Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lent, Week Five

During this season of Lent, I'm writing reflections based on the psalm assigned for each Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary (look it up, if you want), and sharing those with the congregation I serve when we gather for Evening Prayer on Wednesday evenings. This reflection is from April 9, week five, and is based on Psalm 130.


You ever sing the blues?
      ever play the blues?
Once I found myself on stage
            playing the blues
      12 bars later, I was lost
            transported beyond myself by
                  musical catharsis

***

the blues
            down in the dumps
            feeling low down
            depression
the blues
      a state or spell of low spirits
      down-hearted-ness

***

out of the depths
      I cry to you, O Lord
down in the dumps, I cry
      feeling low down, I cry
      singing the blues, I cry to you, O Lord

out of my depths I cry
      and in my depths, I know you hear

***

speaking, or singing, my blues
            giving voice to my cries
      allows space for my own identity
            to be transported beyond the blues
      allows space within my self
            within my very self
for my self to recognize that God is present
      for me to enter into divine embrace

***

though speaking, sharing, singing
            does not magically, or immediately
                  or necessarily
      automatically change my reality
            still I cry out
                  trusting that God,
                        who has passed through through the gates of Hell
                              about as low down as you can get
                  trusting that God, in our crying out
                        in our blues lamentation
            trusting that in our crying out to our God
                  we are ourselves invited into
                        the presence of the divine

and we allow ourselves
            to expect to be
      transported beyond the blues, beyond
            our lamentation, beyond
            our selves

and into the promise of
      the presence of
            divine redemption

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lent, Week Four

During this season of Lent, I'm writing reflections based on the psalm assigned for each Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary (look it up, if you want), and sharing those with the congregation I serve when we gather for Evening Prayer on Wednesday evenings. This reflection is from April 2, week four, and is based on Psalm 23.

we’re so far removed,
            most of us,
      from sheep and shepherds
            the Lord may as well be my
                  blacksmith, or my
                  tentmaker

people still do those things
      but they’re not so ubiquitous as they once were
tentmakers & blacksmiths & shepherds are,
      you may be aware
            no longer part of everyday life

*** 
but though we may not know shepherds
            or tentmakers or blacksmiths
      we all know shadows
      we all know death

what scares you?
            spiders, or snakes
            school …
                  or graduation?
      valleys

what keeps you up at night?
            taxes? rent? grades?
      shadow

what twists you up deep inside?
            divorce? unemployment?
                  life-sapping illness?
                        (your own, or a beloved’s)
      death

*** 
it may not be today,   
      but we live in the promise
            that we’re not so far removed
                  from the shepherd
            that we’re not so far removed
                  from the table prepared for us
      we live with hope in the promise
      that our soul will be granted
            respite
            rest
            repose
            refreshment
            renewal
     
      that we will be led beside
                  and are not so far removed from
            still water

      that we are led beside
                  and not so far removed from
            the living water springing up to eternal life

Thanks be to God.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Abolish the IRS

is what I saw on the bumper sticker in front of me this morning. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion; but as I drove along behind her, I dreamed about having a conversation about that bumper sticker. Of course, given the way folks get worked up about their political opinions, I suspect that conversation would never be possible ... but still, I can dream. So, here's how I imagine that conversation going:

Me: So, you want to abolish the IRS?

Her: Absolutely, and without question.

Me: So, if we get rid of the IRS, who would collect taxes?

Her: That's part of the point - that money is mine, and the government shouldn't take it from me.

Me: But if the government doesn't collect taxes, how will the roads we drive on get built and maintained? How will the police and fire departments get paid? How will the government be funded?

Her: Neighborhoods and communities would band together to take care of their own neighborhoods, to take care of themselves. Plus, the government is too big anyway - we don't need nearly so much government infrastructure.

Me: You're advocating for smaller government?

Her: Yes.

Me: But still, even if the government is smaller, someone needs to collect taxes. Do we get rid of the one we have now (the IRS) in favor of another agency that we develop after abolishing the IRS?

Her: No. The government doesn't need to take my money from me.

Me: You're really advocating anarchy, then, right?

Her: No, not anarchy. I'm advocating neighborhoods and affinity groups banding together to take care of themselves instead of the government thinking they need to tell us what to do.

Me: OK, so neighbors band together to take care of their own roads, and their own sewer systems and their own police forces. How, then, would these things be paid for?

Her: Neighbors would make contributions to a fund to pay for them. 

Me: Well, you may be thinking on a smaller scale, but neighborhoods banding together to take care of themselves seems to me to be the definition of government. It seems to me to be a bad idea to abolish the IRS, or most other government agencies. Obviously some need reform. Obviously some don't work the way they ought to work. However, unless a person is advocating anarchy, it seems asenine to think it's a good idea to get rid of the IRS, especially when that sentiment is on a car that's driving down a road paid for with tax money.

Folks, that's the way the conversation would go in my head. And I'm not even considering the Christian values that we hold to care for one another, to be our brother's and sister's keeper.

It seems like I've set up a straw man to argue against - I have to be missing something from 'Her' side of the conversation, but can't imagine what it is. Someone, help me out in the comments section.

