Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent 3A

I instantly see sky blue....somewhere in the back of my imagination....when I hear the name " Mary".
Probably because of her cloak. It's a really saturated, "Maxwell Parish", October sky blue. My poet friend Aliki (alikibarnstone), who is half Greek, told me that blue, Mary-blue, and also that cobalt blue, decorates all houses in Greece. It is a powerful thing that wards away evil. The evil-eye. (I still don't really know the concept of the eye...just that you don't want it on you.) so blue is a protection from that which is bad and can harm you. And, of course, that is confusing because to "be blue" is...well...not a good thing, and if it leads to depression and suicide....well, that seems pretty evil. To sing the blues is sort of in the can go either either sing and get get it out of your system and feel happy again, or you just keep on singing the blues forever....or until you can't take it anymore.
So Mary got a complicated colour.
Which works because she is complicated. She comfortably fills in the spaces that the goddess has left.
She's like everyone's best imagination of a mom.
She's either human in it's most perfect imagining....or perfect in that she's just a little edgey.
She is not scary, though. Not for me.
Somehow, if I woke to find an angel standing at the foot of my bed, I would be screaming and clawing with terror...
But if Mary was standing there, in her blue cloak, I think I would be OK. I would feel really blest even.
Go figure.
It's like there's a part of me that "gets" why God chose her to carry Godself. Good choice!
She's like the best of grandma, mom, and girlfriend wrapped into one....which brings her right back to the goddess! She is the teenage girl pregnant mysteriously, she is the broken weeping mother at the foot of the cross, she is the one gently pressuring the miracle at Cana, she is the one we think of when Paul McCartney sings "Let it Be" (his deceased mother was also named there's that...but anyway)
She is as real or as cosmic as we need.
But she does comfort. The quintessential maternal duty. 
On this pink-candle lighting Sunday, we think of Mary. Maybe it should be a blue candle....the blueness that surrounds her is somewhat ineffable...but the candle for the day is special. It's pink. And she was the carrier of God.
Just as Creator being created has reset all creation, God's choice of her has certainly reset her!
Deified her.
Mary. The Mother of God! God has done great things!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent 1 of Year A

Just like all of the other "New Year's" today is a great day to make a resolution about blogging more frequently...yeah. So, since this is the brand new, spanking fresh liturgical year I should write my musings on the first lectionary of year A. Here goes:
Seriously, lectionary people? Seriously? Now, to be fair, the first week of Advent, traditionally, focuses on when Jesus comes "again".....but this Matthew is harsh! My congregation just decorated for Christmas all day Saturday. They probably listened to holiday tunes on the radio. They are thinking about "baby" Jesus who is very sweet and innocent and loves us in a way deeper way than we can know....what we're getting is "thief in the night", scary, threatening, judging Jesus"!?! This is just not what we want to hear this week. Just sayin'. I, being a third Quaker and all, have to admit that the incarnational  aspect of of God is rockin'! I probably do stress that more often than some would like (hey! We all have our thing, right?!) so, Immanuel...God with us....and the next step God in a huge, big deal for me. The whole second coming thing is just not a part of my usual theological discussions. (if I can help it) So, this first week of the new liturgical year, my plan was to go off lectionary and just preach on a Bible story of God with us...O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and all that...I came really close, but something was not right. It seems a bit phony to go off lectionary just because the text is something you don't really want to preach for whatever reason.
Matthew and Mark are the highlighted Gospels for year A. Maybe, I should start there. Matthew is a kind of more Jewishy book. History matters. Tradition matters. There's lots of reference to law and things from the whole arc of the story with God. Likely, it was written for an audience that was in Jerusalem. These were God's Chosen who were following the teachings of Jesus Christ, not gentiles hearing the whole thing fresh and new and having a relational God introduced who is different from the god or gods they knew from their culture. Jesus is even referred to as "rabbi". His preaching, when we sum up Matthew, stresses LOVE. So, there's that. Yet....He doesn't seem that lovely in this text! The first bit is strangely comforting....about the day and hour no one knows.....not messengers from heaven, not the Son (that would be Jesus) but only the Father. I wish that in high school I would have rememinded of this. Many a slumber party conversation centered on Nostradamus and the end of the world...and of course, recently, those people who lost all their money because they thought the world was coming to an end. I think their minister told them. I can't reacall what exactly they did with their money, but the end did not come and they were all broke. It was in the news....there was either a comet, or just current events had the minister thinking prophecy was met and Jesus was back. I guess he forgot this passage. Actually, when there were riots in Egypt a few years back Fox News had "footage" of what looked like a ghostly horse and rider above the crowd...clearly one of the four "Riders of the Apocalypse" that we hear avout in that other text that is, quite frankly, bizarre, Revelation. 
And was it May 16th of 2012...then moved to December 23rd of 2012 when we were told the Mayan Calendar predicted the end times......and all the other prophecies proved that the end was nigh. And here we still are. But are we ready?? If Jesus was returning tonight, are we ready?

