Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's this rainbow doing here in Lent?...... Sermon for Year B Lent 1

What’s this rainbow doing here in Lent?

They were sitting on the front porch.
Our son Jody was there for a summer visit with his grandparents,
my parents.
He was about 14 years old.

Each afternoon my mother and he
would take a glass of ice cold Minute Maid lemonade
and a pack of nabs or a few cookies
and they would sit on the front porch
and watch the traffic go by
as they enjoyed an afternoon break.

Sometimes my mother would water her petunias
which adorned the porch in multiple hanging baskets
or she would count the blossoms.
She loved to send me a daily count
when the petunias were in bloom--
32 blossoms today....
45 blossoms on Friday morning...
but this day was not a petunia counting day.

It was a rainy summer afternoon and they were just sitting there.
My mother was never at a loss for words,
so no doubt, she was chatting with our son about something.
Then they saw it.

My mother said,
Look, Jody! Look at the rainbow!
God put that in the sky just for us.
That rainbow is God’s promise.

To which our son replied,
Well, actually Granny, rainbows are a result
of raindrops in the air acting as tiny prisms.
Light enters the raindrop, reflects off the side,
and is then broken into a spectrum of color.

My mother was speechless--for a moment--
and then calmly replied,
That’s right.
God does all that and then puts the rainbow right there,
just for us,
as a sign of God’s promise.

Science and religion met on the front porch
in Raleigh, North Carolina that day.
And the good news is
a difference of opinion did not break them apart.

We hear in the Genesis story this morning a familiar tale
about Noah and a rainbow.
God says to Noah,
I have set my bow in the clouds,
and it shall be a covenant between me and the earth.

God is promising God’s people
that never again would God use violence and destruction
against God’s own people.
Noah and his family and all the living creatures
had survived the 40 days in the ark.

That’s what we are in the midst of trying to do as well.
Survive the 40 days --not of a flood--but of Lent.
4 days down and 36 more to go!

Lent is not a punitive time
but it is a time when we do a careful self-examination
of our lives and of our souls.

We set our hearts and minds to make some changes--
to repent--to do things a little differently.

Somehow the liturgical season of Lent
doesn’t seem like the season for a rainbow.
Rainbows are a little too beautiful to belong in Lent, aren’t they?

And yet... rainbows are a sign that the storm has passed.
Rainbows tell us that the sun is coming out
and there is better weather ahead.
Good news.

In Mark’s gospel we hear the good news of Jesus’ baptism.
It is the beginning of his ministry.
Everything that had gone before Jesus in time and history
is transformed from that moment of baptism forward.

Yet immediately--
(remember how much the writer of Mark’s Gospel
loves that word IMMEDIATELY-?!!)--
IMMEDIATELY after that new beginning, his baptism,
Jesus has to go--
in fact he is DRIVEN--into the wilderness.
And I don’t mean driven in a Subaru!

The Gospel tells us Jesus is driven by the Spirit--
he wasn’t driven into the desert by Satan or demons.
He was driven by the Holy Spirit.

Often it is our times of struggle and confronting temptation,
that help us grow and change.
Often it is our worst of times
that deepen our relationship with God--and with others.
In order to become our fullest selves
we must face and know the demons that call us by name.

The Spirit knew that Jesus had to go into the desert,
go through the desert
and come out of the desert on the other side
if he was going to have the strength, the wisdom
the courage and the wholeness
to do the ministry that was ahead of him.

Temptation, Satan, wild beasts--
they wear many masks--
but we have all known them--
sometimes in big doses
sometimes in tiny tastes.

Jesus did not do face that wilderness struggle alone.
And neither do we.

My favorite line in Mark’s gospel today is this:
...and the angels waited on him.

Part of our Lenten practice
is to let go of the notion that we are self-sufficient,
to recognize that we need help
and to trust that the angels are here for us too.

Even in the times we feel desperately alone.
God never abandons us.

Our journey through the season of Lent
reminds us that even in the desert
we can catch a glimpse of a rainbow,
if we remember to look.

