Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Off to the BE

This will likely be my last post before I'm off to the BE. I'm heading off in the morning for the three hour drive to the airport, where I will hop the plane to catch the taxi to the hotel where I will meet some of my blog sisters! We will, I'm sure have a whomping good time there and the next day seeing some of NOLA while gathering more RevGals up until departure time...then it's off for self-care on teh Boat.

But before self-care there are a few miles to go. I still have an article for the local paper to write before bed tonight, and my bedroom looks like a suitcase exploded in it. We are a long ways from ready....and a long ways from sleep. But at this point it doesn't matter! Cuz there's a Boat full of RevGals in my future and I heard a lovely British voice on the phone tonight that I've only "heard" in writing before. It's all feeling real at last and I'm feeling very fizzy. So I'll catch you all on the far side. Blessings on your week.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Lord is Risen Indeed!

I want to try to capture some of the essence of this Easter before it gets lost in the wild blur of getting back to my last two days of work and getting ready for the BE....the pace is at full hurtle and I think will stay there until my seat hits the plane on Wednesday afternoon. I find myself envying my clergy sisters and brothers who have Mondays off as I sit at the desk of the day job and look at the things I have to do still from last week, as well as the lists of the lists to be done before I go! And all I really want to do is bask in the Easter glow.

Easter really started sneaking up on me on Saturday. Sacrilege though that may be to religious purists, in some time zone somewhere, Jesus was up and moving! We'd had choir practice on Saturday morning, our little choir of six, and our exceedingly talented, funny and sometimes frustrating ( partly because I suspect he is so talented) organist and choirmaster. We rehearsed our two anthems and practiced our processing, we ran through the four hymns and the communion meditation, we talked about how the psalm would be chanted. I felt it begin to build in me....that little frisson of joy, that incipient alleluia that just would not be contained....even if the calendar kept saying "tomorrow." I looked around at the bare stark altar, the cross made of the pine tree leaning against it, and told myself..."wait." It is our tradition to hold a very small Holy Saturday service at noon. This ends our choir practice, and even though we advertise it with our Holy Week services, usually only the choir attends. This year, three others came. A man from a group home in town, one of our Presbyterian friends and our adult acolyte and someday "possible discerning deacon." We invited them to join us in the choir, which in our church in fine Anglican tradition is actually on the altar. Two hymns, three readings, a collect and a benediction. The final hymn was "Were You There" and as I stood with this tiny group, yes, yes, I was....because I knew without a doubt why he did this. For just the likes of us who stood there on a blustery Saturday morning. For the ten of us, who could have been anywhere else, but who were there, then in that space and time, hearing it one more time, how he died....for love of us, for us.

We left that bare space for awhile knowing we had to get ready for Sunday, but just then didn't seem like the time. The afternoon was full of errands and the stuff of life. In the back of my head was the sermon I knew I had to finish. I was only mildly concerned as the conclusion had been written for a week, the rest was mostly done and all I was seeking a bridge in the middle to put it to bed. "An hour or two tops should wrap it." I assured C when we parted after lunch. My plan was to get the shopping done, the sermon wrapped and then M and I were meeting to put the church back in order. That was my plan. God it, seemed, as is so often the case, had another. The sermon that is posted on my blog for Easter has very little to do with the one I had simply planned to finish up. Because at 4:00 on Easter Saturday afternoon Mary Magdalene came calling. She wanted to talk in my church on Easter morning and she would not be silenced! I panicked a bit as I had never done a monologue sermon before and was not sure how it would be received. And I'm a little leery about going off the edge. And on Easter morning no less...bigger crowd, strangers present...could be scary. I resisted her, but she would not be put off. So I wrote till it was time to decorate. And I came back and wrote some more. Until midnight I wrote as Mary dictated her words. And on Easter morning Mary was heard in my little church on the prairie.

From the first moment of the Pascal candle lighting until the dismissal I am not sure my feet were entirely touching earth. The energy was palpable. He was so risen in this place. There was a taut silence during the sermon that I have rarely felt while preaching....they got what Mary was telling them! For some of what happened I don't know that I have the words....time slowed and stopped as I chanted the Preface, during the Eucharistic prayer I found myself in tears. There was just such a sense of joy and presence and...well....it was thin and holy and I really have no words.....

It was not, however, all perfection. I had underestimated the crowd and suddenly the chalice bearer turned to me with an empty chalice. Time stopped in a different way as the dance that is a liturgical "oops" takes over for a minute....my first with this particular one....but apparently my telepathic communication to M about "sing the communion meditation" again got through, as they did, and we did what needed to be done and moved forward. The wonder of this is that I am not in shambles over it....indeed I barely missed a beat, where a year ago it would have made the day a disaster as I messed with myself over it! God is good and Progress is Being Made on the critical voices front. Praise God and spiritual direction!

After service we celebrated our MDG successes with cake and then it was off to dress down and spend the afternoon in the company of friends, hanging out and basking in the ongoing glory of knowing that not only did He rise but He is rising still and ever, and there is evidence all over my life, and though exhausted from the "Easter marathon" of service upon service, there is no place I'd rather be, and nothing I'd rather be doing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sermon for Easter Sunday 2008

In the Lectionary for this Easter Sunday, we are given the choice of which Gospel to use, John or Matthew. While Matthew’s Gospel has certain advantages, the repeated message of, “Do not be afraid” and the clarity about the news of “He is risen,” I cannot help to be more attracted to the Gospel of John. For one thing, we have been steeped in John for most of Lent. In these long, and amazing stories of God in Jesus touching and transforming lives. We really get to know Jesus! And for the other, we have Mary. Mary Magdalene whom John tells us went out to the tomb while it was still dark. Mary Magdalene who has been confused and merged with the other Marys of the Gospels. Mary who has been maligned through the ages as prostitute and sinner. Mary apostle to the apostles. Mary of the many narratives, is the one on this Easter morning who brings us the story, the one who is the bearer of the news. Ultimately not only the good news of that Easter morning that Jesus was not in the tomb, but the ultimate Good News that the love of God is stronger than death and the grave is not the end. This Mary has a story to tell us this morning. She has asked me to share it with you....