Advent 1 is when we are meant to think about the Advent yet to come, and to do that is to confront texts that our tradition ( the reformed one) doesn't really dwell on! We would sort of rather skip it! It's the end of days! What could that mean and be?!? It's unknown and freaky! Back to the text! Get ready!

Ok Jesus says "For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Call me crazy but the Noah story is HARSH! With the hurricane just a few weeks ago in the Phillipines, the Boxing Day Tsunami which wasn't that long ago, followed closely by Katrina....and recently we were personally effected by Sandy (almost embarrasing to mention compared with the loss of any of those other disasters) we know how unfun the whole flood thing is. God did not seem all that loving in that story. Jesus coming back is gonna be like that?! But Jesus loves us! All those people....eating, drinking....getting married....whatever. Totally unaware until the day Noah got in the ark that it was CURTAINS! Dang. So, (and this is where the story differs from the Noah one) Jesus continues; "like two people will be in the field; one will be taken, one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, one will be left." WHAT? And which is the good one? The one left, or the one taken? Where did they go? This is what some other denominations stress....this second coming time when only some people get to heaven. There are a lot of jokes about it, I sort of partially recall is about a pilot. When Jesus comes back the pilot just vanishes into thin air, and the plane, obviously, crashes! So, I don't know if you should seek a Christian or a Jew/muslim/pagan/atheist pilot? I'm still not clear who disappears. Anyway. Does anyone know the joke?!
"So", he continues, "Keep awake, for you do not know when the Lord is coming"
Is it just me, or is it a little confusing. How does being awake effect the outcome of this? Or is it just good to know? I think back to the whole Noah thing, or the Tsunami thing and think....well....maybe it's best to NOT know....I mean if there's nothing you can do about it...
And yet....the creepiest bit is yet to come! Is Jesus breaking into our house in the middle of the night??? "Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the theif was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into."
How messed up is that? 
Jesus, who we assume is the Son of Man, and that is who we assume the allegory is illustrating, says"thief", the break-in isn't just because he forget his key or something...a thief in the night!

These decorations are for Baby Jesus! And he loves us! This I know! For the Bible tells me so! But today the Bible is telling me he's breaking in and you should stay awake if you are the owner of the not let it be broken Jesus.....WHAT?
Be ready? The Son of Man is coming. At an unexpected hour. And it's sort of scary.
But somehow being aware makes it better? I'm there something we can do about it?

Maybe repentance? We are scum buckets (in case you hadn't noticed) We are selfish jerks that want tocontrol everything and we are crap at it. I look at the last few days....Black preparation for celebrating the birth of Christ with buying in order ot be giving and getting tons of STUFF or adventures or experiences to delight ourselves. Even Thanksgiving, when we show God thanks for all that we have by over-indulging instead of showing thanks by doing what God would do if God was here i.e. anything remotely Jesusy (oh there I go with my high Christology again!) 
We are kind of mixed up. Admit it! We are sinners all. We need to WAKE up and face it pretty much all the time. 
It's rather a shame that the lectionary stops at verse 34.....if we were to keep reading, in verse 46 Jesus says, "Blessed is the slave whom the master will find at work when he arrives." I'm thinking that's healing and feeding, but maybe being in the field or grinding meal. How God wants you working is between you and god, right?

