Monday, March 30, 2009
I will say, I did have a rather lovely weekend full of a great deal of nothing. I am not used to this. Nor am I used to having someone around who encourages self-care and playtime. I did what I was committed to, which was my worship service at the nursing home. Otherwise, R and I basically hung out. We saw Whale Rider on Friday night as part of the movie series my friends the Presbies are doing. A great movie which I had missed along the way. On Saturday we putzed with errands, made cupcakes for the WhY church potluck and made "our" first purchase...a new gas grill. It will live at my house, but we know who will get the best use of it...the one who cooks in this relationship (and let me tell you...it's NOT me!). R made us a lovely meatloaf for dinner Saturday night and I felt very pampered. On Sunday I slept in until 10. I seriously cannot remember the last time I did this. It made a 12 hour night and I think was a turning point in the sinus crud that has been afflicting me for the last week or so. It also meant of course that I was not at "my" church for worship. This afflicts me with some guilt, though not nearly as much as it once would have, back in the days of the Energizer Bunny Overfunctioning Mad Priest. That crazy woman who was running full tilt from herself has slowed down....a lot. I don't think I could whip myself back into that frenzy if I tried. And I have no inclination (or need TBTG) to try.
Sunday was a lovely slow day. We walked Maggie a bit, actually got to sit on the front porch awhile, and did the thing we do best....hang out and talk. We also worked on the SWAG for the BE2 this weekend. That brought back memories of last year (again) of getting ready for "that boat" and all that entailed. C helped me with SWAG last year. On Easter Sunday she and I madly beaded away on the Anglican rosaries after she and D took in this lonely stray for Easter dinner. I was in shell shock as I recall. Not sure of what was happening or where my life was heading. And certainly not sure why on earth I was going off on this cruise...but just as certain that I was supposed to be there! What a difference a year makes.
Despite my lack of "lentishness" I am sailing in calm waters as I look forward to some post-Easter time in the desert with old and new friends. It seems I am looking past Easter a lot....and perhaps that is what we are called to after all. It is not so much about that one set of events...the dying, or even the rising....but the going on beyond...what happens when the risen Christ becomes part of the earthbound ones and the Spirit blazes forth. At least that's where my head and heart are this morning. How about you?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I am still having some euphoric recall about last Lent, though I have been reminded more than once that life, in its seasons, changes, and clearly, I am in a different one now. Last year was an interior time, and I needed it to be so. I was learning and facing new truths about myself and my place in the world and I needed space and peace and time away with God as a holding place in which to accomplish that soul work, and to heal from some of the buffeting my spirit and psyche were taking in the outside world as well. The outside world in which I live today is a much warmer, safer place, and I am just as likely to encounter God without as within. But it is for me like learning the beauty of a new landscape. It is just as lovely as the old one, it feeds the soul every bit as much...it simply requires an adjustment of the inner eye to realize this, to acknowledge and remember.
R and I went to his uncle's funeral yesterday in a little Catholic church out in the middle of nowhere. There were probably two hundred people there....most of them related to him in some way or another. As his uncle's family came up from the church basement to process behind the casket it seemed as if the line of them would never end...his children and their children and theirs. The siblings who survive and their spouses...on and on they came, filling half a side of the church. The priest talked about C, how he was authentic, real and true, "What you saw was what you got with C." he said. And that he cared deeply for others, was there for them, stepped up, reached out. There is a strong strain of that here in this family. C was not related by blood to R...but he might as well be, for that priest was describing him as well. It is, I think, the culture of this people I am blessed enough to be joining. It runs deep in them. As we walked to the grave and stood in the drizzle in the small country cemetery to send C to his final rest, I thanked God that I am loved by this fine man and that I have come home at last to family.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
In the late, late winter, as the snow begins to recede here in Maine, we begin to look almost desperately for signs of spring, signs of hope that the weather has turned and a new day is on the horizon. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Easter and Spring twine inextricably, the crocuses and daffodils peeking through the Earth as we await the risen Christ.
