A sermon for 3 Pentecost 2016 ~ Wear Orange Sunday

The Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 5, 2016

Last Sunday we re-entered into the narrative world of Luke
after spending Eastertide with John,
and as we did, I mentioned
that one of Luke’s primary goals
was helping the world to understand Jesus’ identity.
In our gospel reading for last week
we saw examples of that;
when Jesus interacted with the centurion
(at least from a distance)
Luke showed him to be one
who lived out what he preached
as he welcomed the stranger,
acted in love towards his enemy
and recognized faith in unexpected places.
This week’s gospel continues to show us WHO Jesus is
– and in doing so, reveals more
about the very nature of God
and what that means
for how we’re called to live as well.
Our gospel picks up where last week’s left off;
Jesus has left Capernaum with his disciples,
having most recently
healed the centurion’s servant,
and as they enter the town of Nain
they meet a funeral procession,
where Jesus encounters a mother torn with grief
at the loss of her only son.
This woman is a widow,
which means the loss of her son
not only leaves her heart-broken,
but also places her well-being at jeopardy;
with no male relative to provide for her,
she is completely on her own in the world
without any apparent way to support herself.
Seeing her distress
Jesus is filled with compassion,
and acting on that compassion
he brings the young man back to life.
The crowd around Jesus is filled
with both amazement and fear
when they witness this;
such great power can only come
from one who is indeed a prophet,
one who is sent from God.

Most often we hear this story, like last week’s,
not only as a demonstration of Jesus’ identity
– because we tend to take that for granted –
but as a healing story,
revealing Jesus’ power over disability,
disease, and even death.
I’m not going to argue that this is wrong;
I do, however, want to suggest
that physical healing is not
the most important aspect of this passage for us.
What is crucial here is Jesus’ identification
with the widow’s plight,
not just her distress at the death of her son,
but also her fate as a widow,
one who could end up destitute
without male support.
Jesus acts to return her son to her;
in doing so, he relieves her sorrow
and he helps insure that she will be provided for,
cared for until the natural end of her days.

We hear a similar story in our reading from Hebrew scripture
about the prophet Elijah.
During a time of famine, God sent Elijah
to Zarephath to be fed by a woman there,
also a widow,
and her only son.
The woman is incredulous
– she doesn’t have enough
even to keep the two of them alive,
and now she has to feed Elijah, too?
She listens to Elijah, however,
and makes him some bread,
and somehow her provisions stretch
to feed her household and Elijah for a time.
Then her son becomes ill and dies.
Elijah is greatly distressed when he hears this.
Enough is enough is his cry to God.
Elijah goes to the child, leans over him,
and he is revived.
As with the widow of Nain,
not only is this mother’s grief relieved,
her future is ensured because her son is returned to life.

So what do these stories tell about WHO Jesus is?
What do they reveal to us about the nature of God?
Quite a bit, I think.

In these two stories we see a God
who cares deeply about humanity,
who is moved by the human plight,
and who responds with love and compassion
to human distress.
God’s response is NOT
to prevent bad things from happening,
because in the world God put in to place,
famines happen, people sicken and die;
that is the way the world works.
Famine, disease, earthquakes, floods happen
as a consequence of our biological,
physical, geological makeup;
other bad things are the result of human action.
Humans, created by God with free will,
can make bad choices,
capitulate to forces of what
we might refer to as “evil,”
things that distort us and pull us away from God.
And God does not interfere with that.

Instead we see a God
who acts not just to restore life
for the sake of restoring life,
but to address a need
that arises from brokenness in the world,
in this case the poor treatment of widows.
When we put what Jesus teaches us
– love our enemy, care for the oppressed –
together with his own response
to those who are sick,
who grieve, who are in distress,
what we find in Jesus is a call
both to respond to the hurts
and brokenness in the world
AND to work to address their root causes.
imageWhich brings me to why I am wearing this orange stole today.
Orange is NOT a liturgical color;
in fact, someone made this stole
especially for me to wear today.
I join with many Episcopal priests
and bishops in doing so.
Our wearing orange stoles this Sunday
grew out of the larger WEAR ORANGE movement,
something begun by friends of a young woman
who, days after marching
in President Obama’s second inaugural parade,
was killed in a street shooting.
Orange was her favorite color,
and her birthday was June 2
– and thus arose Thursday’s Wear Orange Day
to promote awareness of gun violence.
Because most of us don’t attend church on Thursday,
an off-the-cuff comment on Facebook
by a priest-friend of mine,
and encouragement from the group
Bishops United Against Gun Violence,
led many clergy to extend that observance
to include today.
I will confess that I am a pacifist at heart,
and I find violence of any sort distressing,
but as I mentioned in the weekly newsletter,
my life has, at least indirectly,
been touched by gun violence.
A friend of my daughter died from suicide
while still in middle-school,
an act that was made inevitably successful
because of the presence of a gun in the house.
And two and half years ago,
when the horrible mass shooting took place in Newtown,
members of my congregation were personally affected,
as were people here in Katonah.

At that time, I found these words from the prophet Jeremiah meaningful,

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
 Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they are no more.’
  (31:15)

The sad truth is, today, almost three years later,
we are still weeping for our children,
weeping for toddlers, young men and women,
people of all ages who die daily,
DAILY,
from acts of gun violence.
And my friends, God is weeping with us.
God remains with us in our grief, our anger,
our sorrow over ALL these needless deaths,
all the trauma afflicted on individual, families,
and communities
in their aftermath.

And God is waiting for us to respond,
just as Jesus responded to the widows of Nain,
just as Elijah responded to the widow of Zarephath,
not just to comfort those who mourn
but to change the conditions that caused the mourning.
We cannot merely pray for the dead,
pray for those who mourn,
pray for a better world,
and then wait for God to do all the work.
We need not, we cannot,
sit by passively in our sorrow.
Instead we must let that sorrow motivate us,
and we must count on God to empower us
as we tackle the evil that lets violence persist.

As Martin Luther King wrote in 1963
after the killing of four innocent young girls
in a church bombing,

“We must be concerned not merely
about who murdered them,
but about the system, the way of life,
the philosophy which produced the murderers.”

imageWe, too, must be concerned about the system,
way of life, and philosophy
that allows gun violence to continue.
We might start by admitting
that we live in a culture that glorifies violence
– and if you think I overstate this,
just look at the most popular movies, TV shows,
and video games on the market –
and by acknowledging the influence
that violence has on our psyches,
whether conscious or unconscious.
And then we must begin to confront those things
that support this culture of violence,
even, especially, the ones that may be painful
or contentious to talk about.
We must openly and honestly address
how we might work for sensible gun laws,
laws that are enforced fairly
and that serve to protect us
from the rampant gun violence
that permeates our society.
We must act bravely and firmly
to challenge the status quo,
we must not let ourselves be silenced
by those who say
we cannot or should not change.