Remember the original Muppet Movie?
Kermit the frog sitting in the dismal swamp,
playing his little banjo and singing,

Why are there so many
songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side?

There is something about us--
humans and little banjo strumming green frogs-
we long to be connected to the “other side”,
to the kingdom of heaven,
to God.

Our Episcopal catechism defines sin
as anything that separates us from God.

Lent is about looking at the obstacles in our lives
that block us, that separate us,
that weaken or damage our connection with God.

...Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name...

I have set my bow in the clouds, says God.

God has promised to be in loving relationship with us.
Always and forever.
We are all God’s beloved children.
We just don’t always believe that.
We just don’t always live into God’s love
and act as if we are God’s beloved.

Lent is a journey,
the season when we consciously work on that “rainbow connection,”
a time when we make some changes that will bring us
into a better and deeper relationship with God,
with ourselves,
with others,
with all creation.

Someday we’ll find it
the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.

And you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Turning Over the Rocks........Ash Wednesday 2012

Turning Over the Rocks

Today is the day we begin our journey into Holy Lent.
Ash Wednesday.

There was a wonderful video posted on Facebook this week.

If we had some high tech equipment here at St. John’s,
I could show you that YouTube video
and we’d be done in--well, two minutes.
But you’re going to have to endure the low tech version--
which is my sermon
and we won’t be done in two minutes.

First the basic facts.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent.
It begins about 40 days before Easter.
I say ABOUT 40 days because we don’t count Sundays.
Sundays are always feast days.
Days of celebration.
Every Sunday is a day when we celebrate the resurrection.
That’s right.
We don’t just do that on Easter--
we are celebrating resurrection every single Sunday of the year.
So get your joy on for Sundays--even during Lent!

And yes,
that does mean that if you give up something for Lent
or take on something for Lent
you can have a break on Sunday---
but then back at it on Monday!

So Lent has 6 full weeks.
6 weeks x 7 days is 42 days.
Minus 6 (those 6 Sundays, remember)
and that means 36 days.

But we need 40 days.

Because it mimics Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness.
And also the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert
after their exodus from Egypt.

So the way we go from 36 days to 40 days
is by starting on the Wednesday before the first full week of Lent.
That would be Ash Wednesday.
We then add Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week.
So 36 days plus 4 days is 40 days.

That’s why we begin Lent on a Wednesday--
so we can legitimately come up with the 40 days.

Those are the numbers.
Those are the facts.

But facts keep us in our heads
and this day, Ash Wednesday,
the portal into Lent,
calls us to engage with our heart and our spirit.
With apologies to Dragnet and Sergeant Joe Friday,
“just the facts, m’am” is not going to cut it on this Lenten journey.

We live in a world where too often “it is all about me.”
We are obsessed with ourselves.
Our desires, our achievements, our physical appearance, our opinions.
Spiritually, this is a dangerous and destructive way to live.
But it’s hard to remember that
because “all about me” is the norm.

Ash Wednesday is a day when we shine a spotlight
on our “all about me” thinking
so we might notice the cracks,
if not the total fracture of our egocentric thinking and living.
Ash Wednesday is an uncomfortable day.

It is hard to think we have everything under our control,
when we hear the words,
Remember you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

Remember that you will die.
Remember that life is short and we do not have much time.
Remember that we waste so much time and energy
seeking to be right, to be first, to be better than others.
to get our own way.

We don’t wear ashes on our foreheads to show others how holy we are.
We wear ashes as a symbol of our deep, deep desire for repentance--
our painful awareness
that we need to make some changes in our lives.

Lent is not a season for glorified New Year’s resolutions.

I once heard Lent described as the season of the year
when we turn over the rocks in our lives
and see what crawls out from underneath, from the darkness.
We turn over those rocks and face up
to what has been hiding underneath.

That’s a pretty frightening image.
But Lent is a time for serious self examination.

We can often fool ourselves.
We can sometimes fool others (thought probably not as much as we think).
But we cannot fool God.
Lent is the season to own up to that.

In our scripture readings today we hear the prophet Joel’s trumpet sound--
and it is sounding for us--
calling us to repent, to change.

