Friday, March 28, 2008

I am Rabbit

It is a little frustrating how accurate this is...kinda like the first time I took the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and was angry the thing pegged me.

Your Score: Rabbit

You scored 20 Ego, 14 Anxiety, and 17 Agency!

IT was going to be one of Rabbit's busy days. As soon as he
woke up he felt important, as if everything depended upon him.
It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a
Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought
About It. It was a perfect morning for hurrying round to Pooh,
and saying, "Very well, then, I'll tell Piglet," and then going
to Piglet, and saying, "Pooh thinks--but perhaps I'd better see
Owl first." It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody
said, "Yes, Rabbit " and "No, Rabbit," and waited until he had
told them.

You scored as Rabbit!

ABOUT RABBIT: Rabbit is generally considered Clever by his many friends and relations. He is actually a much better reader and writer than Owl, but he doesn't consider it worth mentioning. Instead, Rabbit's real talent lies in Organizing Plans. He organizes rescue parties, makes schemes to reduce Tigger's bounciness, and goes on missions to find out what Christopher Robin does when he's not at the Hundred Acre Woods. Sometimes, however, his Plans do not always go as Planned.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are smart, practical and you plan ahead. People sometimes think that you don't stress or worry, but this is not the case. You are the kind of person who worries in a practical way. You think a) What are my anxieties about and b)what can be done about them? No useless fretting for you. You don't see the point in sitting around and waiting for things to work out, when you could actually work them out today and save yourself a lot of time and worry. Your friends tend to rely on you, because they know that they can trust you help them work things out.

You sometimes tend to be impatient with people who are less practical in their ways. You don't have much patience for idiots who moan about things but never actually DO anything about them. You have high expectations of everyone, including yourself. When you don't succeed at something, or when something goes wrong despite your best efforts to prevent it, you can get quite hard on yourself. You need to cut yourself some slack and accept that everyone has their faults, even you, and THAT IS OKAY. Let yourself be faulty, every now and then, for the sake of your own sanity.

Link: The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test written by wolfcaroling on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(wolfcaroling)

Sermon for International Associates get to Preach Sunday

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit…”

I speak with you in the Name of God, the speaker, the word, and the breath. Amen!

Everybody take a breath!

Not bad, but you can do better. Work with me a little bit. Sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and breath in, imagining as you do so, "Breathing in, I recieve Christ." As you exhale imagine, "Breathing out I share Christ." One more time.

Thank you for participating.

I imagine by this point you might be wondering what has gotten into this preacher’s head? Why in the world is he trying to teach us how to breathe? I subjected you to this practice because breathing is a uniting force. More than anything other action on the planet, we all breathe. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, Eurasian or Afro-Cuban, a school teacher or a lawyer, a barber, a senator, or a saint. We all breathe. I spent many a year in wind bands and symphonies and as any music director will tell you, an ensemble that breathes together plays together. When we breathe together we are united together.

Breathing is also a uniting force on a personal level. The Buddhist Monk, peace activist, and dabbler in Christian Spirituality Tich Naht Hahn writes of breathing,
“Breathing in and out is very important, and it is enjoyable. Our breathing is the link between our body and our mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing and our body is doing another, and mind and body are not unified. By concentrating on our breathing, 'In' and 'Out,' we bring body and mind back together, and become whole again.”

I don’t know about you, but my mind and body are often doing two different things. Anything I can do to focus myself would indeed be enjoyable. Furthermore, I am elated to find out that something as inexpensive as breathing is helpful. Now, you might be thinking at this moment, this eastern philosophy, Buddhist mumbo jumbo is interesting and all preacher, but we’re Christians; so what do this have to do with Jesus?

Well, here it is. Breathing is a uniting force both corporately and individually because it re-members our creation. See, in our Gospel today Jesus breathes on the disciples. We should recall at this point that no matter what the disciples were they were Jewish. They grew up hearing and memorizing their ancient stories, and when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit—the holy breath—on them they could not help but think of Genesis, of the creation. They could not help but think of that great story where God forms Ah-dam, the first human, out of the dirt of the earth and breathes on him, breathes into him the breath of life.