Share with us five signs of hope that you can see today or have experienced in the past."
- Looking desperately for signs of Spring....oh yes, I can surely relate to that! And just in the past week or so the birds are returning. The geese are flying over in their amazing formations, there are new songs in the morning to greet me as I start the day. I have seen two robins, and a friend has spotted a cat bird. The snow is melting fast....and leaving in its wake a lot of yard work, but also some dreams about a new deck that R and I will build together this summer, and a garden we will plant...the first of some projects in the house that will in the future be "ours."
- Hope is a big thing for me. I tell my clients that I will be their "hope-holder" for a time when they do not have any for themselves...I will keep it alive for them. And I watch for signs in them and give them back...little improvements, use of coping skills that were not there before, less falling back into old ways of doing things. Sometimes I have to remember to do this for myself as well.
- The second of the sermons in the "month of sermons" is done. And it's only 8am on Friday! Now I can go off to the retreat with a clear mind and actually enjoy the time with my team learning how to do the gifts discernment process.
- It's never too late. For pretty much anything. That is a big part of hope for me. I am not sure about old dogs, but even old humans are pretty amazingly capable of change. I had a friend say to me not too long ago that I give new meaning to the term "late bloomer." I said to R the other day that if someone had told me as I boarded that boat for the BE that one short year later I'd be happily engaged to this wonderful man....I would have wondered if they had taken leave of their senses. So this may sound kind of strange....but I am a sign of hope to myself....because I know that truly....anything can happen!
- The light. And of course, the Light.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
From Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday here at St. J's there are twelve services in which the Scriptures are read. This doesn’t include Wednesday night GBD and the LifeCycles Bible Study groups which add six more bringing us to eighteen. This is a lot of grappling with scriptures whose main focus is preparing the people of God to participate in the experience of the crucifixion of Jesus. The Old Testament readings in Lent focus on Israel’s salvation history
We were reminded over the last two weeks of God’s promise to Noah to never again destroy the earth and God’s people, and then last week, we heard about God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah to bring about that which seemed impossible to them and make them the parents of many nations. And indeed, God was and through all time continues to be faithful to these promises. This week we hear another Old Testament reading in which God makes a covenant with a particular people. In the covenant God made with Israel through Moses ,the Ten Commandments, are God’s instrument for forming this people their unique relationship with Yahweh.
The Gospel readings over the last few weeks have been from Mark, telling us the story of Jesus life and ministry to help us understand more about who this incarnate redeemer was who chose to undertake this crucifixion journey. We see him calling disciples, healing, teaching, even transfigured. But always Mark makes sure that we know that we are focused on the fact that this is Jesus, the Son of God, and at least since the Transfiguration, the one who is heading for the cross.
Today, at first glance, it seems we make a shift. Both of the stories we heard in the Old and New Testament readings are familiar to us. We have heard them in church and Sunday school since childhood. We have seen the pictures depicting these events, maybe we have even seen the movie of the Ten Commandments. And we may have reactions to these stories as well. Or to their contents. The Ten Commandments. Laws. Rules. The “Thou Shalt Nots.” More things to feel bad about that we do not measure up to. And this Jesus who is making whips and getting angry and creating havoc in the temple precincts. Well, he just makes us more than a little uncomfortable. I mean, where did our gentle Jesus meek and mild go, anyway? Frankly this might be some of the stuff we’d all just as soon ignore.
And yet….if we are willing to take that deeper look, there is much here that is worth the discomfort. Those commandments for instance. I don’t know about you, but in my religious upbringing, the notion that they were about relationship was not something that was up there on the radar screen. But in reality that is exactly what the commandments are about. Theologian Larry Gillick says that while the commandments can be heard as have-tos and should-dos, they can also be heard as forms of seeing and respecting God’s presence in all of life’s relationships.
