Monday, February 24, 2014

The Acting out of both Conservatives and Progressives this week in the Episcopal Church

Just this week Nashotah House, a pretty conservative Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin, has had people on their Board of Trustees resign because the Dean invited the Presiding Bishop to preach there in May. A person associated with the school wrote that she cannot imagine Nashotah House recovering from "this disastrous and horrifying choice." She lamented the fact that Bishop Schori – whom she described as "noted heretic, false teacher, deposer of clergy and bishops, and malicious lawsuit-lover" – has been invited not just to visit, but to preach, "to share her particular, unique, custom, tiny gospel to clergy, laity, and seekers from the pulpit of the House." (I guess this person does not know about all the people who preached from that same pulpit in the 80's and 90's who have been accused of sexual misconduct and have lived double lives, but that is another story.)

The Bishop of Atlanta has been under fire because he has invited people in his diocese to read one of Rick Warren’s books for Lent. Many progressives in the Diocese cannot believe he would do this since Rick Warren is a conservative evangelical. The Bishop says “Fellowship that has Christ as its center is more durable and life giving than single issue-based fellowship. And, I am sure that people who we differ with on issues and biblical interpretation still have something to teach us.”

The gospel lesson for the Church today is Jesus’ mandate for us to “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:38-48

This urge to separate ourselves from those we do not like or agree with goes against the teachings of Christ found in today’s Gospel. That goes for both conservatives and progressives!

At one of the Episcopal Church's General Conventions, while getting a drink at the hotel bar (much theological discussion takes place here) I met a woman from the Diocese of Central Florida who look distressed. I asked her how her day was and she told me she was hurting due to the passage of a resolution favoring the LGBT community. I told her I was part of the LGBT community and from the Diocese of California, which is on the other end of the political spectrum from her diocese, and I let her know how sad I was to see her in so much pain. I bought her and others from her diocese cocktails and we spent the next hour in conversation and prayer about reconciliation. When I left them, they let me know that at first they wondered why I would buy them drinks and spend time with them. But now they knew it was because I loved them and was happy they remained in the Episcopal Church.

On Sunday morning, I reminded the people of St Aidan's of something I had told the Vestry eight years ago when they were interviewing me: sometimes the inclusive Church is so inclusive that it is exclusive. For the Church in the 21st Century to truly be the body of Christ, it must be made up of people from all walks of life, especially those who might disagree with us politically/spiritually but who will still work on the same mission of bringing about the Kingdom of God.

Welcoming someone with radically different views might or might not have an effect on the other person.  But I guarantee it will have an effect on us.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Come and See

All around us, people were saying, “We want to see Jesus!” John 12:21

One week after Hurricane Katrina I was walking through the downtown River Center offering pastoral care to a family who was in the shelter which housed over 5,000 of the evacuees from New Orleans. A woman, after seeing me in my clericals,  approached me and asked, “Father can you bring us communion?” My initial response was “Yes, but you probably think I am a Roman Catholic priest.” “Yes”, she said, “ but it times like this there is no time for us to worry about our theological differences! We are hungry for the Bread of Heaven!” At that point we celebrated the Eucharist right next to her sleeping cot and dozens of people lined up to receive communion.

There comes a time in all our lives when our denominational barriers fall apart when people “want to see Jesus.” When you get pushed up against life’s wall, it doesn’t much matter anymore whether you eat meat on Friday, or can recite the Apostles Creed, or worry about the theological differences around Holy Communion. When the world caves in on you it no longer matters whether you are Protestant or Catholic, Christian or Jew, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Episcopalian. There are some things in life you just can’t get around.

“We want to see Jesus!” they said. And I invite you today to come and see Jesus. Bring your struggles, wounds, doubts, and hopes with you. Come and see Jesus.

 And people are still saying it today!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Squirrels Running into my Life

Recently I almost ran over two squirrels between my home and work,a distance of only a mile.

One ran under the car and luckily my wheels did not hit the squirrel as I drove over it.

Then, in the next block by the church, another squirrel ran up to the car, turned, and went back to the side of the road. So close, but I had missed that squirrel, too.