Jesus did not give that breath to the disciples thoughtlessly. Jesus did not give that breath unintentionally. Jesus breathed into them in order for them to be the image of God to this creation. See, they had fallen from that image. The powers that be, the adversary, Satan, the devil, society, the world, fear, shame—whatever word you want to use to describe the fallen forces of this creation—had formed the disciples away from God’s intention. These disciples who had walked, talked, eaten, and rejoiced with Christ for years deserted him on the night he was arrested. These disciples had been sent out to heal and preach the God News of the Kingdom of God in the Name of Jesus, but on that night Peter would not even admit he knew this man. The disciples of Jesus are dismembered from what they were created to be, separated from the image of God in Christ Jesus.

The breath of God, the Holy Spirit given through Christ re-members them, unites them with who they were created to be. These fearful, cowardly, sinful disciples are changed by the breath of God. They go from cowering in a locked room to traveling the known word sharing the gospel. They go from refusing to admit they even know this man to preaching Jesus Christ Crucified and risen from the dead in the temple. They go from unable to deal with their own grief and disillusionment, to healing the sick and raising the dead. They go from sinners to saints and their transformation happens in and through a breath.

God does not give us that breathe thoughtlessly. God does not give us God’s breath unintentionally. God breathes into us in order for us to be the image of God to this creation. We have fallen from that image. Our lives are dis-membered and are in need of re-membering through the breath of God. Out city is dis-membered, separated by perceptions based on race, money, and geography. It is fallen just as we are fallen. But today we stand ready for transformation. Today we stand ready to breathe in Christ who will change us. Today we stand ready to breathe out Christ who will change the world.
Breathing in,
we receive Christ.
Breathing out,
we share Christ.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Light of Christ

So when one starts a journey towards the priesthood things change. Of course that is an obvious sentence, because once anyone starts any journey things change. With becoming a priest one central that changes is how I experience the the Eucharist. Before the collar, on the congregational side of the altar rail, the Eucharist was about being fed...

...about showing up at God's table with all that is good and all that is bad about me,

...about that whole broken self being accepted by God, and

...about God saying, "I'll take you and here's me in exchange. The bread might taste a bit like card board and the wine might be a bit vinegary, but it's God and it is sufficient for you." Then I would say thanks God and go.

As a priest you can lose a lot of that in the Eucharist. It is really easy to become caught, not in the mystery of God's grace, rather in thinking about what comes next in the liturgy and not forgetting to take communion to that faithful person who can't walk sitting in the back. It can become about minutia not about the grand cosmic salvation scheme.

It is rumored that this phenomenon passes with time, and it becomes possible to preside and worship during the Eucharist. I have been waiting for that day, and at the Easter vigil this past Saturday night, I think I caught a whiff of it. There was something right about passing out the bread to folks at the rail, something Christ like in the people kneeling at the rail, something hopeful and holy. My friends the Caffeinated Priest and I Are A Writer have recently reminded me that, while in Seminary that taught us that the priest at the altar is a vision of Christ before the people, it is much healthier for me to have a vision of Christ in people I serve.

I love the people of my congregation dearly. Admittedly, with some it is an easier task then with others, but there is Christ in all of them. For all their joys and talent, gifts and skills, warts and foibles I love them. I pray for them. I hope for them. And, I hope and pray God keeps me humble enough to serve them well. Somehow, I think having enough faith in God keeping me humble will not be a hard.

God's Peace,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Vigil Sermon 2008

This sermon was inspired by a Penitential Rite written by Fr. Ernesto Medina in the publication Awake my Soul available online here.

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

I speak with you in the name of the creating God, the resurrected Christ, and the ever-present Holy Spirit. Amen!

Good evening! Thank you for coming out this evening to the most sacred worship service of the Christian Year. A lot of work went in to making this the most sacred service we hold here at All Saints, and I encourage you to give your thanks and appreciation to all who worked on this service as I do. We have arrived at Easter. Our journey with Christ has been long over these forty days, but finally we are here. And on this sacred night it is both good and right that we have heard yet again the sacred tale of salvation history; God’s story beginning with creation and coming in the fullness of time to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is on this salvation history that I would like to reflect with you for a moment or two. Recently I read a liturgy written by Dean Ernesto Medina, who serves down at the Cathedral, on salvation history and it got me to thinking about how our story is woven with God’s story through rocks and water.

See, in the beginning, God created. During the creation God made rocks while thinking “my children will walk on these rocks.”

You hold that rock in your heart.

