. He opens with a story you just have to hear.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

It's the end of the world as we know it

And I feel fine. (Lyric by R.E.M.)

Apologies. This is going to be one of those blogposts that put earworms in your head.

Sunday's gospel reading is Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

On first reading, this parable and its interpretation bothered me. Not least because of its hellfire, end of times, apocalyptic feel. 

I also had my rabbi (my boss) in my head saying: "That's anti-Semitic." Whereupon I cringe in horror and try to explain that that's not how we Christians read it now.

Anyway, so what to do with this troublesome passage?

I read copious commentaries (Feasting on the Word, an ancient Interpreter's Commentary and a circa 1960s Wesleyan commentary on the KJV translation) to no avail. 

I was about to give up on the idea (after all, I am on retreat) when staring out at the Santa Barbara hills, I decided to look at my beliefs to see if they could be reconciled to this story. 

I believe that with the resurrection of Christ, the kingdom of heaven is here. Not near, not some angelic afterlife, but here, now. We co-create with God until the world is made anew, God's kingdom. In Judaism, this is known as tikkun olam, healing the world.

Jesus describes the field in this parable as the world (v. 38): whether it's the entire planet, the Roman Empire, or the kingdom of Israel, is not really important because the parable works in all three spaces, and transcends them.

The harvest of the wheat (the good seeds) cannot happen until both wheat and weed are ripe. Most of the commentaries referred to the weed as darnel, which looks just like wheat until the heads are ripe. Worse, the darnel is poisonous, so it's important to wait.

This is good and evil growing together, plans and actions ripening, working together or loving each other just as Jesus continued to work with and love Judas, even through the Last Supper.

God's promise is to make all things new. All things. Not just good things or righteous things. Most (if not all) of us are a mix of the two anyway. 

God will make all things new through love and reconciliation. There will be much gnashing of teeth as we struggle to find our way through and it may get hotter before it gets better.

The "furnace of fire" in today's gospel? While it immediately brings to mind hellfire and brimstone sermons, let's not get into the whole "how good do I have to be to avoid that?" guilt inducer, and turn instead to Handel's Messiah:

"And He shall purify:
And He shall purify
The sons, the sons of Levi
That they may offer unto The Lord
An offering in righteousness,
In righteousness." (Malachi 3:3)

In the refiner's fire, all shall be purified and that is why the righteous will shine like the sun. We'll have been polished and been polishing, alongside God, until we are all made new through love: God's patient love for us, and our love for each other.

[There are four earworms in this post. Admittedly one is a little obscure. The first was R.E.M., the second was David Haas' "God You Make All Things New", and the last two were from Handel's Messiah "And He Shall Purify" and the bass solo that either comes before or after that and bounces through the i's in "refiner's fire". You're welcome. 

This is also my first post through the BlogGo app.]

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Retreat Reading

Remember this post about my summer reading?

I'm only a quarter of the way through the N.T. Wright book. It's very readable but I'm finding it slow going regardless.

I am heading off on retreat to Mt. Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara, and so I've made the important decision as what to bring.

Two books from this pile:

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett
The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church's Conservative Icon by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan

And then one for fun borrowed from a friend:

The Fear Sign: An Albert Campion Mystery by Margery Allingham

And we'll see if I have to resort to the monastery's library after that!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Poem (Not Parable) of the Kingdom of God

(A Good Sam community story about the Kingdom of God)

The kingdom of God
is like
a seagull
on a skylight with
trinity-webbed feet
crying crying
to be heard
to be let in

Friday, July 11, 2014

Where is the Fire in Your Bones?

[The chances of my writing for this Sunday's lectionary are kind of slim to none. I have way too much going on this week.  

This post is for the lectionary on June 22nd.]

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 69: 8-20
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

The lectionary readings from a couple of weeks ago kind of broke my heart at the time.

First, a quick summary:

Jeremiah complains to God about how folks think he is a false prophet and he worries about that too but God compels him to prophesy about the destruction of the city that he loves, the temple that he loves, the people that he loves. There's no avoiding it: it's a fire in his bones.

The psalm is on a similar bent.

In Romans, Paul talks about being born anew through baptism and that we must live our life to God. Our lives have changed; the water of baptism have put a fire in our bones.