We hear Paul’s anguish
as he pleads with us to reconcile our lives with God.

We hear Jesus warn us
of how even our fasting
can slip into the “it’s all about me” mode.
Look at me! I’m fasting! Don’t I do it so very very well.
Jesus says please...please don’t embark on this holy journey
to try to win a blue ribbon for keeping the most holy Lent.
Pay attention to where your heart is.

This season of Lent is really not a punitive season.
Is it serious, somewhat somber?
We don’t even put flowers in the church
during Lent.

Is Lent about looking under those rocks in our lives?
Because as long as we try to keep secrets
and hide a part of ourselves,
we are trapped.
There is not any part of our lives--of us--that God does not already know.
No secrets are hid, no desires unknown.

Lent is about letting go
and trusting those words we hear in today’s opening prayer:
God, you hate nothing you have made...

Take home that scripture insert
and mark those words with a neon yellow highlighter:
God, you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.

No matter how flawed we are,
no matter what ugly, horrible events
may be hidden under those rocks of our lives,
God loves us.
Go figure!
God created us and it is impossible for God to hate us.

But God does call us to a spiritual journey.
Our journey is to move towards repentance, change and accountability.

Not just to utter words that so glibly flow from our lips
and then are quickly forgotten--
God asks us to repent--
that’s a major action verb--
to change the things we know we need to change--
not so we can be perfect
but so we can become the person God created us to be.

So that we can be in a deep and honest relationship with God
and in a deep and honest relationship with other people.

Because it is about community.
It’s NOT all about me. It’s NOT all about you.
And it certainly is NOT about “divide and conquer.”

God tells us over and over and over again,
Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostic gospels--
God tells us
the purpose of being alive is to
to be in full communion with one another and with God.
Loving God and loving one another.
This is how we are called to live as God’s people.
It’s not easy but I’m not sure God cares an iota about easy or hard.
It’s just true.

Showing up for ashes on Ash Wednesday
is how we say okay.
Okay, God, at least for today--I get it.

Today is the day
we start to move the rocks.
Today is the day
we start to face all that we have so desperately tried to hide
or ignore or deny
about ourselves.
Today is the day
we start to believe--to really believe--that God loves us,
that God forgives us, that God is merciful,
that God desires only what is wonderful for us.

The singer Keb Mo might put it this way:
Get out of the way and let your light shine.

As Episcopalians we put it this way:
Remember you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

WORLD MISSION SUNDAY...... Sermon for Year B Last Epiphany

Go Ye Into All the World

Every year in the Episcopal Church
we celebrate World Mission Sunday.
It is always observed on the last Sunday of Epiphany.
The purpose of World Mission Sunday
is to increase our awareness
of the wider global mission of the Episcopal Church.

You may have noticed when you came in today
the print hanging in the narthex.
It is a drawing of what used to be the window over the altar
in the chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary.

The chapel burned to the ground last year
and the window was destroyed.
But the message of that window was not destroyed.

The words written on the wall around that window are this:
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.

Go ye into all the world.

Sometimes we grimace when we hear about WORLD mission--
after all, aren’t there enough needs right here in our own country,
in our own community.
Why do we have to do mission work overseas?

Because that’s what Jesus asks us to do.
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.

For some of us, the “world” might be our neighborhood or our city
or wherever we find ourselves being called
to try to make a difference.
Jesus is always calling us to enlarge our vision.
He doesn’t want us to be limited to just wearing our reading glasses--
always focusing on what is right in front of us.
He wants us to simultaneously see with binoculars--
mission is both local AND global.
It is not an either/or proposition.
Jesus is always about the both/and.

Because the body of Christ is not limited.
The body of Christ does not have man-made boundaries.
The kingdom of heaven is very, very large.

It is so perfect
that we are dedicating new altar candlesticks this evening
because we as baptized Christians
have seen the Light of the World
and are always called to shine that light in every place.