We can't just leave out the tricky parts of the Bible. (As tempting as it is) there is nothing I want more than to preach on John 17:21 where Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him, and jesus is in us and we are in him and the Father is in us and all of us are in each other and through each other and there is nothing but love and light glory and it is AWESOME in the truest sense of the word! (Uh...I kind of paraphrased there) The truth in THAT text hasn't changed one tiny bit! But this Matthew text is in the Holy Bible, too. Living Word. Fresh and pertainent each time we encounter it....even if it scares us a little.
What do we need to hear on this first day of the first week of December, of the Season of Advent in the Year of our Lord two thousand thirteen? A day that will never, ever come again? Why do we need to hear this now? How will it transform us?

Are you awake enough to think about it?
That is your job to discern.
And look busy! Jesus is coming!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy Movember!

It's November today. All Saints...or Souls.....or Hallows. hallows is the best. It sounds Harry Potter. November, though, is not really all that exciting. It's a classic bittersweet time. Of course, there's Thanksgiving, and being thankful for all we've got, which is rather important, the coming of the to be a good thing....but the year is dying...the dark closes in, it gets cold...November's annoying premature celebration of Christmas, "Christmas" itself plastered everywhere in a really blatantly pagan way...consumerism gone wild at a time when we should be contemplating the need for an Incarnate God...some men grow beards.
(I'll bet you didn't see that coming, did you?)
Yes, November, in some circles, is even called "Mo-vember" because men grow mustaches for prostate cancer research, and it becomes a marvelous competition for facial hair lunacy and grandness. Being in a household of men, (big, hairy men) who are forever up to a challenge, November and its mustache craze is something I....well....dread. Not that I don't appreciate a good 'stache! I remember the seventies and Magnum P.I.! But I'm not a super-big fan of facial hair. Overall, it seems kind of scary, but that's just me. I suppose the Theological thrust to this is that I can see things coming that I know I don't like, and I know are outwith my control..death and dark, glitzy Christmas stuff everywhere...advertisers trying to get us to buy stuff we don't need with money we don't with big, wacky mustaches...and the kicker is: others find great joy in all this. Yes they do! And that is the truth of it, and the bittersweet of it! Stuff is going on all around that I, quite frankly, don't like. 
What to do? What to do?
This is a tension; a real tension between sacrificing my wants and needs and pretending to go along with the fun(groan), and just being honest and being a stick in the mud. Where is God in this, and what is God calling me to do here?
If I rant against the culture, if I unplug early Christmas decorations, if I shave off crazy mustaches in peoples' sleep I might very well feel somewhat better, but in what way am I living out God's call to be the hands and feet of Christ? To be flesh, created by God and acting out God's wishes?
It's a tough one.
And yet, in just writing what annoys me about November helps me put it in perspective. If I simplify what it is God is saying to me at this time of year, this time when we finish up the liturgical year and get pulled down into the dark of Advent and the cycle beginning again, I am reminded again:

Love God with all that I am: heart, mind, soul, strength!

Love my neighbor as myself.

That is all. That is our job. All the rest is detail.

So turns another year. God is still speaking. Neither dark, nor cold, nor frivilous waste, nor facial hair changes the covenant between a steadfast, loving God, and God's People. least the Movember Campaign raises money for cancer research!

Peace. Love.
Be the hands and feet!

And here's tonight's sunset because nobody has a hairy enough face's just day one!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Lorica: Jeanie's Breastplate.

Those breastplates were made of the skins of the 
Leaping wild deer
Who were chased by strong, glancing youths
And smiling, slevering hounds
Over swift sparkling waters 
Like the eyes of themaidens 
Blushing at their 
Bold return
And carefree laughter.