As the first century rabbi Hillel said,
“If not us, who? If not now, when?”

Amen.

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Rooms to spare

The Fifth Sunday of EasterJohn 14 sermon
May 18, 2014
John 14:1-10

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O God, my strength and my redeemer.

 

In my father’s house there are many rooms…

 

I’ve always loved the idea of big houses;
not fancy mansions,
just comfortable old houses,
with quirky layouts and lots of rooms
–    think the Walton’s’ farmhouse.

This might have come from the fact that
for most of my childhood
I shared a room with my sister,
and longed for a space of my own,

and it might have come from
my overly romanticized view of the world,
a view fed by lots and lots of fiction.

At any rate, my fantasy world was filled
with big old Victorian houses
with creepy attics,
and Revolutionary War era farm houses
with hidden passage ways,
and the occasional Camelot-like castle
with turrets and fireplaces big enough to stand in,
and four-poster beds hung with heavy drapes.

As an adult, I’ve learned that big houses
are both a blessing and a curse;
there is room to spread out, to be sure
but there are floors to mop
and bathrooms to scrub,
and windows to wash.
Big houses are a lot of work!

Nonetheless for many,
a house with many rooms
–    or at least large room-like spaces
if you are a fan of the
“open floor plan” concept –
is part of the American dream.

No matter what our preference for house size,
the idea that in God’s house
there are many dwelling places,
where we will perhaps all have a room of our own,
is enormously appealing to us.

These are words of comfort to many people,
and no doubt contributes
to the popularity of this passage
as a funeral gospel.

The notion of a dwelling place on high
waiting to welcome those dear to us
who have departed this life,
waiting to welcome us, is comforting.
The idea that Jesus is preparing a place for us,
some grand hotel in heaven
with room service
and all the luxuries we could imagine,
well, it’s beyond reassuring.

The truth is, however, that that kind of vision
fits better with Paul’s writings
than it does with John’s
where it is actually found.

It’s Paul who holds out for us
the great eschatological image
of a heavenly life bye and bye.

For John, we are welcomed into that life NOW.
It is realized NOW.
It is present and ongoing.
And that is what he is trying
to convey to his disciples.

This familiar passage comes from a part of John’s gospel
known as “the Farewell Discourse,”
a long talk Jesus had with his disciples
in the time between the last supper
and his arrest later that night.

It might seem odd that now, after the fact,
we are concentrating on Jesus’ going–away words.
In fact, this speech to his followers
was Jesus’ attempt to give them
a foretaste of what was to come,
and a better grasp of what they already had,
so that they could understand
the tumultuous events
that were about to unfold.

In that light, we might use these words
as we continue to process what
Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension
meant and continue to mean for US.

In John’s gospel the one over-riding theme
woven through the narrative
is the importance of Jesus’ incarnation;
the fact that God,
out of love for the people God created,
took on human flesh
so that they could more fully
experience that love,
incorporate into their own lives,
and share it with others.

The flip side of that incarnation is, of course, death;
all living things ultimately must die.
Jesus’ incarnation,
his life, death, and resurrection, however,
give that ultimate destiny new meaning,
because love, God’s love, trumps even death,
God’s love transcends the death we often fear.

The other key piece of John’s theology
is the notion of what scholars call
a “realized eschatology,
a fancy way of saying that we don’t have to wait
until the end times to experience
the fullness of God’s love,
the power of God’s realm
It’s available for us here; it’s present for us NOW.
And that is the ammunition
that Jesus is providing for his disciples
in the farewell discourse:
a glimpse into life after the resurrection,
and even beyond that, after the ascension,
for in John’s gospel it is an ascended life
to which we are all headed,
and a recognition that in that ascended life
we share in the intimate bond
shared by Jesus and God.

Where Jesus is,
where God is,
we are also there.

And so Jesus proclaims,
“In my father’s house there are many rooms,”
(or mansions, or dwelling places, or rooms to spare,
depending on which translation you prefer.)
“I am going to prepare a place there for you.”

It should come as no surprise
that Jesus’ disciples don’t get.

Literalists to the end, they wonder where it is
that Jesus is going, and how they will ever find him.
And then Jesus makes iteven more complicated by saying,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you will know my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

The disciples struggle mightily with this.

“Just show us!” Phillip exclaims,
and Jesus patiently
(or maybe not so patiently) answers him.

“Don’t you get it yet, Phillip?
If you know me,
and you DO know me,
you know the Father.

From now on you do know him
and you have seen him
because you have seem me.”

For faithful Jews,
all of whom know that NO ON
…not even Moses…
has seen the Father,
seen God face to face,
this would’ve been hard to digest.

But in fact, that is Jesus‘ message:
he has come so that they might
see God face to face,

know God in a new way,
and knowing God in that way,
be reinvigorated to do God’s work in the world,
resting in the full knowledge
of the heavenly kingdom
that Jesus was preparing for them,
and that they were already inhabiting.

It was a promise of hope,
full of God’s love and grace.

We, like Phillip and Thomas and the rest,
still struggle with this theology.
The whole idea of knowing God
by knowing Jesus is not so foreign to us.

We are, after all, thoroughly immersed
in the doctrine of the Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier,
One in three, three in one,
a concept hinted at
but not fleshed out in the gospels.

But like Phillip and Thomas we want a roadmap.
We want clear directions, a GPS,
something concrete to let us know
that we are headed the right way,
that we do, in fact, know God.

Jesus’ message is clear, if we have ears to hear.
Throughout John’s gospel Jesus reminds us
that God is with us through Jesus,
using vivid imagery to make it real:

I am the good shepherd;

I am the true vine;

I am the light of the world;

I am the bread of life;

and now, I am the way.

Jesus reassures us that God abides with us now
and will continue to abide with us always,
and Jesus reminds us that in God’s realm,
there is room for all of us.

We who know Jesus already know God,
we already have a place with God,
enfolded in God’s love.

And in God’s house there are rooms to spare (CEB).
Rooms to spare. Imagine!
Room for all, no matter how we get there,
what path we take to God,
there is room to spare.

In this multicultural world we inhabit,
this may be the most important part of this passage.

If we can grasp this, truly live into it,
it is enormously freeing.

It frees us from worrying, arguing, debating, legislating, and otherwise trying to determine who is in and who is out.

It frees us to truly love our neighbor,
whoever and wherever that neighbor is found.

It frees us to concentrate
on living the life God calls us to live,
on embodying the values
Jesus taught and modeled,
and on doing the work the Holy Spirit
empowers us to take on.

