February 10, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

 

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." Mark 4:35

It is one thing to go; it is an altogether different thing to go “to the other side.”   Until now, being with Jesus had been a relatively safe adventure traveling around the neighborhood of Galilee.  That is about to change.  “Let’s go over there,” Jesus suggests to his friends, pointing across the lake. 

The problem with “over there” was the kind of people that lived “over there.” In the first century the Sea of Galilee was a natural divide between the Jews who lived on one side and the non-Jews who lived on the other.  In other words, the people “over there” were people that did not believe, act, or worship like the people with Jesus.  It is no wonder they were afraid. It is always safer to stay on our side, whether it is our side of a lake, or the railroad tracks, or the neighborhood, or the church.  Jesus called his friends into the boat to go over there and he calls us to do the same. 

Two years ago I led a group of teenagers to Terrier Rouge, Haiti. Many of them had never traveled to another country.  One morning we set up a make-shift assembly line and packed four hundred bags of rice, dried fish, noodles and oil. Each bag held enough food for a Haitian family to eat for a week. We loaded it on a truck, bounced across the plains of northern Haiti to three isolated villages to hand it out. When we arrived at the first village, people were already waiting. The blind and lame went first, then the widows, then others.  The bags holding the food were very flimsy, so much so, that they would often break or puncture spilling rice onto the ground. 

After all the bags had been passed out, and we had begun to pack up, a Haitian girl who had been standing by, knelt down and began to sweep up the leftover grains of rice with her hands. Everyone froze.  Without prompting, two of our girls knelt down beside her and began to help her. Not one grain of rice was left behind.  Before she left the Haitian girl thanked us, cradling her rice as if it was gold.  One girl commented, “I never knew a grain of rice was worth so much.”  For me, when those girls knelt down in the dirt to help gather rice, they went to the other side. In so doing, they took their place beside Jesus to be about his work of healing and restoration.

Where is the “other side” for you? Maybe it is as far away as a trip to another country, or maybe it is as near as the person on the other side of the room you are in right now.  It may be to feed the hungry; it may be to simply say, “I’m sorry.” Wherever it is, “over there” is in a direction that is scary and risky. However, it is also the direction where you most fully join Jesus in the healing of God’s world.

  When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." Mark 4:35 It is one thing to go; it is an altogether different thing to go “to the other side.”   Until now, being with Jesus had been a relatively safe...
February 11, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

Come let us go...I need you!

I may not know you.

I may never meet you.

But I need you.

I need your gifts and skills,

your determination and strength.

I need your failures and your sorrows,

your pain and your stumbling.

We may never cross paths but without you

I am not able.

It is only with you that

I am able to entreat the favor of the Lord.

It is only with you that I can seek the Lord of hosts.

I need you!

Without you I am not complete.

Without you God is not complete.

Come let us go,

I myself am going.

 

Zechariah calls the people to invite each other to seek God and God's favor. He reminds us that we need each other whether we like it or not, because together we embody the fullness of God. It is an invitation to go and gather the known and unknown, not because God demands it, but because the good news of God is so great that it cannot be contained. It is a deep desire and longing to be connected to each other and to God that compels us to go, to seek. "I myself am going" and without the other we are not complete. Who do you find difficult to invite to seek God and God's favor? Who would find you difficult to invite?

Come let us go...I need you! I may not know you. I may never meet you. But I need you. I need your gifts and skills, your determination and strength. I need your failures and your sorrows, your pain and your stumbling. We may never cross paths but...
February 12, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

A Time to Get Going

A Paraphrase of God’s Command to Noah (Genesis 8:15-9:3)

 When God delivered Noah and his family after a tumultuous year-long voyage over troubled waters, he commanded Noah, “Go, I have given you a second chance. Go, be fruitful. Go make a difference in this new world I have given you.”

In 1971, I was given a second chance to make a difference in the world. I was driving down a busy, four-lane city street in a 1955 Pontiac doing about 45 mph. Suddenly I heard a loud snap! At that moment I lost complete control over the direction of the car. The steering wheel freely turned in my hands, but it no longer had any connection to the front axle. I jammed on the brakes, which pulled to the left. By a narrow margin the car missed several parked cars, jumped the curb, and came to rest between a phone booth and a utility pole. Since it was the beginning of Lent, I had been on my way to church. So, I used the phone in the booth (no cell phones back then) to get someone to pick me up.