And that is the magic 
In battle

Hearts protected
By the summer sun
The running river
The green of hill
The muscle and cheer
And swift response of boy
And dog
The tinkle of laughing girl and birdsong

All in the work of the tanners'
The armorers' hands
The squires' hands

The warrior 
Surrounded by all 
That creation praises

And mine.....
Now woven
Of rainbow and 
The vapour of grandmothers songs
Of the sounds of daddy's
Whirring lawnmower
And the energy off a firefly's glow
Of the color of the love that has no words
And the words of respect 
Whose color has no name

All in the work of mother's
The friends' hands
The children's hands

Surrounded by all 
that creation praises
I gather up the strong name of the Trinity

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rainbow Time

At this time,
Time is not an issue because
It's all starting up again
You can feel it and smell it in the
Cool of the morning when yellow sun
Slants through layers of wet, wrinkled leaves
And the dust of centuries on the glass
Of my vision
And as the day gains confidence
The colors do, too:
Each new leaf, each tree, each blade
The oaken preleaf, applepeachcherryblossom, azalea
Ancient wood and orchard
Suburban mailbox, lamppost adoration
New pinegrowth, catkin, flowers that transform from lion tooth, to puff of wish!
Violet spray on lawn and verge
Wisteria high amongst the forest
Swinging and thrumming with the bumblebee song
Cloud and dogwood
Tiny stars in midnight sky remembered
By the scattering of tiny whites along the garden path
Or on the green grass
And around me they dance!
sustaining. Timeless
And the praise in me is involuntary
And the word comes to us that
The colors of such are reminders of those
Who throughout time
Have sustained us...and can still
Their names and faces
Voices and hair
Eyes and energy
Recalled in the creation that swirls around us now
We are not alone
But swept along, supported,
In the colorful dance of timeless creation.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let everything that breathes....

That very first day when creation shifted
And spring sprung, the sound of which
hummed and thrummed
the whole night and day
I heard, as if for the first time,
the praises
Of just to be
From all that breathed
or moved the air in such
a way as
I could gasp in wonder
At how its praise completed a circle

How not once
Not even for a second did
The frogs
stop their jingle

And the warblers
Bordered the light
Their twittered praise
The bookends
To the Word of the day

Which was dog bark
Child laugh
Bus belch
Woodpecker tap
Distant parkway whine
Squirrel chatter
Cardinal choo
Airplane rumble
Skritch of rake
Whough of pine pollen powder
(given proper declination of the sun)
And surely heard
Like rolling thunder
By fairies maybe
(And God...of course)

All breath and wave of air and light
Praise. Proper praise.
For we are here
And what is there to that
But wonder most excellent.

And back to darkness
And the moon's watery song
And the stars' tight harmonies
And us
To jingle
with the frogs.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bad Friday

Good Friday.
I was four Good Fridays of age.
She decided to tell me the story.
So she did.
"Bad Friday" I said it was......
My grandmother said not to say that.
That was sacrilegious.
Good Friday because
The badness of the crucifixion
To the best of all good men
Had to happen
for the goodness to come
To the baddest of men.

She told the story as if she'd been there herself
Watching it all from the foot of the cross
Tears streaming down
Her soft ripply face,
Her clouds of white hair
That smelled of the
Powder that was pressed in the tortoise-shell case
With the mirror.
And after the story
She sang.
I can't recall what.
It would have trilled and rumbled always did.
She closed her eyes and rocked with me on her lap
And I loved her.
Though not really the story so much.

It was just like how she had sat
On the leatherette hassock
Close to the black and white tv
When Martin Luther King, Jr was killed
Tears streaming down
Her soft ripply face,
And clouds of hair,
And eyes shining like
The blue cornflower brooch
Pinned to her housecoat
That jagged me when she held me close
Swaying and humming and
Throughout that evening saying
"this is somehow how it's meant to be...even though it feels so wrong,
It had to happen."