It allows us to do so whole heartedly,
resting in the assurance of God’s love for us
and for all of humanity.

That is the good news of the resurrection, then and now.

Amen.

 

Acts and us

ImageThe Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 11, 2014
Acts 2:42-47

One of the hardest things for us to get our heads around,
as 21st century Christians,
is that the church hasn’t always been
the way we know it to be.
It’s all too easy for us to forget
that the church, in fact, didn’t emerge full grown
as soon as Jesus rose from the dead
–far from it.
After Jesus’ resurrection, after his ascension,
Jesus’ followers were left
with as many questions as answers,
and it took years, centuries,
for the church we know to develop.

In the season of Eastertide,
the time between Easter Sunday and the feast of Pentecost 50 days later,
our lectionary readings focus on what it was like
in the days following the resurrection
for the disciples and the others who flocked to hear Jesus during his ministry
as this process of making sense, and making community, began.
Our gospel readings have told the story
from the perspective of the disciples
who encountered the risen Jesus
in the upper room, on the beach,
and on the road to Emmaus.
Meanwhile, our readings from the Acts of the Apostles
have chronicled what life was like for the community of believers
who gathered in Jerusalem,
trying to figure out how to proceed
in the absence of the one on whom
they had pinned their greatest hopes.
We’ve heard how they gathered,
how they received the Holy Spirit,
and how so many were moved by Peter’s preaching
that 3000 were baptized right away.
And we’ve heard how they asked questions
and pondered what they had seen and heard
and supported one another day by day.

Can you imagine, even for a bit,
how hard it must have been for them?
I mean, we struggle today
with “how to be the church in the 21st century”
and we have 2000 years of history and tradition,
written scripture, a prayer book,
and volumes of theological treatises to guide us.
The earliest believers, the ones referred to as “people of the Way,”
had to make it up as they went along.

The Acts of the Apostles is the closest thing we have
to a history of the earliest church,
and it is on our reading from Acts this morning
that I want to focus.
The principles laid out in today’s reading from Acts,
the ways the earliest Christian, the people of the Way,
came together as community,
have much to teach us
as we go about shaping our own lives
as people of faith,
as we struggle to be authentic
and vital congregations.

Their tasks, in fact, were not so different
from those that we face us today.
Although we have a rich body of history and tradition to fall back on,
we are still called to figure out what it means
for us personally and as a community.
What’s more we live in a time
in which being Christian is often taken for granted,
even as the influence of Christianity is on the wane.
And while we claim to center our lives on so-called Christian values,
we privilege some values as being more important
– obeying the 10 commandments, for example –
even as we neglect to step back and look at the big picture;
we fail to realize that living as faithful Christians
in a complex and changing world
requires us to be mindful of all that we do;
we focus on our individual salvation
even as we fail to place our community in the center of our lives.

So what exactly does Acts tell us this morning about life in community?

Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, prayer,
sharing resources to care for the needs of all;
as we all know, however,
the simplest things can also be the most challenging.

In the earliest days,
teaching likely meant passing on the words and traditions of Jesus,
keeping them fresh in the minds of the faithful
and introducing them to newcomers to the faith.
Our task is both easier and more difficult;
It’s easier because we have a huge body of accumulated knowledge to draw from;
We have the gospels, the letters of Paul and others,
the writings of the Church Fathers and Mothers,
of theologians both ancient and contemporary.
We have a wealth of riches to feast upon.
And it’s more difficult because in a world
in which Christianity was long the dominant religious and cultural influence
we often assume we know more than we actually do.
And some – perhaps much –
of what we and the larger world assumes
is misinformed, incomplete, or just plain wrong.
For example – the notion that God helps those that help themselves?
Not scriptural at all.
Likewise the idea that all good things come to those who wait,
or that cleanliness is next to Godliness,
or that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle
– none of these is based in the teachings of Jesus
or anything else in scripture.
Then there are the misunderstanding that arise
in how scripture is read and understood,
and for many of us, the problems that abound
in how Christianity is portrayed in the press.
If we are going to stand firm in our faith,
and live our faith honestly and authentically,
we must immerse ourselves in scripture,
we must read and study and reflect
individually and with one another on what it contains,
and we must think critically
about how it informs us in our daily lives.
Hopefully we get that in sermons, but we can’t stop there.

Fellowship—we think we are good at this
but fellowship extends far beyond coffee hour.
True fellowship demands that we extend genuine hospitality
and welcome to each individual
who crosses our threshold, for any reason,
whether it’s to join us for worship, to seek prayer,
to get food from the food bank,
or to attend AA or a scout meeting.
True fellowship demands
that we treat one another as individuals worthy of respect,
that we address conflict with one another directly,
that we refrain from destructive behaviors.
True fellowship requires us
to love our neighbors as ourselves
in word and deed.

Prayer – that seems self-explanatory, but perhaps it isn’t.
We are called to steep our lives in prayer;
To immerse ourselves in God’s presence,
not just in this building,
not just in worship
not just on Sunday morning
but everywhere and all the time.
Prayer is what keeps us mindful of God.
Prayer is what maintains our connection to God.
Prayer is what binds us together
in a web of love and concern for humanity and for the world.
Prayer is where we express our gratitude to God
for all that we have,
and give to God the honor and glory that is God’s due.

Sharing resources to care for the needs of all.
This may be the toughest part of this passage
because the notion of selling our possessions
and pooling our resources is so foreign
to our understanding of how the world works.
Scholars and theologians through the years
have gone to great lengths to point out
that if the Acts community actually followed this practice,
it was short-lived.
Nonetheless, I believe this principle still applies,
even if we live it out differently.

Jesus reminds us over and over
that our one of our primary tasks is caring for others.
Loving our neighbor is the second great commandment;
feeding and clothing the stranger is like feeding and clothing Jesus;
caring for the least amongst us,
serving others with humility,
placing ourselves at the bottom of the ladder
instead of the top are all behaviors Jesus preached and modeled.
And, I would argue, that all the rest that we do
– the teaching, the praying, the fellowship –
are nigh unto meaningless
if caring for others is not at the heart of it all.

Perhaps we are not called to sell everything and pool our resources;
It bears remembering that the Acts community
thought that Jesus’ second coming was imminent
and so felt no need to prepare for the future,
a very different understanding of the world than ours.
Even so, we are called to recognize
the abundance that we share,
And we are called to live generously with that abundance.
This applies of course to our practice of stewardship,
but it applies even more to how we construct our lives,
as individuals and as a community of faith, a church.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
Jesus said in his sermon on the mount,
but rather store up treasures in heaven.