I gave thanks for not hitting either one of them, but it shook me up a little. I went into the church feeling anxious.

That morning, during an online class on Franciscan Spirituality, Fr.Richard Rohr taught us to look at any part of creation that day –such as an animal, flower, rock, or twig – and give thanks for its uniqueness and beauty. I began to think of the two squirrels that almost perished by my driving earlier in the day. I centered my thoughts and meditated on each one of them.

Sadly, while backing up into the street to go to an appointment, I noticed a dead squirrel in the road. It was right where I almost hitthat second squirrel. A sense of sadness came over me. I wondered,“What should I do? Should I get out of the car and go over to the squirrel, and move it from the road and say a prayer? Should I leave and let the lifeless creature remain in the road and continue to be hit by other cars?”

Since I was late for an appointment, I drove off.

In my gut, I wanted to go back and give thanks to God for the life of that squirrel, but I did not.

Instead, while driving away and looking at the squirrel in my rear view mirror, I gave thanks to the Almighty for creation and forbreathing life into that small creature. I said a prayer and continuedwith my day.

Later that evening, after presiding at the Eucharist, I told a parishioner about this experience. She said, "I invite you to look up what it means to notice or experience squirrels and see what you find out."

I thought, "Why not?" and in the middle of a restless night I searched.

This is what I found:

The Squirrel Totem

Chatter, scold, creature bold,
Warning all by your call.
Discovery, change,
bring within my range.
Warnings as free, send to me.

Gathering, Activity, Preparedness

The gathering power of Squirrel is a great gift. 
It teaches us balance within the circle of gathering and giving out. 
They remind us that in our quest for our goals,
it is vital to make time for play and socializing.
Squirrel teaches us to conserve our energy for times of need. 
If your totem is Squirrel or Squirrel has recently entered your life,
lighten your load of things that are unnecessary –
things that you have gathered in the past and may be cluttering your life –
thoughts, worries, and stresses.
Squirrel is also the totem of action. 
Ask yourself are you too active, not active enough, afraid of enough,
hung up on accumulating and collecting. 
Squirrel people tend to be a little erratic – trying to do many things at once. 
Take the time to stop and listen to your inner self – and don’t forget to play!

After reading the description, I sat in awe.

I think I am a Squirrel Person.

I offer gratitude for the awareness shown to me by three, bushy-tailed rodents, a parishioner, and wise sages who have been attentive to creation.

Now it is time for me to be attentive:  to stop, run, gather, and play!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Explaining God on the Feast of the Trinity

Robert Capon says that when human beings try to describe God we are like a bunch of oysters trying to describe a ballerina. We simply do not have the equipment to understand something so utterly beyond us, but that has never stopped us from trying. 

So, I tried an experiment as I prepared for my sermon on the Feast of the Holy Trinity - I asked my friends on Facebook if they could share with me some ways they have experienced God this past week.  Perhaps the most faithful sermon on the Trinity is one that sniffs around the edges of the mystery, hunting for something closer to an experience than an understanding. I find these responses to be very powerful:

Jane: Viewing a sunset from the outer banks of NC with all my kids and grands

Michael: Finding someone's cash back at a self check out lane and turning it in to customer service.

Michael: Seeing an old man's face light up when I accepted the flowers he offered me.

Charlie: I have several friends who are going through such hard times lately. The way they keep going in the face of adversity inspires me. To me, that is God in action.

Jory: When I look back at my life's path and see how things really did work out for the better despite the twits and turns.

Charlie: A really trying event about six years ago really shook me up and affected me for a long time. I'm finally starting to realize that it might very well have been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Becky: Learning that the great grand baby of some dear friends is cancer-free!! She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2 months, has been at Johns Hopkins since then, and her bone marrow test from this week shows no evidence of disease! She is home now, thanks be to God!

Lynne: Seeing both of my sons alive and well after both of them went through life threatening events within the last year.

Mary Beth:  Knowing that God is always with me as I am now in chronic pain; and able to seeGod in others along my way in this journey. Experiencing the generous love in others, and the Grace to keep getting up each morning. Simple graces, more simple as I am blessed to age and see them that way. 