So, the Friday story seemed somewhat familiar,
Only it was a shock that someone would do this to baby Jesus,
Or the long-haired sepia toned guy,
3/4 profile looking in the middle distance,
Or the blond one in the Sunday School Music Room
With the sheep on his shoulders.
But, I guess Martin Luther King, Jr had been a baby once, too.
And he was someone's father. And someone's minister.
These things, they happen.

And that was my first memory of a Good Friday.
A Bad Friday.
I didn't like the story.
For the rest of the day,
I didn't want to be alone.
When our grandmother clock struck three,
Everywhere I looked,
I saw crosses:
In the grain of wood
In the paneling of white doors
In the patterns of the wallpaper
In the kitchen linoleum,
In the heat registers
In the bark of trees.
Even in the floating colours when I closed my eyes.

She laughed and
said I had a good imagination.
She gathered me in her arms and
Sat on the rocker
with the green corduroy cushions
She rocked me,
And sang,
And wept,
And said
This is part of what Good Friday is.
In order to grow it has to happen.

In order to be forgiven it has to happen.

I thought it was pretty bad....
Bad Friday.
But at least,
On her lap,
I did not feel forsaken.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Greeny equal

Green is a kind of an equal colour.
It's not hot and heavy
Red or Orange
Summery passion and flame
Nor is it cold and airy
blue or thin yellow
Apathetic wintery skies
Green can be hot or cold
The wiry shoot of crocus through the snow
Not to be defied
Or the eucalyptus and pine of cough syrup
Prepared to heal

That green equal is there in this
It is there somehow in all that ever is.
I imagine the primordial soup was green;
Oozing and simultaneously hot and cold in bits.

It is balance.

And isn't that what we ultimately seek?
The tension of all creation held tightly....
But not too tightly
Held loosely...
But not so much so as to drift off;
Flying into nothingness
A dispersing of colourful nebulae stuff
Rather than a congealing.

But never a hardening.

And we sit here, reflective

In equitable vernalness of mind
The vernal equinox of this year
On this planet
At this time
Of us when it's not easy being green.
And we equate it to life
And wrestle with it nonetheless.

Friday, March 8, 2013

For whatever reason......

For whatever reason.....
We are here.
Not here in the sense of in this room, on this chair,
Aware that we
And these hands,
These knees,
This breath,
And to BE
seems as if
It should
Be natural
And easy
For whatever reason.....
It mostly is not.
What are we
The stuff that makes
The stars
The planets
What are our thoughts
Electrical impulses?
That leap across the gaps
Between cells
Igniting and relaying
Across a network of many cells
To do
A thing
Any thing....
A small gesture,
An involuntary action,
Or a large invention.
Or not.
For whatever reason.....
There is a lot of not.
Sometimes brokenness,
Sometimes vanity,
Sometimes just not caring to.....
There is also the not.
We remember.
We dream.
We plan.
We love.
We lament....
Such a lot for stardust and lightning
To take on alone.
Our mistakes,
Our successes,
Our misfirings,
Our intentional, strategic Firestorms
Our just sitting and waiting.
Both here in this room, on this chair,
And Here.
Wishing we were somewhere else
Wishing we were someone else
Wishing this situation was
You are not alone.
Stardust and lightning even sitting,
Has a way of wandering
And thinking about its very nature....
From stardust and lighting,
are formed such amazing things
Lamenting and singing
Planning and dreaming
In fear and in love
Snapping synapses within a brain
Swirling colors of nebula
Over space
Endless space.
All the while....
We are here.
For whatever reason.
We are here.
And you
You are not alone.