And finally, the breaking of bread.
It’s not clear in Acts whether this applies to shared meals or to the Eucharist
but it is likely that it referred to both.
In fact, the act of breaking bread and sharing it
as Jesus had done
often occurred in the context of a meal.
What is clear is how central this act became in the life of the community over time,
and how central it is to our lives
as people of faith
and living in community.
In this sacramental act,
this remembering of Jesus
offering himself for us
we are bound together
and we become more completely
the people we were created to be,
the image and likeness of God.
In this sacramental act,
in the receiving of the bread and wine,
the body and blood of Christ
we are nourished, restored,
strengthened for all that we are called to do,
all that we are called to be.

In just a few minutes we will come to this table to receive the bread and wine.
As we do so, may we be strengthened by Christ’s presence,
and may we go back into the world,
to live lives of faith,
inspired by the people of the Way,
and the great communion of saints who have followed.

Amen

 

 

 

I’m not giving up chocolate for Lent

The First Sunday in Lent Image
March 9, 2014
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Create in us new hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. AMEN.

This week we begin the somber season of Lent.

As I noted on Ash Wednesday
Lent provides us the opportunity
to prepare ourselves
for both the shock and the joy
of Holy Week and Easter

–       I didn’t use those exact words,
but that’s the gist of what we are about here.
And I noted that we cannot really appreciate
being happy, being joyful
unless we have also experienced
sadness, loss and grief.

During Lent, we tend to focus on our brokenness,
our falling short, our sins, if you will,
although I think that ‘sin’
is another one of those words that has lost its meaning,
so that we can truly, deeply experience
not only the sheer joy of Jesus’ resurrection,
but what that means for us
as humans created
in the image and likeness of God.

Traditionally Christians have used the season of Lent
to take on a “discipline.”
Most of us, when we hear that word “discipline”
think of being punished.

In fact, the root of the word
is the same as that of the word “disciple,”
which connotes “one who learns.”
Hence a discipline is something
that helps us learn.

From the earliest years of the church,
fasting was one of the most commonLenten disciplines.
Fasting has biblical precedents in both Hebrew scripture and the NT.
Limiting one’s intake of food,
living with one’s bodily hunger and thirst,
it is thought,opens one up to a real hunger forand openness to God’s presence.

Fasting is hard.
I’m not good at it.
Being hungry makes me feel ill;
it makes me cranky and short tempered,
not a nice person to be around.
And since it is my job to be around people
and NOT to be cranky,
but rather to be an “non-anxious presence”
in the face of all sorts of situations,
I choose not to fast.
That may be the weakest of rationalizations,
and perhaps I need to tackle it,
but there it is.

I have done what scores of others have done in the name of fasting:
I’ve given up chocolate, diet coke, desserts, coffee,
any of a long list of things that bring me daily pleasure.
This practice goes back to my childhood;
even then we were encouraged to “give something up” for Lent.
Back then I usually gave up ice cream, but one memorable year,
I tried to give up carrots,
a vegetable I thoroughly detested,
proving that I totally missed the point.

Perhaps many of you have similar experiences.

I would like to say that I have become a better person for doing this,
that depriving myself of chocolate or diet coke for six weeks brought me closer to God
or helped me to be more disciplined in my prayer life,
but that would not be true.

In my best years I have proved to myself
that I can actually live without those things,
and in my worst years
I have just given in to my weak will
and admitted defeat.

So for the most part,
I don’t give things up for Lent any more.
Nor do I necessarily suggest that others do so.
Hear me clearly:
there may be compelling reasons to give up a practice or a foodstuff or a thing for Lent,
and it may be useful in opening up a space for God,
but for most of us, giving up chocolate for Lent
is not going to make a meaningful difference in our lives.

What I have learned,
the wisdom I’ve gained slowly and painfully
over the last few years,
is that the discipline that most of us most desperately need
is the discipline that frees us to become more fully and completely
the people God created us and calls us to be.

If those words sound familiar, it’s because I’ve used them
from this pulpit repeatedly in the last year or so.
And let me say them again.
We need to claim our identity as ones created by God in God’s image and likeness,
and we need to embrace whatever practice that help us to do this  more fully, joyfully and completely.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago after I preached on this very theme
–on being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect
that one could fairly ask why I harp on this and don’t ever talk about our sinful nature.
And since this is Lent, and our sinful nature is very much brought to mind
– indeed our readings this week reflect on our sinful nature –
I want to answer that.

It has to do with the meaning of SIN.
I said earlier that I believe that sin is another of those words that has lost its meaning.
We tend to think of sin, when we think of it at all,
as doing something bad, something evil, something that God wouldn’t want us to do,
and that is fine, as far as it goes.

Sin, however, is more that breaking a rule or violating a commandment;
sin is something corrosive, something that eats away at our souls,
something that turns us away from God.

In one of my favorite novels, Gail Godwin’s Father Melancholy’s Daughter,
an Episcopal priest defines sin as “a falling short of your totality, choosing to live in ways
that you know separate you from the harmony of that totality.”[1] (p. 198)

In other words, sin is whatever behaviors, thoughts, habits we engage in
that stand in the way of us living into our fullness as creatures made in the image and likeness of God.

When we repent
– and remember that to repent is not just to say “I’m sorry,” it’s to turn BACK TO GOD –
we are forsaking all those things that are stumbling blocks for us
and embracing those things which indeed lead us closer to God
and to our potential as God’s beloved children.

That theme is present in our reading from the book of Genesis today.
Most often we hear this reading as a story of our brokenness,
of our “original sin” and our falling from grace.
More recently, however, commentators have notedthat Genesis actually illustrates
the complex and paradoxical nature of the human condition, in which we can see humanity’s
“failure to develop into the fullness of being human[2],”  its “fearful avoidance of human potential[3].”

Which brings us back to Lenten disciplines.

Most simply put, we take on Lenten disciplines
– practices that help us learn something –
as a way of turning our selves back to God.
And we turn ourselves back to God
so that in seeing God we can see ourselves,
our best selves, reflected
and we can strive to live in those ways
that bring us into closer congruence
to that God in whose image we are created.

Giving up chocolate or whiskey or TV might do that,
might if these practices are undertaken
in order for us  to free ourselves
from something that stands
between us and God.

But if we give them up just to deprive ourselves,
just to give something up,
then we are kidding ourselves,
engaging in the most insidious self-deception.

So what are the things that separate us from God?

Often they are not material things
but rather attitudes, habits, behaviors,
things we do mindlessly and things we do intentionally
that undermine our best intentions.

We might spend some time reflecting
on which thought patterns or habitual behaviors
are most corrosive in our lives,
and then on how
we might disengage from such habits,
and refocus ourselves towards God.

This is not easy stuff.