It is so perfect
that we are dedicating new communion vessels this evening
because God is always asking us
to be vessels for communion
as we go about our daily lives in the world.

with the gospel reading about the transfiguration.
Everything changes.
The disciples begin to see Jesus and the world differently.

A good friend of mine from Seminary, David Copley,
is now the Mission Personnel Officer
for the national Episcopal Church.
David is the contact person for all our missionaries.
Yes, the Episcopal Church does have missionaries.

We have missionaries in 25 countries around the Anglican Communion.
Our missionaries are doctors, nurses, teachers,
accountants, farmers, computer technicians, administrators,
theologians and more.
Missionaries are young and old,
recent college graduates and people who have retired,
both lay people and ordained people.

David Copley says,
“Participating in God’s mission for the world
transforms us as individuals, communities and a Church.”

Participating in God’s mission for the world transforms us.

Whether we spend a year in Cuba as Mark Siler and his family did--
as you know Mark will be our preacher tomorrow morning--
or whether we go on a ten day mission trip to Panama or Honduras
or head to the Gulf Coast to help after Hurricane Katrina,
we cannot do any of this without being transformed.

Sometimes we don’t even have to leave home to be transformed.
A moment in our lives can open our hearts to the world.

When I was in seminary,
we had a number of international students,
most of them were already ordained and had been serving as priests
for quite a few years in their home countries.
They had come to the Seminary for more study
and many of them would go on to be consecrated as Bishops.

One day in the refectory--our dining hall--
i found Samwel, who was from Tanzania,
standing at the garbage can weeping

You see, when we finished eating lunch,
we took our trays to the window at the dishwashing station,
but first we scraped any food we did not eat into a garbage can.

Samwel stood at that garbage can weeping.
When I asked him what was wrong,
he pointed to the garbage and said to me,
“All this food--all this food that is being thrown away--
it could feed my entire village for a week.”

How often we fill our plates with food and then after a bite or two
decide we don’t really like it or we’re just not hungry
and so it goes into the garbage can.
We don’t really even think about it.
But suddenly, by getting to know someone like Samwel,
waste and hunger and need begin to wear the face
of a suffering Christ.
Mission is transforming.
Samwel was one of the missionaries God sent to transform me.

Jennifer McConnachie is a registerd nurse from our Diocese.
From St. James, Hendersonville.
She is serving in Umtata, South Africa. She runs a medical clinic there.
The clinic building has no electricity or running water.
She sees an average of 50 patients per day.

The community the clinic serves has over 300 families.
Their town is located at a garbage dump--literally.
Jenny and other volunteers, many from the community,
have established the clinic, a food distribution center, and a school.
None of these things existed
when Jenny McConnachie went to South Africa
with the Episcopal Church.

You and I might shake our heads and wonder,
how can she even make a dent in such an enormous problem?

But Jenny--and other mission-minded people---wake up each day
trying to think of ways
to make life better for one person.
One person at a time.

Lynn Coulthard is a member of St. Mary of the Hills in Blowing Rock.
She retired as a kindergarden teacher at Blowing Rock Elementary School.
She has an adorable little cottage style house in Blowing Rock.
What a charming, easy life she could have for the rest of her years.
But she had always wanted to be in the Peace Corps.
She applied, was accepted and went and served 2-1/2 years in Jordan.
Then she came back to Blowing Rock
and after about a year she met Bishop Dutta
from our companion diocese of Durgapur India
and she felt called again--
and went to India as a missionary from the Episcopal Church.

It’s why we have a Sunday designated as World Mission Sunday.
Perhaps God is calling you or someone you know.
And even if we cannot go to South Africa or India
or even to a disaster area here in our own country,
we can pray.
We can offer our financial support.
We can read and listen and try to understand
the deep meaning of those words,
Go Ye into all the world and preach the gospel.

Preaching with our lives, with our actions,
is far more powerful than any preaching done with words.

We too can wake up each day
trying to think of ways
to make life better for one person.
The truth is we are all mission personnel.
We are all called to participate in God’s mission.