A few minutes later, I was in church on my knees thanking God for delivering me from what was almost certain disaster. It was then that I remembered that the night before I had driven that same car through a long tunnel. Had the steering failed then, I would not be writing this. Like Noah, I had heard God’s clear voice saying to me, “I have given you a second chance. Go, go make a difference in this world I have given you.”

A Time to Get Going A Paraphrase of God’s Command to Noah (Genesis 8:15-9:3)  When God delivered Noah and his family after a tumultuous year-long voyage over troubled waters, he commanded Noah, “Go, I have given you a second chance. Go, be fruitful...
February 13, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

In Mark 16:15, Jesus said to his disciples to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He also told them to go and tell all His good works so they too can be at his house to benefit from His everlasting love. In Luke 14:23, as Jesus said to his servant “Go,” He commanded him to go out and reach out to the less fortunate, the poor and the outcasts. He said “Go” out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled. Jesus is extending an invitation to all who have left the church for any reason to come back and be a part of his covenant. Jesus wants to set us free, free from distress, and free from bondage.

We are all God’s children and we are precious in his sight. Jesus wants to draw us closer to Him. The world around us is rapidly changing and we must leave our comfort zone to go and be servants; that means to devote our God-given talents, treasures and gifts and passion to share and proclaim the love of Jesus. We can use Jesus as a perfect example of servanthood. Jesus went as far as washing his disciples’ feet to give them examples of humility and kindness. He humbled himself, died and stretched his arms on the cross just to save us and to buy our pardon. God can put someone on our path expecting to hear something from us.  In this Lent season, He is calling us to serve, to tend to others on the periphery so they too can inherit the Kingdom of God. 

In Mark 16:15, Jesus said to his disciples to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He also told them to go and tell all His good works so they too can be at his house to benefit from His everlasting love. In Luke 14:23, as...
February 14, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

 I have had a lot of change in my life: moving to different cities and countries, divorce, relationships, change of jobs and careers, different degrees in school, son off to college – twice. And now I face a big change in my Church life. My dad is retiring and I decided it would be a great time to leave the Church where I have participated in lay leadership – vestry, teaching, music, mentoring – for almost thirty years. I am very excited about this change. So, I feel like this passage is talking to me. I feel that God is telling me – go in joy and peace to serve – and I feel that I will encounter much music and harmony as I get to visit other churches, get to know other communities and experience God’s creation. For me, Lent is a time of reflection, fasting, and going into the wilderness of my thoughts to meditate, question, and explore what Easter will bring. As I plan to visit different congregations every Sunday I will continue to hold on to that “go out in joy” as God leads me in peace. And I pray that I will not only hear songs but also be part of them during this new walk.

God, guide me as I walk joyfully towards you

tenderly guide me in peace

in the darkness be my light

in the brightness be my shadow

when I faint pick me up and hold me

when I am strong remain by my side

I trust in You!

 I have had a lot of change in my life: moving to different cities and countries, divorce, relationships, change of jobs and careers, different degrees in school, son off to college – twice. And now I face a big change in my Church life. My dad is...
February 15, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

One sentence from the story of Job tells a myriad about whom he is and how he is thought of and cared for.  It begs the question, “how do we suffer with each other?” and recognizes go as an intention, a contemplation, and a ministry. 

For many who are familiar with Job, we know that he experienced much suffering.  The role he plays in the Old Testament is one of significance.  His stance is one of great faith and perseverance.  If that is not enough, God allows Satan to persecute him tremendously.  Such is an example for us when we want to say, “Why me, Lord?”  More important, and considering the theme of GO for this reflection, is the result of an individual’s suffering on those who know him well.  For who else knows our suffering more than those closest to us?

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  They met together to go and console and comfort him.  –Job 2:11

Highlighted from this verse, other than the obvious go, are the words friends, troubles, set out, met together, console, and comfort.  Job is righteous; without too much doubt, he probably has righteous friends.  Old Testament history informs that these are all leaders and very well may be chieftains from different tribes of people.  They are intentional in their posture to GO to Job, setting out on what seems to be a journey for all of them.  Also significant is that they meet as opposed to showing up one by one.  There may be an implication of community, one that certainly foreshadows that of the Body of Christ.  As a unit, they go to Job, saddened and affected by his condition of suffering.