It is much simpler to eschew chocolate or coffee than to admit to ourselves
that we are judgmental, or that we like to gossip,
that we tend to think the worst of everyone and everything,
or that we care more about ourselves
and our own comfort than we really care about anyone else,
most especially the homeless guy on the corner
or the client coming back to the food bank for the umpteenth time.

It’s much easier to say that we won’t eat meat on Fridays
than it is to change even ONE of those behaviors.
But doing most likely is not going to prepare us for Holy Week,
except in the shallowest of ways,
nor is it going to help us live more fully
into our potential as beings created in the image and likeness of God.

So what SHOULD we be doing instead?
There are many, many practices out there that can help us re-engage with God.
All of them begin with the kind of self-reflection I’ve mentioned,
naming those flawed behaviors we identify, and working to eliminate or replace them.

But they don’t stop there.
Ultimately whatever discipline we take on must have as its goal
reorienting us towards God,
kindling in us the desire be more Christ-like,
awakening in us a new awareness
of our own potential
and that of the those around us.

If you are on FBor otherwise on the internet you’ve probably seen suggestions.
and in our next weekly e-blast I’ll have some suggestions, too.

The bottom line, though, I think is this:
We are created in God’s image and likeness,
and we are called to live fully into that potential.

Our focus, then, is to look to God, look to Jesus
for what it means to live as God’s beloved children
and then to model our lives accordingly
one step at a time,
one day at a time,
into eternity.

AMEN.


[1] Gail Godwin Father Melancholy’s Daughter, 1991, Harper.

[2] Mark Biddle Missing the Mark, cited in workingpreacher.com http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1978

[3] Juliana Claassen  http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1978

Salt and light ~

salt light tagulThe Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 9, 2014
Matthew 5:13-21

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

 On a hot and steamy August afternoon in 2003
the unthinkable happened.
The lights went out in New York City.
I happened to be walking across Ninth Avenue,
on my way to Rite Aid,
when the traffic lights went out.
You can imagine the immediate effect
that had on the city streets!

As the minutes ticked by,
people streamed outside onto the sidewalks,
gathering to share what little information
there was to be had,
to alarm and reassure one another in turn.

I was in seminary at the time,
and the seminary community gathered on the Close
as the afternoon waned.
We quickly decided to have a community cookout,
sharing the food that would quickly spoil
in our powerless refrigerators.
The children played, the adults conversed;
aside from our unease
in not knowing what was going on,
it didn’t feel too different
from most other summer nights on the Close.

And then the sun went down.

Now I will admit that
I have always had
an uneasy relationship with darkness.
I like nightlights and street lights
and I’ve been known to sleep
with lights on in certain parts of the house.
Darkness fills me with both
a sense of wonder
and a bit of fear.

I thought I had experienced total darkness before,
but let me tell you,
there is nothing like the darkness
of a city without power,
a city known for its bright lights,
a city that reputedly never sleeps.
That hot August night  it was DARK.

Of course flashlights came out
and candles – lots and lots of candles –were lit.
We managed to get home;
for me that meant across the street
and up four long flights of steps in a sweltering
and pitch black stairwell,
into an equally dark apartment.

It was disorienting.
It was disquieting.
It was strange.
It was fearful.

As it turns out, our little neighborhood,
Chelsea if you know the city,
was the very last part of Manhattan
to get its power back.
So the next night we were again
gathered on the Close,
sharing the last bits of our still edible food,
in the pitch black.
We knew that many areas of the city
had power restored,
but we couldn’t see it.

And then, there was light!
First only in distant skyscrapers.
But LIGHT nonetheless.
And when about 11 pm
our little corner of the city lit up,
a cheer went up.
We could see.

There was LIGHT!
Thanks be to God!

The power outage inconvenienced us
in more ways than lack of light, of course.
We lost our refrigerators,
our way of preserving food.Elevators didn’t work;
not too much of a hardship if you live on a low floor,
but a big deal if you had to climb 20 flights or more.
Traffic was unregulated,
we couldn’t charge our cell phones,
the subways couldn’t run,
it was wicked hot  and we had neither fans nor ac.

But with all that,
the most profound difference came at night
when there was no light.

In today’s gospel, Jesus proclaims to his audience,
“You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.”
YOU!
Yes YOU!
YOU are the light of the world.”

In this season of Epiphany,
light has been a predominant theme
in our preaching, in our gospels,
in our prayers, in our singing.

But it’s always been JESUS who is the light,
Jesus, son of God, bringing light into the world.
Now Jesus has turned the tables on us.

YOU are the light of the world;
not me – YOU!

~~PAUSE~~

Salt and light
two basic elements,
two things we take for granted,
two things we miss most in their absence.

Think about it…
Salt is one of those things
that we don’t consume by itself;
rather it is something
that enhances the taste of other things.
French fries and popcorn
are not the same without salt, right?

And even in foods where
the taste of salt does not stand out,
we include it because
it makes other seasoning brighter, more distinct.

And likewise, we notice light the most
when it is in short supply,
when the power goes out,
when things are too dim,
when we can’t see clearly,
it’s then that light becomes a precious commodity.

Jesus makes this proclamation
at the very beginning of his ministry,
as he is just beginning to teach his followers
about he meaning of discipleship.
Jesus says to his disciples,
“You ARE the salt…you ARE the light…”
Not you should be,
not you will be,
but you ARE, already,
right now.

I imagine that the disciples were as puzzled and unsettled by that thought as we might be.

So let’s cut to the chase.

For the last 50 years at least,
the church has been shrinking.
Yes, for that long.
We didn’t notice it as much at first.
It’s in the last 5 to 10 years or so
that the decline has been sharp enough
that we can no longer miss it.

There are fewer people in our pews.
There are fewer people on our roles.
There are fewer people who claim
their identity as Christians.
And because we are so wedded to numbers
that disturbs us.

In fact, in some ways that makes us
more like the world
that Jesus and his followers lived and move in,
more like the early church
in the first couple of hundred years
after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

From the beginning Jesus’ followers
were an odd mix of ordinary people,
fishermen, tax collectors, housewives, widows,
eventually some former Pharisees,
and even some who were Gentiles.
They lived and moved in a world
dominated by Rome,
whose emperor had the status of a god,
and whose rule was ironclad.

They were small in number.
There was no organized church,
there were no formal structures,
no special buildings,
no membership roles,
but none of that mattered.

What mattered was the actual ministry
that happened as those
who understand the gospel message
tried to live that message out
in their own communities
and in the midst of others
who did not share their faith.

What mattered was the way
that their witness acted
as salt and light in the world around them.