Today is just one day hat helps us open our eyes and see
that God’s world is very, very big
and each one of us is needed.
Each one of us can make a difference--
to one person
and to the world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Icon of the Holy Silence

One icon writing class and I am obsessed. I can't stop looking at or searching out icons. I will post more later about my experience in the class (it was wonderful--better than I could ever imagine)as I am still processing but wanted to share this morning's discovery now.

As best as I can understand, this icon is from the 18th century (Russian). It is known as The Holy Silence (or Hagia Hesychia). It portrays Christ before he became incarnate "and was made man." It stopped me in my morning Google ramble because it shows Christ as a woman. Which also makes sense since this icon is known as Holy Wisdom sometimes. And Wisdom is often referred to with feminine pronouns(or the Greek name Sophia).

But gazing at this icon today I thought about how all our boundaries and divisions barricade us into making God so small. As a woman, my heart sang to think about Christ as so fully me and me as so fully Christ--no gender boundaries, no boundaries at all.

The Holy Silence...or maybe in more colloquial terms:
Shhh! Jesus is a girl!

An interesing link...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Let go and trust

The icon you see here is by Suzanne Schleck who will be the instructor of the workshop I am off to attend this week at Kanuga.

I am heading into this week overwhelmed by gratitude. I am so grateful for my friend and colleague Jane Smith who will take care of priestly and pastoral responsibilities while I am away. I am grateful to a congregation that shares my joy in being able to have a week away to pursue an activity to feed my mind and my soul--especially wonderful and needed as Lent is fast approaching--and people who so capably handles all the parish details (they do this all the time--I just don't always say thank you). Everything--attending to office activities, prayer groups, worship services--will go on without me. This is good and joyful. I am grateful to friends who gave me a "scholarship" so that I could attend this workshop. I am grateful to Kanuga for attending to my food allergy. I am grateful to my friend and artist Verle Lynn Cox who showed up this week with a beautiful cloth she made for me to cover my icon and to Lynn McLure who showed up to share an exquisite iconography calendar she got while in Amsterdam. I am so grateful to my friend Margaret Joffrion who has been the bright star leading me to this workshop. I am grateful to all the icon writers who have gone before me throughout the centuries. (Now is this point where I thank my parents, my sweet husband and children and the Academy?)

So yes! I am grateful. Can you also tell I am seriously excited about the week ahead? I go as a complete and total novice. I think it is essential that we all pursue things, at least occasionally, where we are beginners. It always opens my mind and my heart to lose myself in something where I have no expertise at all. This will be such a week.

We'll be using traditional materials of egg tempera and gold leaf and have been told that the process has less to do with one's ability to paint than with "a willingness to let go and trust".

Let go and trust. So simple to say, to write and so difficult to really do. That's why I need practice in doing just this--which is one reason I am heading to Kanuga for this workshop this week.

Let go and trust. My mantra for the week.

Lent is just around the corner. How will you practice letting go and trusting?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Huntin' down Jesus..Sermon for Year B Epiphany 5

Huntin’ down Jesus...

I love our Epiphany banner.

I am so grateful to Betty Hayes for creating this for St. John’s.
We are truly blessed here at this parish
by people with so many different and diverse gifts
and you are so generous in sharing your talents.
Thank you.
Thanks be to God for each one of you.

I love this banner because--well, okay, I will just flat out admit
that WE THREE KINGS has always been one of my favorite hymns.

One of the glorious things about the Episcopal church
is that we have an entire season of Epiphany--
a season when we focus on the Christ light that came into the world
and how we might follow that light.

Epiphany is the season where we reflect on what it means
to follow a star--
or to follow a man who comes walking through a small fishing village
or comes walking, often unexpectedly, through our own lives.

Epiphany is a wonderful season to think about our gifts
and how we are called,
how each of us is uniquely called to follow Jesus
by sharing
that with which we have been blessed.

I like to look at our Epiphany banner
and imagine conversations these travelers are having
on their holy journey.

“Are you sure this is the right way?”
“ I think he’s going to like my gift the best.”

“My feet hurt.”

“Are we there yet?”

They are on their way--a risky journey--but off to meet the king---
only they have no idea
at the point when they set off
that this king will look like an ordinary child--
that this child began his life born in a manger.