It seemed like so many days since the last time we were together, that night we ate and drank together. That night started out strangely, with him insisting on washing our feet. I mean, not that this wasn’t the thing to do before a meal, but to have the host do it, well that was just not what you’d expect. But then Jesus always was the master of the unexpected. And then there was that strange business with Judas. Of course it all made sense later, but at the time, I was so confused.
He spoke to us of so many things that night. He told us again and we must love one another. He said it very strongly, commanded us even to love one another, I remember he said, as he had loved us. I remember it made me think when he said that about the way he did love others. About the way he was with people, how he seemed to really see them, to be able to see their very souls, and what this did for their lives. Like the woman at the well who had such an experience of him that she left her water jar behind when she ran off to tell the others in village about him! I remembered how he healed that blind man, and how the man kept changing the way he talked about him calling him first a man, then a prophet then calling him “Lord.” I remember how that man stood up to the Pharisees and talked right back to them, asking “so why are you asking me all this? Do you want to become disciples too?” I had to laugh at that. I remember my own healing and liberation. I remember how he always included those who were out at the edges and those that the others left out, and that he preached that we must always forgive others, and that his love was a very radical kind of thing, and how he told us to do the same. So when he said that night to love one other as he had loved us, I knew he was asking a lot.
I think he tried to prepare us for what was to come….not just that he was going to die, but that he would be with us again, But he was right in that we did not understand all that he meant. But I had not always understood him. What he said or what he did. Healing people from illnesses, and even bringing his friend Lazarus back to life after four days in the grave. We all know that he had talked of eternal life, we all had come to know there would be a resurrection on the last day, but when he called Lazarus out and asked us to help him loose himself from those grave clothes, our belief in him as the Messiah was strengthened even more.
This was the Rabbi and teacher we loved, who had taught us all along, the one who had amazed us and sometimes baffled us but always loved us. But on that night there was something different about him, a new kind of intensity, an urgency. Now of course it all makes sense, but at the time, all I knew was that what he said was challenging and a little frightening. He talked about others persecuting us and even killing us for following him. And he kept saying he was going away, going to a place that we could not go, and if he did not do this, the spirit could not come. But that if he did go, this spirit he called the Advocate would come and would guide us into truth and righteousness.
And he said he was giving us peace but not the way the world did, but that we should not be afraid. I remember as much as trusted and loved him, I couldn’t help feeling troubled by all this talk of his leaving, and yes, I was afraid. I loved him with all my heart and I did not want him to go anywhere. We had only had him such a short time and he was doing so much good.
Love one another….Oh yes clearly I remember, he said that a second time. He said it so strongly, that command. I remember being a little taken aback by that, as he was so forceful about it. He said “no one has greater love than to lay down his life for a friend.” At the time I had no idea what was to come so soon, that he was talking about himself…his own great love, such great love.
He talked about how in a while we would not see him and again a little while and we would see him…and he said he was leaving the world and going to the Father. And we had no idea….no idea that this meant that in such a short time he would be taken from us, taken off for that travesty of a trial and be mocked and flogged and finally hung on that horrible cross. That was the worst day of my life, standing there with his mother, seeing the pain on her face as she watched him suffer and finally die. We just could not understand. After all that he said and did, for it all to end there, it simply made no sense. I really had believed that night when he said all those things, that he was that close to God, that he was more than just the wonderful Rabbi and teacher that I loved. But that day, I was there and saw it all, and I have to say that my belief in it all, in him, wavered. It pains me to admit it, but it did. When I went to the tomb that dark, dark morning it was to grieve him and to grieve the ideal of all he stood for. I had lost my hope. I had accepted the unacceptable. My Rabboni was dead, and dead with him were the dreams that the Messiah had come and all that came along with that. The group had broken up even before he was tried, hiding, fleeing, denying they knew him, afraid for their own skins. It was worse than if we had never known him. My heart was breaking, I really thought I might die from sadness. The only thing I could think to do was to go to the grave. If nothing else I could be close to the place where Joseph and Nicodemus had laid him. The garden was soothing, maybe I would find some peace just being near him there. But when I arrived to find that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, the bottom dropped out of my world even more. I had thought I could feel no worse, but I was wrong. My despair knew no bounds as I knew that the grave robbers had likely taken him. I ran for my friends, but all they could do was confirm what I had feared, the tomb was empty, the wrappings all that remained. They went back home. But I could not leave. Something just compelled me to stay. It was not hope, for I had none. There was nothing to hope in. It was not faith, for I had no faith left. It was not belief, for there was no one left to believe in. Then I looked in the tomb. I have no idea why I looked, Simon Peter and John had already told me there was nothing to see. But there were messengers there…two of them who asked me why I was crying. I told them of course, and it was then that I turned and saw the gardener; at least that was what I thought at first, that he was the gardener, or that he was another vision of some kind. That maybe I was just was just hoping that much to see him….but then I remembered that I had no hope, had no faith, had no belief. It had all dies on that awful cross with him. But then in the quiet of that empty place, I hear a familiar beloved voice say my name and I know who this was beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is he who has called by name, he who sees and knows all of me, he who has healed me, he who has recalled me to life even as he has risen from his own death. “Rabbouni, beloved teacher” I cry as I recognize him. I must not let him get away from me again! I cannot go back into that hopeless darkness now that his light has shone on me again. I grasp at him, but gently he pulls away and looks at me with great love, “Don’t hold on to me now. When I go to my Father, I will be available to all of you.” And I remember all of those things he said to us on that last night. And suddenly it all comes together and it all makes sense. This is Jesus, the Messiah, the Incarnate one of God. I trusted him then and I trust him now. This is the greatest news of all! I have seen the Lord and he is risen from the dead!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Five for Good Friday