Jesus tells us that
we are already the salt of the earth,
already the light of the world.
So what if we worried less
about the strength of our numbers
and more about our witness to the world,
the ways our ministries might
enhance the lives of those around us,
the ways our witness,
witness by word and example,
might bring light into dark corners
of our community, our country, our world?

Have we, here at Trinity, and in the larger church,
let ourselves be so consumed
with committees and structures
and budgets and buildings and numbers
that we have lost our saltiness?
Do we let our worldly concerns conceal our light?

Perhaps it is time to be less concerned
with success by worldly standards
and more concerned with God’s standards.

Jesus said , ‘… let your light shine before others,
 so that they may see your good works
 and give glory to your Father in heaven.” 

Give glory to your Father in heaven.

That is why we are here,
that is why we do what we do, isn’t it?

Now I’m sure that
many of you are thinking,
what is she crazy?
Of course we have to think about numbers
and money and the building.
And that is true.
The point is that those things
cannot dominate what we do.
Maintaining our numbers
and our building
just for the sake of doing so,
or even just because “we’ve always been here”
(well always for the last 200 years)
is missing the mark.

We do those things to give glory to God,
to spread the good news of Christ,
alive and moving in the world
– through us and our ministry.

And if we do that well,
all the rest will fall into place.
We’ll grow – or we won’t.
We’ll maintain our building
or we’ll find another way
to be church in the world
but how we do it won’t be the point.

Being salt and light in the world will be the point.
If we have people in the pews
and a beautiful building
and we fail to preach and live the gospel,
we fail to be the people God created us
and calls us to be;
if we call ourselves Christians
but fail to live as Christ calls us to live,
if we exist only to perpetuate our own future,
then we have indeed lost our saltiness
and we will be trampled.
We have indeed hidden our light
so that it cannot be seen.

We are ALREADY the salt of the earth.
We are ALREADY the light of the world.
How can we share that more fully?
How can we live it more completely?

We have so many blessings here at Trinity.
We have a congregation with a rich past and deep roots
and we work to welcome newcomers into our midst.
We have financial resources to rely on in spare times.

In the coming months our challenge is,
I believe, to broaden our focus,
to learn to look beyond just maintaining ourselves
and to develop a vision
of what we believe God is calling us to,
in Seymour, in Connecticut,
in the world, in the 21st century.

That is the challenge I will be presenting
to our vestry, our congregational leaders.
It is not just the responsibility of the vestry, however, to do this work;
it is a task for all of us.

My prayer for this parish, Trinity Episcopal Church,
is that we may truly be the salt of the earth,
that we may truly shine as the light of the world,
that we may truly become the people
God calls us to be.

AMEN

 

I remember

It was  chilly grey day, that November Friday, much like today is.

I was in fifth grade. Fifth grade was a really good year for me. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Stepp, who seemed to be able to make every subject interesting and challenging. My new best friend Ashley was in my class. We’d just moved to this new city in June, but my family seemed settled in and life was good.

20cf1aa0d977ac5927fa99c18d978610Ashley’s birthday party was scheduled for that night, and we were excited. After lunch all the fifth graders gathered in the large room at the end of the hallway to begin rehearsing Christmas carols. We’d be singing them at a local nursing home the week before Christmas. Yes, we could still do that then.

We’d begun singing with some enthusiasm when one of the sixth grade teachers peeked in and beckoned to Mrs. Stepp,who went into the hall. When she returned a moment later we knew immediately that something was wrong, very wrong. After a quick whispered consultation with the other fifth grade teacher she turned to us and said, “The President has been shot.”  And with that, our world changed forever.

Our teachers quickly ushered us back to our classrooms. In those days we didn’t have TVs in every room, but Mrs. Stepp may have turned on the radio. We knew the President had died, however, when the principal, Mrs. Jefferson, announced it over the loud speaker. And there was stunned silence.

I walked home from school that day, and found my mother in the den, sitting in front of the TV watching Walter Cronkite who was just ff22JFK-death-CBSas stunned as the rest of us. Momma had been in the grocery store when she’d first heard that JFK had been shot, and she rushed home to get confirmation. In those days before CNN and FoxNews, live non-stop coverage of events was a rarity, but that is what we got. It was surreal–the TV announcers seemed at a loss for words, details were much slower to emerge than we’re used to now, and there was no immediate video footage to show over and over and over again. That would come later.

Soon it was time to go to Ashley’s party. We went to the movies, although I have no idea what we saw. What I do remember was the somberness and sadness that hung over everything like a pall–even a kid’s party. We went back to Ashley’s house to have pizza–my first pizza ever (and it was Chef-boy-ar-dee from a box, if you can imagine, with ground beef–hey, it was the 60s!) Our parents huddled together talking quietly as they came to pick us up. By that time Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested, but there were still more questions than answers.

JFK4_606I remember nothing about the next day except that nothing felt normal. On Sunday we got up and went to church as usual. After church Daddy went into the den and flipped on the TV while Momma started lunch.  Turned on the TV to more shocking news: Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot while in police custody. Unreal.

School was cancelled the day of JFK’s funeral. I will never forget the riderless horse, the caisson holding the casket, the sad widow with two small children bravely processing down Pennsylvania Avenue. This was my first real introduction to death. And it still felt surreal. Although our TV was black and white, my memory is a montage with images in color mixed with those in shades of grey. I’m sure that’s because for weeks afterwards I poured over the Life and Look and Saturday Evening Post  magazines  that filled our mailbox. president-kennedy-funeral_13292_600x450

When we went back to school, the sixth graders put up a bulletin board memorial–a picture of JFK, and the words of his inaugural address that have been burned into our memories, “Ask not what our country can do for you, ask what you can do for our country.”

When I look back now, I am keenly aware that the President’s assassination was but the beginning of a string of cataclysmic events that would come to define my generation: MLK’s killing, then Bobby Kennedy’s, the Kent State shootings, riots all over the place, Viet Nam, Watergate. I was but a child when JFK was elected but the hope and optimism of  “Camelot” was palpable even to me. All the dreams  that marked the beginning of JFK’s presidency ended with the sharp retort of gunfire, and with it ended our  innocence.

Was that hope, that optimism warranted? We know so much more about JFK and the realities of his life and presidency know, we know things that certainly tarnish the memories that I grew up with. Nonetheless I wonder what we really lost that day, what might have been. And it still makes me sad.

NaBloPoMo NoMo

Didn’t make it. Pathetic, really, to last only 9 days. I’ve had lots on my mind, but it never makes it any farther. 

When I was much younger and wondered what it might be like to be a writer, what I couldn’t conceive of was planning ahead what you might say. What I realize now, after almost 10 years of sermonating and sometime blogging, is that the real issue for me at least is the discipline of finding a regular time to write and sticking to it. There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get to everything and still have some “down time”–which I seem to need these days more than ever. 