Speaking of mangers,
you might have noticed that I moved the manger up here
in front of the altar this week.

It’s empty.
Throughout the month of January it was overflowing
with the diapers you brought--
those diapers are already being put to use
at the Irene Wortham Center.
I saw Liz Huesmann this week--she’s the director of the Wortham Center--
and you know what she said?
She said, “Thank you.”
“Thank you. We are so so grateful to St. John’s”
That’s you. YOU are St. John’s.
Thank you.

So here is the manger.
Empty except for a little bit of straw.

Appropriate for a manger to have straw since it was a feeding trough--
never intended to serve as a bed for a baby.
It was a make-do.
It was an all-they-had.
It was a be-grateful-that-at-least-we-have-this-manger.

But this empty manger
that sits before our altar
is here now because of our gospel reading today.

There are four distinct parts to today’s gospel story.

The first part picks up the story right where we stopped last week.
Jesus and his disciples--Simon, Andrew, James and John--
left the synagogue
and went a short distance to Simon’s house.

We are told that Simon’s mother-in-law is very sick and is in bed.
You did not stay in bed in that time period
because you had just stayed up too late the night before
or because you were feeling a little under the weather.
You only stayed in bed
if you were--literally--deathly ill.
Fevers that put you in bed
were not to be taken lightly.

We are told that immediately upon entering the home,
Jesus went to her, took her by the hand
and lifted her up.
Jesus healed her. Immediately.

Once more we are reminded of whom this man is--a teacher, yes.
but also one who heals. One who brings you back to your whole self.

We are told that Simon’s mother-in-law--we are never told her name--
but we are told that she got up and begins to serve them immediately.
(In case you haven’t noticed,
the writer of the gospel of Mark loves the word “immediately”).

Now there have been times
when I have read this gospel or heard it read
and cringed at the poor woman
who had to get up off her sick bed
and begin serving the men.
Couldn’t she have at least one day off?!!

But I have come to see this verse in a very different way.

When we are healed, when we are made well by the grace of God,
it is our JOY to serve others.
It is our JOY to be back to our routine
of doing the things we do each and every day.

To serve with joy
never diminishes us.
To serve with joy never diminishes us.

Then we come to part 2 of this gospel reading.
By evening the word had spread throughout the village and suddenly,
the whole city--those are the exact words they use---
the whole city gathered around the door of Simon’s house.

I did a little research and discovered that Capernaum
was a small fishing village--really small--
and the population around the time of Jesus
` would probably have been about 1500 people.

The population of Haw Creek--of the 28805 zip code--is about 17,000.
1500 is a small number.

It is completely feasible that the whole city came out that evening.

Do you know someone who has cancer or Parkinson’s disease?
Do you have a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s
or a friend who suffers from mental illness or depression?
A baby with a raging fever?

Don’t you think you would be out of the house
and heading down the street--
even if there was a remote hope of healing?
I’d be there.
I hate crowds but I would be there.
Heal me hands of Jesus.

And it didn’t matter than Jesus had already had a long day
and was no doubt exhausted,
he stepped outside and healed people.
He cured many, the gospel says.
I wonder what time it was when he finally got to sleep that night?

But like Simon’s mother-in-law
it seems that what he did,
he did with great joy, with great love.
He served because he knew he was called by God to serve,
to do just this.

We move then to the third part of this gospel story.
We hear that Jesus gets up early,
early in the morning--
when it was still dark--
and he goes out to a deserted place and prays.

Jesus knows what he really needs.
He knows what he needs more than an extra hour of sleep.
He needs quiet and silence and the peace of God’s created world--
and most of all,
he needs time alone with God.
He needs time for prayer.

Jesus knows that he--nor any of us--
are fit for ministry--
and by ministry I mean every single thing we do in a day--
if we do not take time out--time away--for prayer.
That is not easy.

Everything else will hurl itself towards us like angry birds
determined to gobble up
all the slots on our daily calendars.
Gimme. Gimme. Gimme.