All this suggests that when one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community. The man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men are one at the wellspring of pain and joy.  Nouwen 73

Christian leadership – stepping out of the self to be one in suffering with another – must consider the “fair weather friend” and their neighborly ways compared to the true friend and their willingness to be present regardless of the circumstances.  One of the annotations in this chapter of Job suggests that the friends did not do anything except mourn with him.  Job is covered in sores, and he is isolated and alone.  Perhaps in his loneliness, the act of suffering with him is much more significant than any other action.  Celebration in suffering would have been inappropriate. A vision of hope from this one verse of Job is that we are called together in suffering; such a theme is one carried through to the New Testament, and is a reminder to what we are called to do as Christians daily and during the season of Lent.

One sentence from the story of Job tells a myriad about whom he is and how he is thought of and cared for.  It begs the question, “how do we suffer with each other?” and recognizes go as an intention, a contemplation, and a ministry.  For many who...
February 16, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

I was born and raised an Episcopalian. I never imagined I would choose the streets of an inner-city as a place to proclaim Christ. I never thought I’d regularly enter a jail to teach and worship, or mingle with patrons of Our Daily Bread Food Pantry or those who work at our local tiendas. But it is here where I have discovered the richest encounters of the living Christ. Over the years I’ve experienced worship in a variety of churches and liturgical styles. And yet my spirit is consistently drawn to the spirit filled worship that happens behind bars, among those in jumpsuits. I am drawn to the worship, witness, and song that spontaneously break forth from folks waiting to receive food from our food pantry, eager to share God’s abundance in their lives. Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn to boarded up apartment complexes where neighbors sit outside sharing testimonies that spring up like water from parched earth. The streets have become my altar. God has called me here and there is no place I’d rather be.

One day I encountered a grandmother on a sidewalk in her neighborhood. She shared with me that, thanks to God, she had beaten her addiction to crack. She selflessly gave all the glory to God. It was God’s strength that allowed her to stay clean and sober day after day, and to be present to her daughter and granddaughter, who were there to attest to her claim. With bright, dark, shining eyes and a huge smile, she proclaimed that it was God who “saved her again, and again, and again.” Her testimony was a Hymn of Praise as beautiful as any I’d ever heard among well-rehearsed choirs. Her Gloria stays with me, and like a well-known hymn, my heart recalls her song again and again. When one faces difficulty, whether due to incarceration, food insecurity, addiction, poverty, fear, or any means of suffering, one has the potential to finally surrender to God. When the ego is shattered and one hits rock bottom, it is there that one can proclaim, “I need God to live.” When faith is not an option, but a necessity, worship isn’t something you just “go to” or “attend”. It is a manner of being and wherever you are becomes holy ground.

Here is my confession: Some would say that I go to bring others encouragement and good news. But that is only partly true. I go out, not to bring my version of Christ to the poor, but to encounter Christ with them and among them.  Over time I have discovered that those I encounter have brought good news to my spiritual poverty. They have given me sight when I was blind. They have liberated my soul from the notion of ministry being mostly within the walls of a church building. They have expanded my view of church and holiness. I now see that life’s greatest difficulties can open the way to spiritual blessedness. I go out because, like them, I need God to live too. And there is no place I’d rather be.

I was born and raised an Episcopalian. I never imagined I would choose the streets of an inner-city as a place to proclaim Christ. I never thought I’d regularly enter a jail to teach and worship, or mingle with patrons of Our Daily Bread Food...
February 17, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

The imagery the psalmist uses in these passages is remarkable, particularly in how the writer describes God and Zion as the same: “Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God.” In describing Zion as a well-built and fortified city, the writer also provides an image of God as a place of both majesty and safety; an all- powerful God as an all-powerful city providing protection for its inhabitants. The psalmist could have easily ended the psalm here, yet the concluding image the reader is left with is that of God as guide who guides from Zion. It is this image that I find most compelling and most comforting.