Sermon for 25 Pentecost

Our readings this morning job-surrender
are filled with hope.
I like that.
Hope is something that often feels
like it is in short supply these days.
It seems so much easier somehow
to focus on the negative,
to fixate on what’s wrong with the world,
to lament how things are so much worse
than they were back in the ‘good old days’
  –although when those ‘good old days’
actually took place depends on who you ask.
Today’s readings remind us that
no matter how bad things might be,
there is still reason to hope,
and they remind us that
sometimes we worry about things
that in the long run just won’t matter.
In our reading from Hebrew scripture
we hear powerful words of hope
from non other than Job.
You might remember Job,
sitting on an ash heap,
wailing and crying out to God,
lamenting his great loses.
The book of Job reminds us that he was
an upstanding, righteous man
who remained faithful to God,
and yet Job lost everything
—his family, his life’s work,
all gone for no explicable reason.
Job loudly laments this state of affairs,
crying out to God, proclaiming his innocence,
only to have three of his friends tell him in turn
that it must be his fault,
that he must’ve done something wrong,
that he must deserve his bad fortune,
because such bad luck can be nothing
but punishment from God.
Job, however, rejects the counsel of his friends
and continues to maintain his innocence,
and to rail against God
—a God who seems to him
to be indifferent to his suffering.
It is in the midst of these laments that we hear Job’s cry:
O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
(Job 19: 23-25)
For I know that my Redeemer lives.
These words resonate deeply with us,
for they are words that testify
to a deep hope,
a great faith residing deep within Job
even in his suffering.
In the depths of despond
  and suffering that is unrelenting,
his friends offer no solace
and his God seems to be indifferent to his plight.
Yet Job still hopes,
still believes that at some point,
some how, he will be redeemed.
The word that we most often
hear used to describe Job is patient.
But in fact, I’m not sure patience
is the best word for this situation.
What carried Job through this crisis
was not patience
so much as it was steadfastness
—steadfastness in his faith
steadfastness in his hope for
something better yet to be.
Job continues with his lament,
and finally God speaks to Job from a whirlwind
—but not to apologize,
not to console, not to explain,
not to give the answers Job has longed for,
but rather to proclaim again
God’s power and majesty.
Even without answers, though,
this meeting with God is transformative for Job
who ultimately proclaim his hope, saying:
I know that You can do everything,
That nothing you propose is impossible for You.
 (Job 42:2, Tanakh translation)
Job’s witness, his certainty
that at the end he would be redeemed
gives voice for us to a hope
that is a light shining into a future
we cannot always see or even imagine..
~~~~~~~
I know that my Redeemer lives.
That phrase takes on new resonance
for us as Christians
because we trust that
Jesus Christ our Redeemer does live.
It is through Jesus that we find
a new life and a new hope
—a hope we hear echoed in today’s gospel
(Luke 20:27-38).
where we find Jesus in conversation
with some Sadducees
(another group of Jewish religious leaders)
who set Jesus up by asking him
about the resurrection
—and it is a set up, because the Sadducees
don’t believe in the resurrection.
Jesus not only gives them a straight answer
—in the resurrection such earthly matters
as which husband gets the wife
just don’t matter
(like so many other issues
we get hung up on) —
he also and perhaps more importantly reaffirms
that resurrection is a real hope,
a notion that he grounds in Hebrew scripture.
In his affirmation of the resurrection,
Jesus holds out for us an eschatological hope
—hope for the end times when
we too will be living with God.
That is good news for us, but it doesn’t stop there.
We are not living just to get to the end times,
    not merely biding our time.
Instead we are living in a time
that theologians like to call
 “realized eschatology”
        —an “already-not yet” world.
      The kingdom of God is already here
        and the kingdom of God is not yet fully realized,
not yet complete.
God is with us
–our redeemer lives—
now and in the last day.
It is in living firmly in this hope of God
—a God who loves us and is with us,
who redeems us both now
and in the world to come –
that we can go on in a world
that sometimes seems hopeless.
It is this common thread of hope,
a thread woven not only through today’s readings,
but also through out scripture
from the story of creation, through the prophets,
through Job, through the psalms
through the gospels,
each proclaiming in its own way
the Good News of Jesus,
it is this thread of hope that I want to draw on,
to connect some ideas as we turn our thoughts
to stewardship for a moment.
God has greatly blessed us here,
as individuals and as a parish.
We haven’t done anything spectacular
to earn those blessings;
they are not rewards for our outstanding ministry,
or our exemplary faith.
Nor do they come with strings attached;
God won’t take them away as punishment,
just as Job’s suffering was not punishment.
Nonetheless, the blessings we’ve received,
the abundance we’ve been endowed with
– and I use that term intentionally –
even the wealth we feel we’ve earned
through the dint of hard labor,
comes with a burden of responsibility,
the responsibility to remember
that we are stewards,
caretakers,  not owners,
of this abundance,
and the responsibility
to offer proper thanks to God.
Job modeled for us a remarkable and steadfast faith
in a God who had seemed to abandon him.
And God in turn reminded Job
that we humans have an inadequate understanding
of the scope and majesty of the universe
that is under God’s provenance.
Jesus reminds his followers
that we something spend
way too much time and energy
worrying about things that ultimately don’t matter.
Jesus reminds us that God will love and provide for us
as God does for all of creation;
 Jesus reminds us that we are called
to trust in that providence
rather than fret and worry
about how much we do or don’t have.
In the passage we’re highlighting
for stewardship this year,
taken from the Sermon on the Mount,
“Where you treasure is
there your heart will be also,”
Jesus reminds us that how we live,
how we make our every day choices,
how we set our priorities
is not only a measure of our faith,
but also something that continues
to shape that faith as we go forward.
As Jesus goes on to say,
we cannot serve both God and wealth.
This week’s e-blast,
contains a lot of information about stewardship
–what it means,
why we give to the church,
and the like,
and if you have more questions,
I hope you will ask me.
In the next couple of days,
you will receive a pledge card in the mail.
For many of you this is old hat,
for some of you this may be new.
We’d like you to fill out this card,
and return it next Sunday,
offer it up as we collect our weekly
offerings and oblations.
As we set about to do that,
the question before us
is how we are going to respond
not only to the blessings and abundance we enjoy but also to the responsibility they bring with them.
We are called, I believe,
to take a good look at how
we use our treasures,
how we store them up,
and what that says about
where our hearts truly are,
as a parish and as individuals.
We are called to examine our faith,
and to consider what we are willing to let go of,
trusting in God’s care for us,
holding onto our hope for our future with God.
And we are called to remember
God’s generosity to us
as we return a portion of God’s bounty
in gratitude for all that God has given to us.
These are not small tasks, my friends,
but they are within our reach
if we but trust in God