Friday, March 1, 2013


The color for lent...of course....
But also
of shadow between buildings,
Of the lines around clouds as the sun sets,
Of the gleam off a starling's wing in the cool sunshine of winter,
Or of grackle head,
Crocus bloom....
Or darker blood-purple of winter hellebore,
The taste of chocolate
Even though chocolate is brown,
Or called dried plum....
(it's somehow less offensive)
And the mood?
One deeper inward than blue.....
It's an inside the head color.
Purple is.
Of the understanding that
The hardest thing to do is repent;
Is turn around
On a dime
And work your way out.
Deepest purple
Not so much falling over sleepy garden walls,
lit with firefly bottom
And tasting of chocolate milk from purple cartons
Amidst violets and yellow-eyed purple primroses
On sunny morning kitchen sills....
But of deepest purple
the confusing purple of the Sheol
Of our own creation
Or the stuffed, suffocating, overwhelming
Purple dark of the identity we are stuck in
The purple of Lent
We travel through it
Never alone
although it feels so.
And surface....
Alive....but better.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

temporary lenten journey derailment.....

Oh dearie me....

Just when you least expect it, right!
I'm all encouraged on thought journey related with the Peace Pilgrim planning meeting and all, when my's my car, but just like my bike, I think of it like a horse, starts taking on water....yeah like...WHAT?!
I know! The passenger side floor was swamped. Sad face.
I sit here, by the window, NOT looking out on Silver (the obvious horse/car name), nor am I driving about on my journey....because it's in the shop!!!!

Yeah. I sit here thinking about lenten journey, journey, thwarted journey, Journey and well.....shelter. It's horrible out...very Scottish weather.....and I am warm, dry, if not bored.....

This week's lectionary texts speak of both journey: Abram...the Psalmist....Jesus....Paul.....
and also is the concept of God as the shelter....
On Monday's trip to the AC RV show, the boys and I giggled and dreamed our way through all the amazing RVs thinking of where we could go, and in what style and comfort we could travel. Imagining God on the journey as that kind of RV is one kind of shelter for the journey to be sure.

In God's house are many mansions...and throughout the story of the covenant we are constantly reminded not to worry about ANYTHING....just to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds.
So much easier said than done!
But still....we are assured that if we trust, God will see us through, in style!
So, I appreciate my warm and dry....and my less dry but soon to be dry Silver....and this journey,
challenging, exciting,
God is WITH YOU.....
Don't stop believing! Hold on to that feeling!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Walking for peace......

So, this is the window where I thought,
 "Huh. How many years since I last wrote on that blog!"
 This is where I shall be as I think about reviving the long neglected blog! This is where the new journey continues!
The truth is, just like every other journey I take, something drew me off course!
And, it being Lent, there is a lot that reminds us of journey. Today I sat in a meeting that was about planning next September's "Peace Pilgrim" Celebration in Egg Harbor City.
For those who don't know her story. The "Peace Pilgrim" basically spent the last 20 years of her life wandering about America, and some other countries, too. She vowed to walk until all wars were ended. She never planned where she would stay, or where her meals would come. She traveled with the clothes on her back, a toothbrush and a comb. She preached the peace of the inner light...that larger, world peace could only be achieved when we found the peace within. So lovely. So simple. So brave. 
I sat, a by-stander of sorts, in awe, thinking about what it would be like to just decide that the rest of my days would be spent walking for the name of peace.....with only God to guide and provide.....just as "Peace" did. Never worrying about gutter replacement, cracked foundations, uncharged laptops, what the neighbors think. Just walking and meeting people. Amazing. I guess if it still feels scary or crazy, then the time is not right.
I totally respect her....and at the same time it seems so unreal...and makes me check if "Forrest Gump" is on Netfix!
Even if we don't sell everything, and just begin walking and preaching the inner light, how is our journey one of freedom and trust in God. How can we simplify it so that the rest of our "journey" can be the kind where we can notice the flowers, the sky, the changing seasons? That all we "carry" with us is the very minimum? That we trust God for ALL the rest?
Maybe before we set out on the highways and byways, we try this for just a day. Hmmmmm. Life is like a box of chocolates....... is where to find out more about "Peace"! she was an interesting and inspired individual.
Walk on, friends!!!