The “sinfulness” of things, the breaking of commandments really is about the breaking of relationship. That first one about having idols and false gods, for example…..We know that it is easy for us to get off track, out of right relationship, with God, with others, with the better part ourselves. We can lose sight of what is important. Work, money, success, stuff, anything can become all encompassing to us….can become….gods. We become so focused on “the one thing” anything….that we lose sight of what’s truly important. And when this happens, well, things fall apart. We have only to look around at the current state of things in our economy for a little evidence of that. And honoring the Sabbath…well, maybe that is about slowing down long enough to remember that everything is holy, and we need time to catch up, not on our work, but on how God is at work among us. Sometimes we try so hard to do it ourselves, forgetting that we really are not in control, can’t do it alone. Perhaps keeping Sabbath better would help us remember that we really are not God after all, we really are not in charge, and don’t have to do it all.
In a relational view, breaking the commandments is saying loud and clear that I value what you have more than I value you and will go to whatever lengths to take it from you, whether it is your property, your spouse, your reputation or your life. There is no honoring here for one another as a beloved one of God. There is little justice, little goodness, little right relationship. So it seems that maybe rather than a set of constricting laws designed as something to should and ought us into submission, the commandments really are invitations to fullness of life in relationship with God and with each other.
Jesus as an observant Jew of his time would have been well-schooled in the “ten laws.” He would have understood them in depth as he understood the Hebrew Scriptures. He would have understood about the covenanted relationship and the faithfulness between God and God’s people and the importance of not letting anything stand in the way of that. And if he saw something that did stand in the way of that relationship happening, especially in sacred space, it may well have been enough to arouse the kind of anger we see in him in today’s Gospel. Jesus would not have been angry because the sacrificial animals were there for purchase, or because the money-changers were there changing coins from all over the realm into the temple currency. That business was necessary for the temple to be a place for the people from all over to come and make sacrifices in worship. Certainly it was easier to travel and purchase your animals in the temple courts than to bring them with you across the country. Possibly, as some scholars suggest, it had become a corrupt and exploitative economic system that made sacrifice increasingly impossible for the poorest of worshipers, and made access to God dependent on economic circumstances. Everything Jesus was about would have been offended by this. In his mind, no obstacles could be put in the way of being able to access God’s grace and compassion. No limits can be put on the way to God’s forgiveness. If the temple itself is the limit, then even it must be destroyed.
Unlike in the other three Synoptic Gospels where this scene happens much later, in John’s version Jesus comes on the scene early in his ministry. He is still an unknown quantity, fresh from his first miracle. The disciples are still trying to figure out who he is, what he is about. And in this moment he is about change and liberation, about allowing access to God and eliminating whatever might be interfering with access to that relationship, whatever form that interference might take.
So, too in our own temple precincts, we find our own chaos and rabble, our moneychangers and our dove sellers, and Lent is a good time to reflect, to ponder, and to cleanse….what kind of interference do we have going on that limits our access to God? What is it that we need to be purified of during these days of Lent? Perhaps a relational review of those commandments would not be a bad place to start.
Friday, March 13, 2009
1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year? The plan was to give up anxiety and take on joy.
2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way? Um, er....No and Yes
3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent? Oh yes, as always. God has a very interesting sense of humor, as always.
4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week? I need to survive March. Two sermons at my own church, a nursing home service to plan and a sermon for there, a "Soup and Sermon" sermon (all by April 1) with two weekends gone and the day job...and then we come to Easter. We are having five services Easter week. I am sure it will be wonderful and most holy when we get there. Right now....it feels like a marathon at the end of another one.
5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter? I need a little attitude adjustment involving my church life right now. It would also help if the weather would cooperate. Light (courtesy of Daylight Savings Time) going on into the evening accompanied by minus 24 is just all wrong!
Bonus: Share a favorite scripture, prayer, poem, artwork, or musical selection that speaks Lenten spring to your heart. I think I need to share in the bounty of others. I know I have such...they are just not "springing" to mind right now.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Friday, March 06, 2009
1) First of all, thumbs up? or thumbs down? Do you like pudding? Love it! All flavors.
2) Instant or cooked? (Does anyone make pudding from scratch?) Cooked preferred but eat instant because...well...it's instant!