Jason: Singing hymns for two plus hours, was a vocalization of the Spirit, the mountains were definitely the work of God, and the offering being over 1000 bucks for that church that burned down, that none of us had ever been to was the body of Christ at work.

Felipe: We are in Armstrong Woods...just like being in a natural cathedral framed in ancient redwoods. They are so inspiring!

Lee: Working with a team of committed people as we prepare a CREDO conference for the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. It was inspiring to see how it all came together.

Fletcher: In the joyful faces of the young bride and groom who were just married here an hour ago; in the majestic sounds of pipe organ and bagpipes; in the humid warmth of a springtime afternoon in the South...

Darin: In simple encouraging loving words from friends.

Kristin: Laughter

Kathie: God has been guiding my husband and I through some difficult times lately and always provides for us. His grace and mercy surround us. Opening ourselves up to the beauty of His grace has made us more understanding and forgiving of each other and of other people.

Sue: occasional, soft, gentle rain up in the Trinity Alps

Marcelo: Knowing God always love you and even though you don't understand why something happens now, it will all make perfect sense in the future.

Amy: On a pastoral visit, I was the one ministered to, in a very gentle and intentional way by my parishioner.

Butch: I will be leaving the middle east soon. 

Joe:  The promise of everlasting beauty and abundance. Even this morning, when I went to tend my garden, I marveled at the return of the hops plants in their very infancy ... I had thought the plant had died and not made it through winter. Surprise, Spring comes along and the leaves poked out of the dirt. How can I not see God in that? The return of plants, flowers, the changing of the seasons, the promise of perpetuity ...

Sarah: I wrote asking the owner of the Grand Hotel if I could get a discount on a room for 4th of July with my mom and nieces. He wrote back saying he wants us to be his.guests for the whole weekend something I could never afford!

Elizabeth: I'm experiencing God right now, as I re-enter my church life by attending a wedding a week after a breakup knowing that there are people holding me in prayer.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Long Road to Damascus

Big change-a-roo for my sermon this morning- I am sharing a letter I had written to Bishop Clarence Pope, my former Rector when I was a teenager: 

“Dear Bishop Pope, We miss you so much as being our Rector but we are glad you are now a bishop (Ft Worth) in the Church. I want to share some of my concerns. Nowadays, I am almost frightened to enter into another Episcopal Church because hardly any of them are like St Luke’s Church. Many have folk masses, hardly any of the members reverence the Blessed Sacrament, too many clergy don’t wear clergy collars, and the church is just too liberal, especially ordaining women and gays. Will the church ever go back to what it was? I am criticized by many adults and people my age about my conservative beliefs.....” 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hearing a Growl During Morning Prayer

On Wednesday, while I was officiating Morning Prayer, I heard a growl during the long silence after a reading from the Book of Acts. I had no idea where the noise was coming from. I then looked to my right and saw the small head of a Teacup Chihuahua come out of the sweater of a member of the church. Bella was not a happy dog! Laughter erupted and the joy of God's creation was felt by all.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Beamer and the Start of Lent

I begin a new journey in writing on the day we celebrate the first day of Lent. It is a day of great sadness for me since my beloved animal companion Beamer seems like he is getting closer to his death. Many emotions stir inside of me since I love him so deeply. For the past thirteen years I have taken great care of him and he has taken great care of me, especially during important times in my life: When my mother and father were so sick and during and after their deaths, through Hurricane Katrina, through three important love relationships,  and through four moves - the biggest being a move to sunny California for a wonderful calling to St Aidan’s where he has been able to come to work with me everyday. 

My heart is sad but I give God thanks for allowing him to be a part of my life. The ashes I receive today on Ash Wednesday remind me that all physical life comes to an end but our love and our Spirit’s energy continues long after we are all dust. I pray for strength when the time comes for him to pass. I will always have Beamer and his brother Frankie in my heart and dreams. 

“All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” 

May this Lent and this journey be one of enlightenment, love and peace.