I have found, lately, that my prayers are changing. In journeying with people facing both the joys and heartbreaks of being human, including life’s inevitable diminishment and ending, I have discovered myself no longer seeking out an all-powerful god, one I expect to fix things when they go wrong, or even one who will prevent things from going wrong in the first place. Instead, I find I am seeking to know God’s steadfastness in all things; I want to encounter God in the everywhere’s of our messy and beautiful lives. But not as the fixer--rather, I need God present as a guide and companion more than anything else.

Somewhere, in my journey of faith, it has become more important to me to have God near, to know God’s love and faithfulness, than to have God responsible for all that goes on, good or bad. I am not denying God’s power, but I am letting go of it. Yes, I’m letting go of the omnipotent God, but in doing so, I am better able to embrace the omnipresent and all-loving God. Decoupling God from being a force frees me from trying to wield God as a kind of spiritual stick whose purpose serves only my will. Through invitation and intentionally drawing near, I instead invite God and God’s will to draw near to me, and to guide, shape and form me.

Like the psalmist, I am making a claim that this God is my God, and that God dwells with me, and I with God, the God who is my place of safety, and who is walking with me on my worldly sojourn. Unshackled from the expectations of what I want God to do, I have set us both free from my one-way intercessions where I fail to listen because my demands are too loud. I have set us free from my disappointment because the outcome wasn’t what I envisioned. And I have set us free from my wanting to tell God what God should do and who God should be. In this work of releasing God from all responsibility for fixing and doing, I realize I have invited God to simply be with me, to endure with me, if necessary, and so have allowed myself to be with God in such a way as to change me so that I can accomplish God’s will, rather than me trying to change God to do mine.

So this Lent season seems to be, as if often is, a time to let go of things. But this year it is letting go of a kind of expectation, and becomes instead a time of openness to a new way of being with God and a new willingness to be lead so that God’s will can be accomplished through me. 

The imagery the psalmist uses in these passages is remarkable, particularly in how the writer describes God and Zion as the same: “Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you...
February 18, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

In my work with The Episcopal Church, I am lucky to see people across the world choosing the kind of fast God proclaims through Isaiah. Our Domestic Poverty and Environmental Justice fellows, our Jubilee Network, and hundreds of ministries from Haiti to Hawaii, Seattle to Charleston, Sonora to Portland and everywhere in between are working together to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. It is a singular joy to talk with Episcopalians in diverse ministries and contexts. Though a community garden project in Naco, Arizona, on its face has little to do with a sewing center in Rochester, New York, or an outreach ministry to young people in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I have realized the wonderful thread that ties them all together.

I performed dozens of interviews last year, and realized that, when asked the reasons for their work, no ministry leader or volunteer listed “boredom” or “money”. No, these Episcopalians have undertaken the work because their commitment to Christ demands it. They refine and use their God-given talents to help build up the Kingdom; they are sharing their bounty, bringing in the homeless, covering the naked, and being fully present in their communities, as we are asked. This work is beautiful because it takes seriously the living God’s claim on our lives—a God whose light breaks forth from them like the dawn.

My dream for myself and for The Episcopal Church this Lent is that we will recognize the fast we ought to choose—that in rural Virginia, cosmopolitan Los Angeles, suburban Denver, and in villages, towns, and cities around the world, we will go out and do the work we’ve been given to do. As we do so, I hope we will remember that our Vindicator has gone before us—and that as we go, his glory and help are all around us.

In my work with The Episcopal Church, I am lucky to see people across the world choosing the kind of fast God proclaims through Isaiah. Our Domestic Poverty and Environmental Justice fellows, our Jubilee Network, and hundreds of ministries from...
February 19, 2016
Tagged in: Lent

The sun shall no longer be your light by day nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.  ~Isaiah 60:19-20

Dare’s Beach, Maryland.

It’s dawn, and the moon has not yet set. Sun and moon share the sky. The locust tree stretches its branch toward the white wafer moon. I think of Eucharist.

With all creation, I yearn for union with the everlasting light---the true light that shall never go down---

the at-one-ment of Jesus Christ.

 

My heart yearns upwards

Seeking the white wafer moon

Holy Communion

 

The sun shall no longer be your light by day nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be...