God’s children did walk on the rocks. Eventually, sadly, that walked away from God.
So God sent a flood and cleansed the earth saving one family. God returned the family to the rock.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Later the children thought they were equal to God. So they began to build a high tower upon a rock to try and reach God. God can not be equaled, and God’s children can not climb to the heights of God. So, God confused the children.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well and sat upon a rock. He listened to her story, and told her everything she ever did.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Jesus had a friend named Peter, which means rock. Jesus said he would build his church upon Peter the rock. One night, when Jesus needed him the most, Peter denied ever knowing his friend Jesus.

You hold that rock in your heart.

Soon after Peter’s denial Jesus was crucified and placed inside a cave, inside a rock.

You hold that rock in your heart.

My brothers and sisters our hearts are hearts of stone and I invite you to reflect on your burdens and your sins. “Remember those things you have done that you are sorry for and place them on the stone that is your heart.”

“Remember those things you didn’t do, but probably should have, things done and left undone. Place this burden on the rock that is your heart.”

It has always been that in the midst of our burdened and hardened hearts God remembers God’s children. Once, God’s children were in slavery. God heard their cry for help and liberated them. On their way to the Promised Land God parted the waters and cleansed their hearts of stone.

Later on their journey they were thirsty. So God told Moses to take his staff and strike a rock. Water poured from the rock and cleansed their hearts of stone.
A long time later, but still a long time ago God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel in a valley of dry bones. God told Ezekiel to say to the bones, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD." And so the dry bones were made wet again and God cleansed their hearts of stone.

Jesus came to be an adult and went to his cousin John at the Jordan. Jesus, God incarnate, who wise ones had knelt before with gifts fit for a king, humbled himself and knelt in the muddy water of the Jordan. John baptized Jesus along side the penitent sinners and in front of the holier-than-thou leaders. And so, God cleanses our hearts of stone.

Tonight the cold dark stones of our heart are brought into the light and washed clean. In the bright light of the Resurrected Christ, the burdens and cares we came with here tonight are no more. We come to God’s table a new creation not by our own power. Rather we are made new by God who became human. We are born again by God who was taken, blessed, broken, and poured out for us in the person of Jesus Christ. We receive this God in the form of bread and wine taken, blessed, broken and poured out for us this night. Know that Christ is risen. Know that you are forgiven. Know that you are loved and welcome at this feast. Come, taste, and see. Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sermon Maundy Thursday 2008

“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

May only God’s word be spoken, and may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

At the beginning of any Seder meal, the ceremonial meal eaten in remembrance of the Passover, the youngest person in the room is to ask this question: “Why is this night different from all others?” Tonight we hear God’s direction to the slaves in Egypt for the eating of the Passover over meal, the last supper in bondage. While it is eaten in captivity it is also food for the journey. The paschal lamb is to be completely consumed by person or fire. It’s not like thanksgiving dinner. There are not leftovers for lunch the next day, because they, the people should be gone by then. The meal is to be eaten hurriedly with staff in hand and dressed for travel.

As I mentioned, the meal was instituted on the last night of captivity of the people of Israel in Egypt. It is the night where Pharaoh’s will is broken by the tenth and final plague of death. But it is not just a meal to remember the past. Verse 14 of our Exodus reading says that this meal will be a “festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” The past is connected today. Be it Egypt or Babylon, Rome or the Third Reich, Iraq or Darfur, Serbia or Gaza, the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, City Hall, or even the Church…whatever institutions and regimes claim power over people’s bodies and souls, this meal is to be eaten as a remembrance of God’s liberation from those forces.

Now we are Christians not Jews, but it is no coincidence that the story of the first Passover is paired this night with our Gospel Story this night of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, what has come to be known in our tradition as the Christian Passover. This last meal, that took place under the oppressive reign of the Roman Empire, is also the first meal in the liberated Kingdom of God. And so, we are given the opportunity to ask the question: why is this night different from all others?
First, it is different because it is a Thursday night and we are here at church instead of strapped to the couch watching “Must See TV” or the NCAA tournament as our dominant culture instructs us to be doing. By our presence here tonight we have consciously decided that worshiping God is more important than anything else and are willing to physically live out this conscious decision.