RevHRod writes: "As a child the designation "good" for today confused me. How could we call such a somber day, good? Holy, yes. Blessed, yes. But, good?As an adult I understand the meaning of good for this day. It is a solemn day of remembrance but it is also a time for us to stop and recall the great gift of love that we received this day. And that is most certainly good.Our worship today will differ from place to place. Some services will focus on the great litany of prayers. Others will use the seven last words of Jesus. Some of us will walk the stations of the cross. Others will participate in a Tennebrae service of shadows and light.I hope that this Friday Five will be a meaningful part of your Good Friday. God's blessings to you on your journey."
Our prayer concerns are as varied as we are this day. For whom would you like us to pray? As always, prayers for L, my sweet struggling young friend. His life is not an easy one as he tries to build new ways of being against some pretty formidable odds. Because of his legal history he faces challenges in finding housing (his next big task as his time at CH is up in April). His baby's mom is still not cooperating with visits....there are just so many things that discourage him and cause him to be tempted to pitch it all and give up. So yes, prayers for L on this this day would be much appreciated.

Are there things you have done or will do today to help the young ones understand this important day in our lives? Unfortunately we don't have any kids in our church and haven't for awhile. I have been hanging out with my Presbyterian friends though, and watching how they help the kids understand how much this is all about God's great love for us. That is such a different message than the one I got, that of, "Your sins made Jesus suffer," that I know it is a blessing for them (and for me) to hear the message in this way.

Music plays an important part in sharing the story of this day. Is there a hymn or piece of music that you have found particularly meaningful to your celebrations of Good Friday? Good Friday is so full of childhood memories for me....Stations of the cross, three hours in church even as a grade school kid, it really sticks in my mind.... The music...."At the cross her station keeping, stood His mournful mother weeping" , O Sacred Head" and the chants. The solemnity and the silence. I have memories of times (or I think I do) when the afternoon went from sunny to dark as my mom and I walked home to color the eggs. Now what is meaningful musically is our traditional Stations of the Cross. Our organist is a phenomenal musician and composer. He has written meditations to be played between stations. He makes the organ hiss and moan at points. It is really quite incredible. This year like last we are using the Stations for Global Justice and Reconciliation from EPPN. They connect Jesus' suffering with the suffering of those in extreme poverty and it is so powerful. Since our Lent has been about our MDG project, it all fits.

As you hear the passion narrative, is there a character that you particularly resonate with? It varies. I always feel so sad for Mary, having to watch your child go through all that. But I wonder what was going through various people's minds. Why they acted as they did....

Where have you seen the gracious God of love at work lately? Oh so many places....in all the people who have reached out to L to help be part of his village. In my congregation, where our tiny place (15 average Sunday attendees) by many of them pledging 0.7% of their income raised almost $1900 during Lent toward the eradication of extreme poverty in our MDG project (our second one!) In my own life with the outpouring of love and prayer and support and friendship as I have been sharing my own struggles. In the changes people are able to make in their lives despite great odds....the list just goes on and on. I know we are not quite there yet...but as I have been working on my Easter sermon, what keeps occurring to me is how Jesus is rising and rising and rising in all of this....thanks be to God.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

I am aware today of the strange connections in my life...patterns and rhythms, here to there and back again. There was a student in the Fall that I wrote about here that got my semester off to a really shaky start. She set the tone for what I thought was going to be a terrible time, but what actually turned out to be a time of great learning. A turning point really, as I look back. part of what set some of the things in motion that are happening even now. Funny how circumstances become God's vehicles of grace in this way. This student has, by her request become my client. I had to think about it a bit. The history and all. But it has turned out to be a very good thing. She makes a great deal of sense to me. I find I spend most of our sessions simply asking her questions. Questions she says that are very hard and that no one has ever asked her before. I have no doubt that this is true, as they are not the kind of questions you are asked unless you submit yourself to a process like therapy, or spiritual direction. I had a particular sense of the way to start with these questions simply because of our history. It gave us kind of leg up in a way, we got a running start on therapy.

I've also mentioned in a couple places my very interesting Easter last year. I baptized my first baby on Easter Sunday, and a wonderful thing it was. But before I could even get my alb off and join the celebration, I was being paged to the ER. One of my clients was in crisis. I spent much of Easter afternoon with her and coping with the situation. She has spent the last year working hard on her healing and I saw her today. From all her hard work has come a depth of spiritual life that she did not have before. Our sessions are just as likely to include references to Thomas Merton as they are to Prozac, to her yoga and meditation practice as they are to her struggles with her reovery.

Clearly this is all about grace and God working in the midst of life's pain and confusion. It is all pretty much a mystery to me sometimes how it all works out. And I am fine with that. I don't need to know. I am just so incredibly grateful to be able to participate, even as an innocent bystander as these miracles happen in my presence.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lent Day 37

I have been subscribing during Lent to a daily on-line devotion from Signposts. Like many of these daily readings, whether in print or on-line, many times I read them and they pass by, moving through my mind with nary a ripple. Other times, however, they make me stop and take notice. I feel as if God is speaking rather clearly to me through them. Today's reading, by the Rev. Canon Renee Miller got my attention:

But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer.—Matthew 26:12

It's hard enough to keep quiet when we are accused of something we have done, but it seems impossible to be still when false accusations are lobbed our way. We want to lash out at our accuser, assure them that they have wrong information, that they are being unfair, that we don't deserve their questioning or their wrath. It even seems foolhardy to remain silent, because it feels as if the silent response is the tacit confession of our guilt. Imagine your soul as a still pond, and accusations as rocks being thrown into the pond. The rocks certainly cause disturbance to the water, but they have no lasting power to change the stillness that was there. After they have caused their agitation, the water is able to return to its stillness—to its reflection of clear glass. Our insistence on proving our innocence or defending our rightness only keeps our soul agitated. It has little effect on altering the opinion of the ones so sure we are in the wrong. So, when we are not guilty, we would do better to sit in silence for God's grace to move in and through the situation, so that we can return to peace. When we are guilty, we would do better to admit our guilt, apologize, and let go so that we can return to peace. Jesus knew the only way to maintain his peace was through silence. We might find our own souls more settled if we chose the same response.