$0.02

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lent, Week Three

During this season of Lent, I'm writing reflections based on the psalm assigned for each Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary (look it up, if you want), and sharing those with the congregation I serve when we gather for Evening Prayer on Wednesday evenings. This reflection is from March 26, week three, and is based on Psalm 95.


the first time you see the ocean
      marvel at its vastness,
            its power
or stand atop a mountain peak
            with a 360 degree view of
      everything below you

have you wondered at the apparent
      symmetry and similarity between
            atoms and solar systems?
                  the universe’s micro and macro
      or the patterns replicated throughout creation?
            fibbonacci’s addition swirling around
                  flowers and seashells

the first time, and every time,
            we stop in wonder
      we meet our God
            God, right there, right in front of me,
                  as if I see  through a glass clearly

***

water, evaporating & condensing & falling
      simply finds the lowest place – and
            there’s so much of it
obviously the ocean’s big

plate techtonics
      move the rocks around – of course
            some places are higher than everything else

& given physics,
            why wouldn’t the
      micro, the macro, and the obvious
            all hold together in the same pattern
what works for one works for another

and the wonder is explained away
      no longer face to face with God
            we think we know, understand,
      the world around us

***

Or,

what if we delight in
            the explaining
      delight in the vastness of the divine
            an ocean containing the singular
                  drop of my own existence
      delight in the beauty of
            360 degrees of creation,
                  above and below
      delight in the delight
            the creator surely takes
                  in our exploration of the
            caverns & heights & hills
            the sea & the dry land

***

We stand, most appropriately,
      alongside rather than in opposition to
the God of the universe

Come, let us sing to the Lord.


Lent, Week Two

During this season of Lent, I'm writing reflections based on the psalm assigned for each Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary (look it up, if you want), and sharing those with the congregation I serve when we gather for Evening Prayer on Wednesday evenings. This reflection is from March 19, week two, and is based on Psalm 121.


Maybe it’s tax time
      maybe it’s when you’re looking for a job
      maybe it’s just before a test
            that you’re not sure you’ve studied enough for
      maybe it’s just after you’ve said something
            to a dear friend
                  that you desperately want to take back

maybe it’s when your kid’s in the hospital
      or when a parent has just died

at some time or other
      it’s likely that each one of us
            has felt the desperation of
                  ‘what do I do now?’
            the desperation of
                  ‘I can’t take the next step’
            the desperation of isolation, stagnation, and resign

at some time or other
      it’s likely that each of us has been there

the old spiritual echoes the psalm
      ‘Where could I go, but to the Lord’

in our God
      we can find comfort
            from one who has known everything of our life
in our God
      we can find comfort
            from one who has journeyed through our life
                  the celebration and the desperation
      we can find comfort
            from the one who journeyed beyond our life
                  and into our death
      we can find comfort
            from the one who,
                  having moved through our death
                        came out victorious on the other side

Where can we go but to the Lord.
      Amen. 

Lent, Week One

During this season of Lent, I'm writing reflections based on the psalm assigned for each Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary (look it up, if you want), and sharing those with the congregation I serve when we gather for Evening Prayer on Wednesday evenings. This reflection is from March 12, week one, and is based on Psalm 32.

There’s truth embedded in this psalm
      truth about our human nature
            truth about who we are
            truth about how we make our way through the world

we love, so much, to be right
      to be without fault
            to be blameless
      and when we can’t be faultless,
            we love to at least appear to be

And it eats us up

it tears us up

it rots us from the inside
      like a relational conflict ignored for generations
            that festers as a family feud
                  which no one understands any more
            but still it festers
      until we acknowledge
            where we ourselves fall short of the glory of God
                  appearing, unfortunately but necessarily,
                        no longer without blame

at which point we are open to receive
            instead of condemnation
      we receive respite
            we receive relief
                  we receive grace upon grace
      and a solid place to stand
            from which we find ourselves compelled to share
                  that which we undeservingly
                        have ourselves received

      a return to the Lord our God.
            Amen.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ash Wednesday

What follows is the text which I shared during Ash Wednesday worship this year. What came out of my mouth was not exactly what you see, and what came into the ears of the hearers was even more vastly different ... such is the nature of homilies/sermons, that G-d's Holy Spirit works in the space between speaking and hearing. 

***

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God,
      and from our Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen
 Today, in stark ways, we’re reminded of our mortality – ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
      As we collect ourselves together as community, we’re reminded that none of us,
            not one,
      will escape that return to dust.
 Those who are older,
            and those who are sick in significant ways
      will likely return to dust sooner than the young and healthy.
But even that’s not always the case –
      we all probably know of young and healthy people
            who well before they should have.
 The truth is that, no matter who we are,
      each of us even in this moment is approaching the ashes,
            the ‘ashes to ashes’ ashes,
                  and also the ashes here in worship
      and we approach ashes together –
            old and the young together;
            ill and the well together;
            parents and children together.
 The mark on our forehead, which we’ll receive in a few moments,
       serves as a stark reminder that the wages of sin is death –
            we are dust, and to dust we shall return.
      And at the same time,
            the dusty mark on our forehead that we’ll receive
                  traces the seal of the Holy Spirit,
                        which always is there on our forehead, ever a reminder of our baptism.
 So we approach the ashes today, and we approach our God,
            claiming the promise of our baptism;
 and we approach our God echoing the psalmist:
      Have mercy, O God,
            according to your steadfast love,
            your abundant mercy
      we know we transgress and trespass
            sin, and fall short of God’s glory
 Today we’ll approach this altar twice
      once, to be reminded of our mortality
            our sin, our brokenness and our need for God’s mercy
 and a second time to receive into our very bodies
      the promise of wholeness
            and of forgiveness & mercy
                  and of new life
 Blessings to you, and to all of us, as we enter this holy season.
      May we encounter God in new and surprising places and ways.
 In the name of Christ. Amen