Second, several of us gathered earlier to eat a meal similar to the meal Jesus shared with his disciples and near the end of that meal we knelt and washed each others feet. Priests and lay folk, adults and children, corporate executives and minimum wage workers we all got on our knees and washed another’s feet. This is not done in day to day society. Feet—even in this day of hygiene and cleanliness—are considered dirty, smelly, and not the topic of polite discussion. You certainly would not show up to a movie theater, ball game, or concert, and expect to see the theater owner, the ball coach, or the rock star washing peoples feet. I seriously doubt Bo Polini will wash the feet of his players this fall.

Thirdly, we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, this first meal of the Kingdom of God to re-member, to put together once again our true allegiance to God alone, in overt defiance to how the powers and principalities of this world have conditioned us. We find hope and salvation in broken bread and poured wine when our society teaches us to find salvation in the gated communities, material wealth, secure borders and military dominance.

Tonight we not only ask “why is this night different from all others”, but we ask why do we do these subversive and peculiar acts? We do them because Jesus did them first and because Jesus commands us to do like wise. We have heard this story a million times, of Jesus removing his outer garment and wrapping a towel around himself. Then he knells before his disciples, washes their feet, and dries them with the towel.

What may go unnoticed to us is that these are the attire and actions of a slave in Jesus’ day. Jesus, God incarnate, becomes a slave, property, an object with no rights or privileges of his own to show us how power is exercised in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ display of power stands in sharp contrast to the imperial power of Rome under which they lived. While this contrast may not be obvious to us it would have been blatant to his disciples. They had grown up seeing the images of Roman power: the standards and banners, the body armor and plumed helmets, the spears and shields, the horns and processions. They had also experienced Rome’s peace through victory, which was peace through the conquest and domination of other peoples to increase their tax base.

Jesus does not act as a Lord, as a ruler, in any manner that the disciples could understand. Jesus does not act as a Lord, as a ruler, in any manner that we can understand. He has no army, no weapons, no force with which to be reckoned. He is not standing tall with muscles flexed and minions cowering. He is not in an Armani Suit with a Windsor knotted tie and mirror shined wing tips. He is not quarterbacking a fourth quarter comeback in the national championship game. And he is not traveling the countryside in a custom bus plastered with his face and a slogan on the side. Any image of power and effectiveness that we might have experienced, Jesus stands, no Jesus kneels in direct opposition to it. He leads from his knees, and begs his disciples, his followers then and now, to do the same.

We, today, do not do a good job of this, and neither did the apostles in the upper room. Before this night is over they will betray, abandon, and deny even knowing Christ. But herein lays the beauty of our approaching Easter. While the leaders of this world would be offended by our disloyalty and abandonment, Jesus prays God forgive them for they know not what they do. While the powers of this world would avenge our denial of knowing them and therefore denying their power, the Resurrected Jesus asks Peter and us, “Do you love me?” Jesus reinstates Peter and us in the resurrected life that we can be a part of here and now.

So, my brothers and sisters, I ask, seek, and implore us to come to this altar tonight, not upright in worldly power, but humbly kneeling before our broken and poured out Lord. I pray we come to this table not only to receive the last meal under bondage, but also the first meal of the kingdom of God, not only the food of remembrance but also substance for the journey. I pray we come and receive the body and blood of Christ so that we may be the Body and Blood of Christ in the world. Amen!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sermon Palm Sunday March 16th 2008

“But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

I speak with you as one who is both broken and whole, sinner and saint, lost and found, sinful and faithful. I pray that only God’s word may be spoken and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!

Finally! The weather has changed. This week we have heard small birds chirp and seen geese headed north. We have ventured out doors without insulated bulky coats and may have even exercised outdoors. We have seen the sun shine and if we look close enough grass, trees, and flowers are beginning to grow. We have persevered through the darkness and endured the cold death of winter and now we witness the beginnings of the new light and life of spring. But, as Monday’s weather will show us, we are close but we have not completely arrived at spring.

Finally in our worship, we have arrived at Jerusalem. During this season of Lent we have walked with Jesus. We walked with Jesus as he was tempted in the wilderness and listened in as he taught Nicodemus in the dead of night. We journeyed to Samaria with Christ as he charged the woman at the well, and us for that matter, to worship in spirit and in truth. Continuing on, we witnessed the healing of the blind man as a sign of God’s power in the world, and even more dramatically we heard Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb. It has been quite a spectacular and magnificent journey. But, yet, just as the seasons have not completely changed over, so to have we not arrived at Easter. Furthermore, just as the late season wet snows can be the messiest and the hardest to endure, so too this last week of lent can be tiresome.