Gracious God, when words of defense want to scramble unbidden to my lips, let me choose stillness instead.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lent Day 36

You throw a stone into a pool...the ripples go out and out. And if you are standing too close to the edge you get your feet wet. That's my life lesson for the day. Kind of a "duh." But one of those things I don't always think about. Or should I say one of those things I haven't had to think about much. Until now. Until this new precariousness in which I am residing. This new way of being that requires that I be much more conscious, much more careful, much more aware. There are no givens anymore, no taken for granteds, no assumings. And this is as it should be. For I threw the stone and stirred the waters. And all the still life is now churning. Because that happens too when you throw stones at water. It's not just the surface that gets disturbed. Things beneath begin to shift as well. Things that were sleeping awake and stir. Things that seemed very steady may shift and shudder. So I guess I must learn to expect surprises, to be caught unprepared. I am guessing this will not be last time I will be left standing on the shore alone with cold wet feet.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

It has been a long and interesting day. The Palm-Passion service was, as always, that sharp shift, that stark reminder that it all is marching ever so quickly and inexorably towards that cross, there's no denying. Here's the story, in all it's starkness. Here people, is what they decided, despite several options and chances to back out, to do to Jesus, this inclusive, healing, sight-making, life-bringing, beloved teacher. And here too is what became of those who purported to be his followers. "Nope, never heard of him." Gone. Fled. He is left to the soldiers, aided only by strangers. Pretty sobering stuff for a Sunday morning.

We read the Passion in four voices, we sang an anthem that is more contemporary than some music we usually do that I found very arresting. I had trouble not tearing up as I sang. Afterwards we ate soup together and I was aware that there is at least one among us who is in great pain. Pain that I cannot touch, cannot heal because the doors of this person's heart are closed to me, closed right now to us all. And yet she chooses still to sit among us. I don't know how long that will even continue. I fear for not much longer though I pray this is not so. She is in God's hands and only God is able to do for her what needs to be done.

After church L and I took a road trip. As always when I am with him, there were moments of great tenderness and sweetness, moments of great hilarity, and moments when I thought my heart would break. It began as we left town. I asked him if he had called him mom to tell her he was coming. "No," he said, "she'll be home, she's always home." "Oh?" "Yeah, she sleeps a lot." I asked him if this was true when he was a kid as well and he said yes. He then went on to tell me that the main thing is to make sure not to say things that upset her as that will make her sick. He told me he knows what those things are, has always known and is careful. Um-hmmm. I can imagine. I asked him what upsets her, and to her credit some are the same things that upset me...him fighting, him talking about his "moving to the Cities" (code for getting in trouble or worse), but there were other things, more innocent, that kids might share with moms without a second thought....that for him are landmines. When we arrived at the trailercourt there was a really scarey moment. He went up to the door and there was no answer. He looked in a window and his face went white....he said "wait here" and literally tore off up the dirt road to another trailer. A few minutes later he was back, looking calmer, and directed me to another trailer. Apparently mom had moved. She hadn't mentioned it. This happens. Once it happened, he told me on the way home, while he was "locked up" as a kid and he lost them for awhile. He had to track down his family. They forgot to tell him where they went, it seems. But today he found her, in her "new trailer" down the road. She is buying this one, not renting like the other one, so she can't get evicted. So I went in with him and was introduced to mom and his two sisters and his brother. They were polite but clearly much more interested in spending time with L than me so I left them to visit. When I picked him up later he said it was a good visit and that his mom thought I was "nice." Good, I passed! His mom is encouraging him to stay in town here, he says. She gets points from me for that. We talked about eagles on the way home, how he has seen them and their nests in tall trees and finds them very spiritual. We talked about places that are special, where the Spirit feels close. And we talked about his brother's limo and his sister's guitar, and low riders and art and making subs and what is going to happen next in his life. I told him I have not given up on trying to find someone to do an appeal and that there is always hope for change. And he said, "sure" but I'm not sure how much he really believes it.

And then I came home and took a nap.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lent Day 34

I had a lot of good intentions today about getting many things accomplished. I really wanted to get most of the big writing things I have to do checked off the list, so I could go into Holy Week feeling freed up to focus, to be present. I didn't quite make it. I got my reflection written and ready to send off for the Feminist blog, I thought about my Easter sermon and did some reading. I had a lovely walk at the state park with C, went out to dinner with Dear One , and spent a bit more time than I probably should have reading e-mails from RevGals about the BE. So, for anyone who is keeping track, yes that does leave more undone than done. And given that it's the week it is...uh-oh.

But on another topic entirely, on the gratitudes and God-sightings front these days....I get to finally spend some time with L tomorrow. And I get to meet his mom! He needed a ride for a visit home and I told him I'd take him if he would introduce me....so he agreed. I want to meet this woman very much, to get a sense of who she is. I also want her to meet me, to know who this person is who cares so much for her son. I hope we can join together in our mutual care of L, be allies in our hopes for a good future for him. He seems to be doing well these days. He is liking his job at the sub shop, and they are happy with him. He is now thinking he may stay in town once he leaves CH, rather than move back to the town where his mom lives, or out by his brother. It seems a good plan.