3) If you had to choose, would you prefer corn pudding or figgy pudding? Never had either as far as I know, would give them both a go!
4) Have you ever finger painted with pudding? But of course, I like to play with my food.
5) Finally, what is the matter with Mary Jane? Too long on her diet, perhaps?
Bonus: Share a favorite recipe that includes pudding! My mother's Sour Cream Raisin Pie...which no one since she left us has been able to duplicate!
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Lent is about change. We think about what we want to quit doing, or what we want to do more or better, and we make promises, and try really hard. That’s good,and that’s as it should be. But know this: the Spirit of God is always working in you, on you, with you, to transform you. You are swimming with the current,in other words, and God knows where you’re going.
R and I have been attending a non-denominational service on Sunday afternoons for the past month or two. It's hard for me to even call it church as it's so far from my experience of that particular thing. I say that in a couple ways. For one thing, it's in a big meeting room at the Y. It's informal, no real "prayers" are said, there is no "liturgy" as such. We do have ritual in that we gather and share a meal and fellowship, then we usually sing together, often some contemporary Christian music. perhaps with new words provided by the Methodist pastor who has been the main impetus behind the group. After that there is something to kick off discussion. Lately we have been using the Nooma series by Rob Bell. This week we watched a video called "Shells," the theme of which was purpose. One of the discussion questions was about "the one thing" in our lives....do we know what that is, do we focus on it? Is that our purpose in life? Basically the folks at my table all just kind of sat and stared at each other. Well, duh, yeah of course we all know what the answer is supposed to be here....most of us somewhere along the way went to church or Sunday school and heard that the one thing was God, Jesus, and that is supposed to be the focus and purpose of our lives But are we doing it, can we do it? Two of us at my table are "professionally religious" types, myself and a woman who is a commissioned lay pastor. Another man whom I did not know clearly has a church life as he was able to quote scripture to chapter and verse. Others I know to be people of faith, but we were all in agreement that "the one thing" can be many things and that it changes sometimes many times, not only in the course of a life, but in the course of a week or even a day.
Perhaps we were not thinking deeply enough....maybe we were thinking more about focus than purpose...I don't know. I do know I can, and do, get awfully distracted from what I really, honesty do know is the One Thing. And not just by shiny things! By every day things, by just the flotsam and jetsam and the grocery list. By the cat box and the gas tank. By the e-mail from a friend whose concerns become mine, by the overheard remark I cannot let go. And by happiness and anticipation. By "what comes next." But I also know that somewhere, down there underneath it all, like a deep spring, like a life giving underground well....God is always there. Do I take God for granted? Perhaps. Is that wrong? Maybe. Or maybe not. There is a permission in loving relationships to rely... so I am learning....to assume that permission is given to look away for a time, to focus on other things with the assumption that if you were to suddenly look back, or fall into....the loved one would still be there. Is it not this way with God? Or am I simply telling myself something I want to hear so I can be distracted with out guilt? As I am working on giving that up for Lent you know. Well, those are the thoughts as I go off into Wednesday as the the first full week of Lent ends and the second one begins.
Monday, March 02, 2009
My own efforts at Lent bumble on. I will not say that I am necessarily succeeding at worrying any less. I am more aware of how much I do it, so perhaps that's a start. One of my worries continues to be L. I haven't heard back from him yet and he was not in church. I didn't expect to see him, as he's now twenty miles away, and other than contacting me to get the names of the congregants who live in his town for a ride, I don't know how he would get to church. It's very hard not to go charging into the night to try to save him from himself. It's very hard not to feel that I failed to do just that in the first place. But I try to remember what I told myself from the very beginning with L. He is God's and in God's hands, and I need to trust that and trust God with him.
I guess that would not be a bad thought in general...because it all is, we all are...in God's hands. I remember that and then forget it again, or I trust it and then I don't. Perhaps one thing that I might want from this Lent is longer intervals of remembering and trust. That would be a good thing I think. Good for the joy and peace quotient.
So my first full week of Lent begins. How's it going for you?