The gospel is about how having that fire in your bones for Jesus could mean turmoil in your family, even in your church family.

I was reading Jeremiah and Paul and Christ through the lens of having just heard that both priests at my church had resigned because they are answering the fire in their bones, a fire that has been simmering for as long as I've known them.

They're planting an ecumenical church mission on the San Francisco waterfront with the goal of caring for teens in the foster system.

And in between grieving and planning for the future of my church (hey, I am Worship Chair), I am wondering: where is the fire in my bones? (This is possibly the avoidance/denial part of the grieving process.)

Where is the fire in my bones? 

It was in my romance writing which had far more to do with ego and self and a need to be liked/loved than in living to God.

Is it in Africa? When daily I pray for the child I sponsor via World Vision and continue to pray for the kidnapped Nigerian girls? When the school run by the Order of Holy Cross intrigues?

Is it where I am now? Where there is a bit of security and stability in the midst of uncertainty. Security that I asked God for. I am learning so much about my faith and feel at home.

For the moment, I seem to have settled on the last, through conversations with others about it (sometimes that brings clarity to the discernment process), but I also know I need to be open to the call of God.

And now, looking back at these words that I wrote a few weeks ago (and have greatly edited), is it a wearing of Christ’s yoke, a courageous surrender to God’s call, no matter what happens to a safe, secure life?

Am I even listening for the fire in my bones? Really listening? Is this why I find it hard to cast down burdens and take up Christ’s yoke?

I have many questions and very few answers. But the fire is in my bones: it is in my questioning and my wondering.

Where is the fire in your bones?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Updated: Take my yoke, please.

Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

It’s so easy to run to the end of today’s Gospel:

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

But first Jesus has some pretty damning things to say about “this generation”, which one could argue he could say today and about those who claim to follow Him as opposed to those who criticized both He and John in the original context of this Scripture.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:18-19)
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I am reminded of how polarized our world has become: you are either on this side or that side and the barometer to check is not God or your conscience, but your party and peers.

And so we jeer, 
and so we hate 
and so we fear The Other 
and so we deny their humanity 
and so we kill each other.

I am reminded of those who yell at and blockade busloads of children this past week, illegal immigrants, yes, but children who need basic care. 

But isn’t it so much harder to take on Jesus’ yoke, and follow His way and learn from him? Isn’t it easier just to do what everyone else is doing? (I am reminded of: “if they jumped off a cliff, would you?”) 

If it was easy, wouldn’t we have brought God’s kingdom to earth already? And surely, if it was easy, Paul wouldn’t be complaining: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Maybe it’s the taking on of Jesus’ yoke that is hard. Maybe, like the young rich man, we each have our own reasons, baggage/burdens, that prevent us from shouldering Jesus’ yoke fully.

Baggage and burdens that we talk about “giving to God” or “laying at the foot of His cross” but then we pick right back up again. I know I do that.

Letting God be in charge is hard. 

But once we do, really do … maybe Jesus’ yoke will fit us like the perfect shoe: no pinching, no blisters, no rubbing, no circulation cut off, no wobbling on high heels. 

Maybe through learning and living The Way, learning and living with God, it becomes easier to be the dissenting voice, to act according to God and not according to the polarized world.

And then everyone’s burdens would be light because in following God we have brought the kingdom to earth.

This is our hope, our prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done…"

[Updating here to add a video, which does have a brief disturbing image of a burned body that you can't unsee, but is filled with a message of hope and peace.

And also, Revbecca in her sermon today finished my thought above. That it is not just our hope and our prayer, but that it takes great courage to listen to God and say yes to God. In other words, in putting on that yoke.]

Thursday, July 3, 2014

God's Love Stories: Courage

Here is a collection of links of worthy reading:

I am hoping to get back onto the Blogging the Lectionary wagon this week. Two weeks ago, I wrote something that I never posted because the news about the major transition at my church was too raw. Still don't know if I'll post it. And last week, I served on a jury and that took up a lot of brainspace. Which is something blogging the lectionary also does. So we'll see if I can get it done before Sunday. There are a bunch of World Cup games that I won't be watching, so chances are pretty good that it will get done.