I'm also feeling grateful for the "fit" that I felt yesterday on meeting LF, the person who is going to be my guide in helping me sort out some of the things that are complxifying my life. Given that these connections are by nature always at least a little bit random, I definitely feel the hand of God in this. She really seems to "get" why I am struggling where I am struggling and found the nature of my quest for authenticity to be both developmentally and spiritually appropriate. And in her other life she is a church organist! How cool is that! God is so good!

So there is still a lot of writing to be writ...and it will have to stay so, because it is not happening any more in this day. Perhaps tomorrow after narrating the Passion and singing in the choir, coordinating the MDG Soup and Story and ferrying L out to his mom's and back....perhaps then there will be a sermon or another piece of writing done....or perhaps there will be a nap taken! Perhaps on Monday after the day job and the MDG meeting, or.....well perhaps it's best not to think so far ahead.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Five: Time for Palms

Mother Laura writes: "Can you believe Daylight Savings Time is here already? It's hard to get used to the new, earlier onset. My family has been getting up and out a little late and a little sleepy in the mornings. And can you believe that in two days it will be Palm Sunday for Western Christians? Our Lent is almost over, while our Orthodox sisters and brothers, whose liturgical year follows the older Julian calendar, are just starting theirs. Nicholas did a recent book report on George Washington, and we were surprised to find out that our first President's birthday was originally Feb. 11, since he was born just before the change to the Gregorian calendar. Apparently the change almost caused rioting, as some indignant people were sure that they were being cheated out of eleven days of their lives! To help you adjust--and enjoy the process--here's a Friday Five about time and transitions...."
1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why? I love the forties! The time just after World War II The clothes, the music, the energy as the country was focusing back at home and putting new technology to work. I think it would have been an interesting time to be around.

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see? I have a tie. That little machine on Star Trek that beamed people around would be the best! Living in the hinters and having to go to diocesan and other meetings that are always 1-3 hours from here, that would be so sweet, just "pop" and I'm there, and "pop" and I'm back. The other thing would be to able to be two places at once....to somehow be able to divide my molecules or something so that my full presence could totally attend that meeting there and be at this event here at one and the same time!

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future? I enjoy both of them, but being in this moment is really pretty wonderful most of the time, too. And I think we miss a lot of the gifts of the present doing too much of one or the other of the other two.

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent? It's all been pretty memorable. Offer God the chance to work on you in terms of trust and submission and just see what happens! I have really enjoyed having a "second church home" as I have been spending a fair amount of time hanging out with my friends the Presbyterians. An informal brown bag scripture reading and discussion over lunch once a week, an evening intergenerational exploration of all different kinds of ways to pray from dance to journaling to walking to prayer beads to breath to art, a very small weekly gathering of people supporting each other in their Lenten spiritual disciplines through prayer and accountability. My own church's MDG project with our "Soup and Story" lunches and my role as Storyteller for the Diocese in this project has also been a big part of my Lent. My own life story in this particular chapter as it unfolds and relating to finding God's will and trusting God to lead me through the challenges and changes to come in all of that has been a big part of this Lent as well. All in all I think it is the Lentiest Lent I have ever had.

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most? It will be pretty focused. Monday night is our final MDG meeting, Tuesday is our church Book Club, Wednesday is choir practice for Easter. Thursday we will have a traditional Maundy Thursday Service, Eucharist ending with the Litany and then the stripping of the altar. Good Friday we have a very powerful Stations of the Cross. it is focused around the MDGs. Our organist has written a very powerful organ accompaniment that he does each year. At one point he makes the organ hiss, at another it moans...it makes my hair stand on end. On Saturday at noon we have a small prayer service after morning choir practice. Then Sunday of course....well....It's EASTER! I am celebrating and preaching this year. It will be my second Easter doing so, and I feel very blessed. No baptisms or extras this year...but a very beautiful liturgy, choir anthem. And this year will be special as we will celebrate the success of our MDG project...we met (actually exceeded) our goal of 50% of our congregation pledging 0.7% to the MDGs. (This after already completing one project last year!) So we will celebrate not only the Resurrection but the joy of generous hearts in our little church on Easter morning.

I look forward to it all. The submersion in the whole story, the readings, the ritual, the silence, the waiting, the blasting forth again of Alleluias, the joy on Easter morning. I love it all!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lent Day 32

I realize that I have pretty much lost a week here. That is fairly reflective of how my life has felt. Running to catch myself and never quite getting there. Finally today I feel like there is a tiny pause to catch my breath before I plunge again. It has been a combination of too many tasks and commitments with not enough time, technology issues and just the stuff of life. It is also I think a bit of my default escape into busy-ness when I don't particularly want to deal with the business at hand in my emotional life. And I'm not sure this is an altogether bad thing. It does get stuff done that needs to be done. And it pulls me out of some murky pits. I know that it is about balance and that I can't be avoiding the realities of life (and generally don't) but sometimes a break is a good thing. There is something very therapeutic about checking the tasks off the list and seeing the pile go down, a sense of control when things are feeling a little less that way than I might like to admit. So stuff got done, articles written, sermons prepped and preached, MDG activities completed, concerts attended, meetings attended, birthdays celebrated, and Holy Week liturgies planned. Things done, and yes...still things left to do and looming on yet another list that needs to be done before Holy Week commences. But just for now....a little space to stop, breathe and reflect.

Lent in general has gone very fast. As things wrap up this week and move toward Holy Week, I find I am sorry to see it go. I have been really liking this rhythm of things I've been doing, especially the gatherings I've been attending for reflection and prayer with my Presbyterian friends. I have met some wonderful new people, been really taken in by them and accepted in a way that I have to admit has surprised me a little, based on some of my past church experiences.