Even these newbie disciples don’t get it--the gospel tells us that
Simon and his companions hunted for Jesus.
That’s right--hunted!
The Greek word really means hunted--
tracked down with the intention to capture.
They hunted for Jesus and when they found him
they essentially say,
“What on earth are you doing out here by yourself?
We don’t have time for praying!
There are people who need you! Let’s go! ”
The disciples don’t get it yet.
Sometimes we don’t get how prayer
is the true fuel for ministry,
for our life with God and with one another.

The world has so many needs.
Indeed, part of our call is to attend to some of those needs.
But Jesus is showing us by example
that we must put our need to have time with God---
to have time for prayer--
we must put that need first.
It must be the number one priority on our day’s agenda.

Jesus teaches by example.
Do this.
Take time for prayer
so that you will have the strength and the courage
and the stamina and the heart
for all that will come your way the rest of the day.

W move into the fourth part of Mark’s gospel for today.
Jesus does not chastise his friends for coming to find him,
for hunting him down.
He does not say, “Back off! I’m praying.”

He is ready to go. Ready and willing to serve.
But he also quickly lets them know that his ministry--their ministry--
is far bigger than just Capernaum.

Let us go to the neighboring towns...for that is what I came to do.

And off they go.
Jesus knows what God has asked him to do.
Jesus is very clear about how he is called to serve.
He is called to teach and to preach and to heal.

He does all this--including pray--to set an example for his disciples.
Not just Simon and Andrew and John and James.
but Jesus sets an example for each of us as well.

I put this empty manger here today
to remind us
that we too need to keep our mangers ready and open and empty
so there is room for God
to come in and be born in us.
We need to keep our lives open--
ready to receive and welcome God.

We need to keep our calendars open enough
to have time to be quiet, to pray.

We need to keep our hearts open
so God can find room to live inside of us.

We need to keep our eyes open--just like those three magi in our banner--
so we can see the star and follow the light.

We need to keep our ears open
so we can hear God calling us--calling OUR name--
so we might serve
and do everything with joy and delight.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Groundhog Day!

Feburary 2nd is a very significant day in my spiritual journey. Many years ago I went for my first visit with the Bishop to tell him I felt called to the priesthood. I did not know what to expect. Would he laugh? Toss me out into the streets? My rector at the time--and now my friend--Scott Oxford-- went with me. That way if I got tossed out into the street, the Bishop would toss Scott first and I would have a soft landing spot. Sometimes "ladies first" is not a good idea.

Actually Bishop Johnson's response to sharing my call was kind and very affirming. No one got tossed anywhere. At least not literally. I was, at that point, tossed into the discernment process of the Episcopal Church which at times can make landing on pavement seem like a better choice.

Of course, you already know that I was discerned, educated, ordained and all in all it has been a good journey. All in all.

Okay, you may be wondering what this all has to do with Groundhog Day. Yes, that was the date of my first visit with the Bishop but something happened in a phone call that followed that visit.

I spoke by phone with a friend, former rector and a key person who made me fall in love with Jesus again and with the Episcopal church for the first time--Doug Bailey--and told him it had gone well. He commented, with his trademark enthusiasm,"What an absolutely awesome day to go for a visit to the Bishop!" Of course I agreed with him though I was pretty clueless as to why Groundhog Day would be such an awesome day for the visit.

Was there some secret Episcopal Code that if I saw my shadow I would not be selected to go on through the process but if I didn't see my shadow I got to go straight to seminary? I was a bit puzzled so I tactfully said to Doug, "So Doug, tell me more why you say that?" (See, I was already preparing myself for CPE years later: so tell me do you really feel...). Doug quickly responded (more trademark enthusiasm), "Jeanne,this is the feast day for the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple!"

Oh. Yes. Yes. Of course. I knew that. Actually it was pretty amazing to think about my visit to the Bishop coinciding with this feast day.

And I never, never forget the date of the Presentation (or of Groundhog Day)or of that visit to the Bishop.

I couldn't find a YouTube video of the Presentation but here is a pretty great little film about Groundhog Day.