Today we are given a taste of Glory. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, just as it had been foretold that the savior of Israel, the true king of God’s chosen people would do. In this cacophonic procession, full of palm branches waved and hosannas shouted, the people gathered in Jerusalem had to see it as the fulfillment of time; they had to see it as what had been foretold; and they had to feel that it was always going to be this joyous from then onward. This proclamation of exuberance and moment of praise that was so full that even if the people were silenced then the rocks would shout had to be intoxicating an instantly addictive. Could we blame them for wanting to stay in that moment? Furthermore, could we blame them for turning on Jesus when they realized he wouldn’t do what they wanted of him, what they expected of him? When he did not fit into their tiny box of what a messiah should and should not do, can we blame them for being angry, feeling betrayed, let down, and wanting the object of their disappointment punished?

We certainly should not blame them. For just as the same crowd that shouted hosanna when Jesus rode into Jerusalem shouted “Crucify Him!” “Crucify Him!” just a few days later, so to do we shout hosanna this morning and turn around a few moments later to shout crucify him. Not only do we do this quick change of attitude today, but we do it often in our lives. We love to proclaim Christ when Jesus coincides with our interests and we love to want him gone when he is inconvenient. Just as Peter, who along the road professes Christ as the messiah, by the end of this week denies even knowing Jesus--and thusly kills God--so to do we often proclaim the messiah on Sundays and deny him on Monday.

And so this day, we are left at the occupied tomb of our crime, not the emptied grave of resurrection. This day we are left to reflect on when we have failed to recognize the kingdom that has come near; not on our moments of proclamation and service, but on the times we have denied Christ and failed to serve our Lord. Easter is coming, but we aren’t there yet. We must journey further with Christ through this week in Jerusalem. We must be confronted with the embarrassment of the Son of God dressed as a slave and washing feet. We must endure our inability to stay awake with Christ in the garden. We can not hide from our cowardice when we like the apostles abandon Jesus in the garden to be taken away. And we must confront our own hypocrisy when we like Peter deny even knowing Christ. We must suffer the pain and anguish of watching Christ die on the cross. We must bear the burden of not only imagining the world without God on Good Friday, but we must come to grips with the stark reality that it is us who call for his crucifixion.

Then and only then, when we realize that it is not an absence of God’s love in the world that causes pain, war, injustice, and oppression, but our own denial of Christ in the courtyard, it is only then that we can truly hear the salvation history proclaimed at the Easter Vigil Saturday night. It is only in our blatant confession of our distance from God can we realize God breaking through that chasm to be near us in the breaking of bread and the pouring of wine. It is only when our unworthiness and shame are brought into the light that we can receive the grace of God. That saving grace, indeed that amazing grace, we so desperately need but can never deserve, comes to us after the final steps of this week.

So, my brothers and sisters, I challenge you to continue to walk with Christ. I challenge you not to skip from Palm Sunday to Easter without walking the path that is Holy Week. I challenge you to come to this table not for solace only but for strength. I challenge to walk with Jesus. Amen!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Five

I haven't played the Friday Five in a long time. It's nice to return to things every now and again. So here it goes:

From Sally over at RevGalsBlogPals

1. Sign of hope?
The windows of my office face east, and when the sun rises to shine through them (yes, I'm in the office before sunrise sometimes) I can't help but think of Resurrection.

2. An unexpected word of light in a dark place?

T's strength in her time of trial.

3. A sign of spring?

Making plans for Golf on Monday with N.

4. Challenging/ surprising?

Possible big life choice coming soon.

5. Share a hope for the coming week/month/year....

  • Hope that in the possible big life choice coming soon I am open enough to hear God's guidance.
  • Hope to write more music this year.
  • Hope to write more poetry this year.

Bonus play... a piece of music/ poem guaranteed to cheer you?

  • The Peter Malick Group with Norah Jones -- New York City
  • Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C from the Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 (always relaxes me)
  • Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain (still the most beautiful thing I have ever heard)
  • Wynton Marsalis Donna Lee on the album Amongst the People (makes me insanely jealous and energized at the same time).
  • I could keep going!

  • Most stuff by e.e.cummings
  • Love(3) by George Herbert
  • Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night -- Dylan Thomas