Overall, there has been much to learn, to reflect on, to pray about in this Lent. God has been present in myriad and often subtle and unexpected ways. The growth of a new friendship, the grace of an old one under pressure, my own ability to be more than I expected in difficult circumstances, the opening of my heart in deepening compassion for the pain of others....it is all God, all the time...I just need to stop long enough to remember and be grateful.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lent Continues

I am having a crazy week with no time to blog.....so here's a thought for today.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C

This morning we hear two readings that some of us are used to hearing in other times and places. The dry bones reading from Ezekiel is used in our annual All Hallows service, and of course the reading from John is one that is often read at funerals. As such, both of these readings are connected in our minds with physical death, and with the promise of life after death. And this is a good thing. As believing Christians we do profess this. With Martha we proclaim our belief in the resurrection of the body. But as fallible and often struggling human beings, we know that there are many other ways that we can be dead other than being physically so. Just as Judi talked last week about various ways we may lack sight and be in need of healing….in our hearts, in our souls and in our minds, we can also be without life and in need of resurrecting while being apparently alive in a purely physical sense—dead folks walking. And in that state we can be every bit as much in need as Lazarus was of Jesus to come and call us out, to raise us from our graves, bound as we are in burial wraps, locked as we are in our tombs. We may need to hear the radical compassion of God weeping for us to bring us back to life as well.

In the last several weeks we have been hearing some amazing stories in John’s gospels. Starting with Nicodemus, and continuing through the woman at the well and the blind man and now Lazarus. In each of them, there has been something about an interaction between Jesus and another individual that has somehow been transformative for that person. With Nicodemus, we really didn’t get too many of the details. We knew a little bit about who he was as he came to Jesus. An important man in the community. A man of standing, a man with something to lose if it was discovered that he was conversing with this radical rabbi. And yet there was something compelling about Jesus that drew Nicodemus to come, in the dark, to talk with Jesus. And there was something about their conversation that changed Nicodemus. We know that Nicodemus struggled to understand what Jesus was trying to tell him. We know that it was hard for him to get past the words to hear the meaning of what Jesus really meant by the ideas of being born again and having a life that was directed by the Spirit. Something happened for him in this interaction that had an impact on him, that changed him enough to change the way he acted in his life. That somehow Jesus was able to move past his confusion to understanding. Because we know that he showed up at the end of Jesus life, that he was willing to take a risk to witness for Jesus in a way that even some of his committed followers could not find it in themselves to do, and we can imagine that this was not a very safe or politically expedient thing for him to do. Jesus seems to have had this effect on people. The woman at the well. Separated for some reasons from her community. Coming to the well in the heat of the day when that was not the time to come. Talking to a strange man when that was not the thing one did. Allowing him to move past her barriers, allowing herself to be seen as she truly was, allowing herself to be called out, transformed and converted as well. Because we heard in that story that she left her water jar and ran and told those from whom she had either excluded herself or been excluded, “come and see, come and see this man who told me everything I have ever done.” And we are told that somehow she had enough credibility that they did come and saw him for themselves. That her encounter with Jesus moved her too, called her out from exclusion into community. And the blind man from last week’s gospel. He too was trapped. Lost in his darkness, excluded from the full life of the community. Until Jesus came and called him out too. Called him out of his darkness into light. And he experienced a transformation and conversion as he realizes that there is something about this Jesus. He names it in the progression of his faith testimony….”he is a man…a prophet…he is from God…” and then finally as he says to Jesus himself, “Lord, I believe.”

From confusion into understanding, exclusion into community, darkness into light, and finally in today’s Gospel, in the ultimate triumph of God’s great love and compassion, Jesus brings an end to death as he calls Lazarus out of the grave back into life. Calls him out of a tomb and asks that those who are around him, his community, his family “unbind him and let him go.” It is not enough for Lazarus simply to be alive again, he must also be unbound. And so Lazarus comes forth—stumbling over his binding cloths and smelling of the grave.

Wherever Jesus shows up in these stories something profound happens, something radical that seemed as if it could not possibly happen does so, and lives are altered forever. Jesus who is God Incarnate, God with us. Jesus who shows us what God is like and tells us how we as humans can be like God.

There is so much in today’s Gospel. So many paths we could wander down. Each character could take us on his or her own journey. Each one has their own story, their own theology. Martha and Mary say “if only” with varying degrees of hope that something can change in the here and now. And Jesus, the Incarnate one, does what Jesus has consistently been doing, takes the step that removes the barriers, and brings new life in a way no one expected. I would remind us this that came at no small cost, as that in essence by this act Jesus was signing his own death warrant. We are moving ever closer to the cross.

But rather than follow those characters and their paths….what about us? What about those of us here and now who follow this Jesus? Are we perhaps like Lazarus, feeling caught in our tombs, bound in something we can’t quite get ourselves free of? Do we hear his voice saying, “Come, out” and find ourselves stumbling forward, blinking in the light, confused, and confounded but hopeful that perhaps there is another chance at life? Or are we perhaps those standing by to whom Jesus says, “Unbind him?” Do we need to attend to that command and notice those among us who might be bound by poverty or suffering or injustice or illness or any of the other myriad things that bind our brothers and sisters and keep them locked in their tombs, dead, not physically, but just as surely in every other way. This might require some risk, some action on our part that might stand apart from our culture, might make us uncomfortable. But again we remember that we are not alone. The Incarnate one that raised Lazarus is with us still. The Spirit of God that breathed over Ezekiel’s dry bones and caused them to live and breathe and act, the Spirit of God in the resurrected Jesus. The Spirit that reminds us who and whose we are, that calls us beloved and calls us out; that reminds us we are seen for all we are and all we have done and at the same time are created in God’s image.