and hold fast to our faith in God,
and set our minds and hearts
on the mission of God and the hope of God.
Amen.

Run Amma Run

About 2 and half years ago I began Weight Watchers. I did it as my Lenten discipline, and I set no other goals other than to eat in a more Kris red dress 5Khealthy way. Much to my surprise, actually, weight started coming off and I liked the way I was eating, so I stuck with it. By fall I’d lost about 45 pounds and it felt great.

Now I have spent the majority of my adulthood claiming (and believing) that I hate exercise. Really, my whole life. As I child I would’ve rather been reading a good book than anything else. Girls didn’t do sports very much then. I rode my bike and went swimming but that was about it. When “working out” became the thing to do, I was clearly out of the loop. Only one period of time did that differ: while I was in grad school I tried running and kept it up for about a year and a half. Then my life changed, I moved to a more rural setting, got pregnant with child #4, gained a lot of weight and that was that.

So the fall after I began losing weight, the person who teaches exercise classes at my church invited me to try them out. VERRRRY reluctantly I went , and it wasn’t so bad At first I just did light aerobics and later I added Zumba (despite being wicked uncoordinated.) After a while, I was actually enjoying it. And I not only kept losing weight, I also started building some muscle. When those classes ended for a summer break I knew I would have to replace them with some other activity.

By this time I had lost a little more than 70 pounds. Gyms, however, still intimidated me. Almost on a whim one morning I decided to see if I could run. I wan’t sure. It had been 20 years since I’d tried. Was I too old? Would my feet and knees protest?  Could I do it?

Turns out not only could I do it, I actually LIKE running.

A year and a half later, I STILL like running. Oh, there are days when I like it best after I”m done. And days when it is a struggle to get out the door. But for the most part I do truly like it. In April I ran my first 5K–not only ran but came in 2n in my age group. The end of May I was part of a five person marathon relay team — and what fun that was, despite an abysmally cold and rainy day. And I’ve committed to running a half at that same race net May.

No one could be more surprised about this than I am!

Now it is tine to take the next step and join a gyn. There are lots of reason. The exercise classes I started going to have been cut to only once  a week, and I can’t always make that. I”m not motivated to lift weights or do crunches or any thing else at home. I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve begun to make. And finally, I’m finding it really hard to run in cold weather. It hurts my lungs and makes me cough. And when the snow flies it is jut plain hard to get out and go.

I so don’t want to join a gym. They STILL intimidate me. But it is time.

Run, Amma, run!

A rose by any other name…

To help us out on this NoBloPoMo, the organizers have offered daily prompts for writing. Today’s prompt asks, “If you had to switch your first name, what would you choose and why?”

Which sort of amuses me.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like my name. I was Kristy, then Kristi (in 5th grade when changing -y endings to -i endings became popular), and finally Kris, but only Kristina when I was in trouble. And I wanted to be named Kathy. Why I have no idea–maybe because it was a more popular name? But more than wanting to change my first name, I wanted to change my middle name, which is my mother’s maiden name, Dixon. All of my friends had lovely middle names which could have doubled as first names  (and many of them were Ann/Anne–seriously at one point there was my sister  Carole Anne, next door was Margo Ann, across the street were Rebecca Ann, Cheryl Ann, and Peggy Ann, and around the corner was my best friend Ashley Ann. And that was just one block!) And I had Dixon. NO FAIR.

My Kathy phase didn’t last too long. I also considered more exotic names like Bridget and Monica and Guinevere.

Today I wouldn’t actually change my name. Oh, I took my birth name back for my last name, and I am really glad I did. And I still hear my mother’s voice letting me know just how much trouble I was in with the way she emphasized, “KRISTINA!” I played with idea of being Kristi again instead of Kris. I love the name Madeleine; also Maeve and Siobahn. But the name my mother chose for me really works just fine.

Disappointment

I suffered a major disappointment yesterday–something I wanted badly, hoped for, prayed for, just isn’t going to happen. People suffer worse things all the time; I’m keenly aware of that but my disappointment still hit me hard. I was sad.  I yelled and cursed. I cried.

And then I stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG reading a novel. The newest Clare Ferguson-Russ VanAlstyne book hit my kindle app yesterday and I read from about midnight until 5 am. Didn’t finish because my iPad battery ran out and the charger cord isn’t long enough to let me read in bed while it is plugged in.

So I got about 3 hours of sleep. Yeah.

Going to crash and burn shortly, I’m sure. But I need to finish the book first. Luckily I’m almost there!

November redux

I had been taking pictures for about 3 years — and I mean LOTS of pictures — when my hard drive crashed not once, but twice. And of course, I hadn’t been backing them up as often as I should. I lost many many photos and it was heartbreaking. But every once in a while I find some that I posted somewhere else or saved in some random place, and it is like finding a piece of treasure. The three pics of Japanese maples I took on Cape Cod are today’s treasure.

Japanese maple cape cod

Japanese maples again

Japanese maples in the sun

Playing with the camera

For a couple of years I spent a lot of time taking photos, and editing. I have no technical expertise; I basically just played around until I liked what I had. When I moved to my current home four years ago I pretty much quit–for no really good reasons other than lame excuses about lack of time. And like so many other things, the longer I went, the less likely I was to drag out the camera bag and schlep it along with me, especially as the cameras on iPhones improved.

Over the summer I spent a couple of weeks in New York City, one of my very favorite places, and a place I always love photographing. While my daughter and grandson were with me we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. We were unexpectedly caught in a rain shower, but I got some interesting pictures where the parts of the bridge were draped for construction.

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I haven’t edited these shots at all. If you click on them to see the larger shots you can see lots of texture, which I love. And looking at these reminds me of how much I did enjoy playing around with pix and rekindles my interest in finding a good photography class.

All Souls’ Day

All Souls day is folded into the church’s celebration of All Saints (and appropriately so). Nonetheless on what would be All Souls’ Day I celebrated a funeral this morning and thought a lot about my momma’s funeral in April. In my homily at her service I ended with the second half of this poem.

Death Is Only a Horizon 

O God, who holdest all souls in life
and callest them unto thee as seemeth best:
we give them back, dear God,
to thee who gavest them to us.
But as thou didst not lose them in the giving,
so we do not lose them by their return.
For not as the world giveth, givest thou,
O Lord of souls:
that which thou givest thou takest away:
for life is eternal, and love is immortal,
and death is only the horizon,
and the horizon is nothing
save the limit of our sight.

~~ Rossiter W. Raymond

 Miss  you, Momma.