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. We begin again the familiar walk to the cross. We are reminded again how great God’s love for us is. God so loved the world, that God sent God’s own son into the world for us, as we were reminded just a couple of weeks ago, not because of anything we did, but simply as a gift of that love. We are reminded again that where Jesus appears, death in all its forms is conquered and can never again be victorious. That for us as an Easter people, death and the grave are never the end of the story. As we move toward Palm Sunday and Holy week, perhaps we too can hear the voice of Jesus say, “Come out” and “be unbound.”

Friday, March 07, 2008

Signs of Hope, Signs of Spring Friday 5

Sally says: "It has been a difficult week here in Dowham Market, and yet in the sadness there have been signs of real hope, young people, often criticised have shown us how caring and amazing they are. It has also been a strange week; it snowed for almost the first time this winter, and yet many of the spring bulbs are blooming, and the trees are blossoming!I believe that if we look carefully we can see signs of hope all around us.... as for signs of spring... well you tell me....Bluebells in my garden, before the snow!What have you seen/ heard this week that was a :"

1. Sign of hope? They do abound. And as I write that I rather marvel. There are a lot of things going on that are....unsettling.....in my life, in lives around me, in the world...and yet, I find my self hopeful and grateful that signs of light and life and God's presence seem to crop up and prevail. As Sally mentioned in her blog, when tragedy happens, it is incredible the responses that can occur. We saw this in our own communinty after the bus crash in the ways in which people from literally all over the world came forward to express concern and share that they were praying for the victims and their families and ask if there was anything that was needed. I am seeing it in my own time of struggle in the ways in which support and caring is literally pouring down and lifting me up, and also in the ways in which God is using this to work on me as as internally transforming experience....all hope, all the time.

2. An unexpected word of light in a dark place? After tai chi last night I had a chance to sit and talk with a friend that I haven't had time to connect with for a while one to one. She was my dog walking buddy all last spring and summer and we saw each other almost every day. When I started teaching, we lost that contact and have kind of drifted. Even though we are in Bible study and Tai chi together it's not the same as that one on one connection we'd had. We we able to re-connect at that level last night and I was able to share with her a lot of the struggles that are going on in my life right now. She was so supportive and wonderful. It was a good reminder that I have even more people than I always remember who will carry me through whatever this struggle brings.

3. A sign of spring? Well it was below zero again this morning, yesterday and the day before it snowed. But someone told me they did see some geese coming in and there is certainly more light and that is always a good thing. The snow tends to melt off faster when it does fall, it's slushy a lot! We are cautiously optimistic in these regions about spring until May.....

4. Challenging/ surprising? Two days ago if you asked me what I was doing the last weekend in March I would have told you I was going to a meeting at church, probably doing laundry, getting groceries, the usual. Well, as of yesterday....plans have changed and I'm going to the BE! Pretty surprising and for someone who is not really a spur of the moment kind of person...kind of challenging as well. But, life is short. I'm having dessert first.

5. Share a hope for the coming week/month/year....To be gentle with myself and those around me as I search for truth and authenticity.

Bonus play... a piece of music/ poem guaranteed to cheer you? I don't know that it's "cheer" exactly, but my security blanket this month is Give Me Jesus by Fernando Ortega.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lent Day 26

Twenty-four hours ago I set something in motion. It is now done. It is irrevocable. I am committed. It all began with an innocent little e-mail conversation with a fellow blogger. It got me thinking....and wishing for something that seemed so impossible, so wonderful and so just-what-I-need-now. I thought...."Oh, it could never happen." But then I thought, "Well, maybe it could." And, "If you don't try you will never know." So I asked questions, and I found out where to go next and I followed up and was persistent. I got my first answer. It appeared that a door was opening. I said a prayer, "God is this of you, is this your will or my whim?" I checked it out with trusted friends and was encouraged by their response. So I took the next step, and another. And still all signs were favorable. "God," I said again, "Your will?" And God pretty much said, "So what do you want me to do, pack for you? So GO on the RevGals cruise already!!!!!!! And so that is exactly what I am going to do.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lent Day 25

It was another churchy day. Soup and Sermon at lunch, our ministerial association's ecumenical Lenten event. We rotate the ladling and the preaching, the Catholics host. C preached on Ezekiel and the dry bones. There was audience participation in the rattling of bones and the breath of God. It was a good sermon that made me cry. I was happy to be sitting alone with my soup at that point. Some things you really don't want to have to explain to the members of the Red Hat Club. Then tonight was my Wednesday night with the Presbyterians again. We continued last week's theme of prayer for those who can't sit still with activity stations engaging people in different kinds of prayer activities. I reprised journaling again, while C and some of the other Soul Sisters led dance, labyrinth and art groups. My journaling group was very sweet, a mom who had "never done this before" and two tweens who were quite expert at it. One told me she had been at it since age five when she began doing spiritual journaling at her old church! I read a short reading from Henri Nouwen on prayer, then we wrote while listening to some gorgeous piano music. After we finished we talked about writing, our experiences with it and how it helped us come to God. The theme of the Nouwen reading was having God be our "first resort" instead of our last. (A point well taken in this time when I purport to be trusting and submitting.) The whole group then reassembled and we shared with someone from another "experience" about our time and what it had meant for us.

I am so delighting in my second church family. I'm amazed at how easy it is to be there and how they have taken me in, the inside outsider. A stranger, another pastor no less, from down the street who keeps turning up in their church. I'm learning more about them as a group as well as getting to know individuals as I'm hanging out there in this Lent. I'm finding out more about dark places in their history, some of the pain that they carry, wounds from the past that are still not fully healed, just as we have in my own church. It's amazing the things we do to each other in these places...but what is even more amazing is that we are all still here carrying on. Clearly it's all so much bigger than any of us. God is in these churches just as much as in our own lives, moving among and amidst us, rattling our dry bones and breathing into us, sometimes against our protests, to move us and shake us and bring us to new life. And that is a good thing indeed as we move another week closer to Easter.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lent Day 24

It has been a long and full day. I just finished an article for the Diocesan on-line paper about the MDG pilots we are doing in my role as "the storyteller." It is good to have these things to do to focus my energy. I had quality time with the Soul Sisters tonight and that also was such a gift. Laughter and silliness as well as study and prayer. I also "confessed" to someone that I had been harboring some "stuff" for several days...and was able to let it go. I feel lighter now....although a bit silly over it all. The overall tone of the day is gratitude, though. That my article is done. That my friends love me anyway. That when I covet one of my Soul Sister's books she buys me one of my own! That there are virtual and real hugs. That even though I cannot really "feel" in an emotive kind of way, God's presence right now, I am certain somehow of God's abiding.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lent Day 23

Some days it really is about just putting one foot in front of the other, doing, as an old client of mine used to say, the next right thing. It is on such days as these that I am most grateful for that day when C mentioned this wild and wonderful group of women pastors and friends who had this webring and encouraged me to check it out. I do appreciate the prayers and blessings of friends here that hold me up in this journey through Lent and beyond. I will be prayed through this by those who care in this place and others in my life. Not because of anything I deserve, but just because that's how God is. I am really grateful for that tonight.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Lent

It can't be the fourth Sunday...can it? One more, then Palm Sunday, then Easter? It is though. Or was. I ought to know, I spent it, or most of it in church. It was really a rather wonderful day. I ended up celebrating Eucharist twice, which was once more than planned. We switched our main service from morning to afternoon because we were hosting another parish from a town about an hour from here for a potluck and shared Eucharist because one of their members who is a professional singer was in concert with one of ours who is a professional musician in our town this afternoon. At least that was the plan. The musician got sick and the concert got cancelled but we decided to go ahead with the service anyway. We thought since we were having the big hoo-ha in the afternoon, we would just have a quiet little Morning Prayer service in the morning. I really kind of thought no-one would come. I thought wrong. The oldest member of our parish came, a gentleman who believes (kind of like I do actually) that church isn't quite as "churchy" without communion. He was a bit confused to find only he and I there until I reminded him about the afternoon goings on, and he was clearly let down to find it was Morning Prayer that was planned. "We can't have communion?" he said. "Well, we can," I said, "It will just take a minute to set up." Why not? It made him happy. He did instruct me after I read the Gospel that there was no need for me to preach him a sermon. I was in total agreement on that. So Mr. M and I had a lovely little liturgy this morning at the 10:30, just we two. And at 5:00, two little churches came together and celebrated ourselves. We are both tiny places with locally ordained women clergy, so there were RevGals all over the altar praying and preaching and cantoring and consecrating as well as that stunning soprano gracing us with an offertory solo accompanied by a substitute organist (also a talented woman). We even had some of the neighborhood Presbyterians drop by to join us in worship and potluck fellowship. It was a good Sunday spent in church.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lent Day 22

It's amazing to me how many of the RevGals are in some kind of transition. Calls ending and beginning, discernment processes happening, finding out about or starting school or seminary, pregnancies, cross country moves, ends of relationships and more. I guess it is all the stuff of life of a big circle of friends, but it does seem like there is a lot of it going around. One of my clients who is a massage therapist and astrologer says this is the year of the Saturn return for any one who might be in certain years of their lives (she and I among them.) Supposedly this is a time of great upheaval and change that comes around every twenty-eight years. When I think back twenty-eight years, that was certainly one of those years. Life decisions were made, a course was set for my life that I am still living in many ways. There were upheavals and upsets. I gave my poor mother more than a few new gray hairs that year. So who knows, here we are twenty-eight years later and my client says "here we go again." I have alluded to the fact that for me, too there is change in the air. My professional and church life are stable (as far as I know). Our clinic is solvent and I am busy, so no worries there. I am locally ordained, so there is no thought about taking a call elsewhere, and as long as our church is here, I plan to be also. No, this one is a bit closer to home. Sometimes in the struggle toward authenticity, there are painful discoveries. And sometimes those discoveries affect our lives in ways that affect not only ourselves but those we love. Sometimes we find that decisions made in an earlier time have to be re-examined to see if they are still the healthiest and most authentic way to live now. And this is scary and hard and painful. It requires the facing of hard truths, taking the risk of hurting and being hurt, as well as as the risk of being judged for the choices I may make in the future. I am reminded of course that this is not nearly as much in my control as I would like to think, and really never has been. That it is, as it has always been, in God's hands. And that my most serious and enduring job is to fall into God's love and trust in God's good will to work things out for good. Not necessarily for my idea of what's good in this moment, but for God's big picture good. I am doing more and less well at this depending on the moment. Some nights I can sleep. Others, MPR and I are spending hours of quality time. Some days, I can focus and function, and I really believe that all will be well. Other days buying groceries and doing laundry seems like a gargantuan accomplishment and even my hair hurts. Some days I sense God's presence and feel borne up by the prayers of those I know are holding me, and other days I feel abandoned by all, including, or most especially, God. Though I know in my heart that is purely perception, and that it is God who saves me every step and that I am not alone in a human sense either. In fact, the one who stands to be hurt the most is one of my greatest supports. The irony of this does not escape me, nor does the hand of God in it. We live out loud in a gold fish bowl in this little world of ours. Whatever happens in our lives in the next few months it will happen in full view of our church and community. My greatest prayer is that I can be honest and humble and authentic through it all, and cause the least collateral damage possible as we try to sort this all out.