Monday, December 26, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
We are empowered to move beyond thinking about God, and intellectualizing our faith, into knowing God in daily life. God is real, God lives in us, and God is available to us in the present moment. It is unfortunate that in many of the distractions of the sentimental customs and the myths that surround Christmas – as much fun as they are and as much joy as they offer – we have lost much of the power of the Incarnation, the knowledge and meaning of “Emmanuel," God with us in our own lives and in the life of the world. Life with God is all about relationship with God and with one another.
Friday, December 9, 2011
We live in extremely anxious and troubled times. Nationally and around the world there is a fierce anger, frustration, self-centeredness and attitude of greed and lust for power. There is an genuine of fear of job loss, homelessness, poverty, and, for many, there is a prevailing sense of hopelessness. This is all in addition to the usual seasonal anxiety of too much activity, too many tasks to accomplish, all producing too much stress in our lives, and too much distress in the lives of those around us. We are left with questions of where are we now with all of this and what is next, not to mention the ongoing everyday demands of family, church, friends, and our own inner drivenness to accomplish, to succeed, or to simply survive. This is all enough to wear down the most well disciplined and committed saint. We can lament the loss of the real meaning of Advent. I complain about this every year, but I doubt seriously that we can make it any different than it is. As much as we would like to be able to ignore the realities of secular living they are not going to disappear. So, how are we to live out the contemplative part of our relationship to God and with one another?
It is now, in the reality of the present moment, that the hush of grace descends upon us. This is the time to acknowledge every anxiety, every fear, every sadness, every pain of unreconciled relationships, every unresolved crisis, every need to understand, every desire to control, and then turn them over to God and simply be still. It is in stillness and grace that we are able to recognize and to receive the greatest gift of all — the incarnation of God in Christ. What this means is not simply some theological theory, but it means that God is one with us. God is participating in the life of creation. God is directly a part of our life -- not only in a text book, not just in the Bible, not hypothetically in the words of some preacher, but, in fact, in as real a way as possible. God is in our daily life and the Holy One lives in us and with us. Now, I want you to understand that I really believe this — we live in the sure hope of the reality of the presence of God personally and directly in the present moment.
"This is not God in a cloud, or God in a sunset, or God in tablets of stone, or God as a moral force, or God as a theological concept. Not God in a sermon or in a sacrament. But the humanization of God. The naturalness of God. The simplicity of God. The unprecedented self-communication of God."
---- H. King Oehmig
Monday, November 7, 2011
This photo was taken October 28, 2011, of the leaders of three great branches of the Church (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican), along with others, who gathered in Assisi for reflection, dialogue, and prayer for peace. This was a very significant, yet mainly overlooked, event that should have had world-wide impact.
In all of the noise and insanity of today's world, let us not forget the responsibility we have to pray and work for the peace and well-being of all of God's creation and all the nations and peoples. As people of faith, the task before us is to look for and expect to discover God in those around us -- in everyone -- not only those who claim to be Christian, but for all people everywhere. We spend so much time and energy criticizing, judging, and alienating those around us and we ignore that we are, in fact, all children of God. It is our responsibility, as a people of faith, to see the Holy in all of our brothers and sisters and to rejoice with them in our common heritage as creatures of God.
We cannot set limits or boundaries on our love and respect for others anymore than God's love is limited, earned, or qualified. In God there are no outcasts. Among us are the poor and the rich, those who morn and those who rejoice, the meek and the not so meek, the hungry and the satisfied, the merciful and the not so nice, the pure and the not so pure, the peacemakers and, yes, even the troublemakers, and we are all part of the family of God.
In the face of all, we must pray for peace, strive for the well-being of all creation, and work for justice for all peoples of the world. Living in God's creation we are all standing on "holy ground" where the boundaries between the sacred and the secular disappear and we are all one -- "spiritual beings," said Teilhard de Chardin, "having a human experience."
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
So many Christians tend to be like that family – we just do not get it. We struggle along trying to be good church folk, but we find it all to be a bit difficult and, at times, sort of grim, like trying to exist on dry, stale cheese sandwiches, when all the while there is laid out for us a wonderful feast which is all included in the cost of discipleship – the price of the ticket. I am often reminded of the very severe young evangelist who stood up and declared with the most sad face, “I have been so happy since I found Jesus!”
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
-- This blessing is from an order of service put together by Bill Hopper for the use of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Miami. Bill was at the time, the organist and choir master at Trinity, and, as you can tell, a lover of animals. During the service of the Blessing of the Animals, I would go to each animal present and give this blessing. It always filled me with emotion and joy. (If any would like a copy of the entire service, let me know by email and I will send you a copy.)
Nikki is doing very well and, while she is 11, she acts and moves like a three year old. I had two other Huskies in my life: Kree, when I was a teenager, and Grey Wolf, who was with us when our girls were small. They were all wonderful companions and Nikki joyfully carries on her part as a faithful and dear friend.
Matthew Fox referred to his Golden Retriever as his "spiritual director." I do not claim that my Huskies have been my spiritual directors, but they are certainly my soul friends. In them one can truly see the essence of the Holy.
I found this wonderful piece which seems fitting as we come to Saint Francis' Day and the blessing and thanksgiving for our animals and all creatures and creation:
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Some passing thoughts on the "Vineyard" as I prepare for Sunday's sermon. . .
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
From The Way of Chuang Tzu:
"Those who are caught in the machinery of power take no joy except in activity and change--the whirring of the machine! Whenever an occasion for action presents itself, they are compelled to act. They cannot help themselves. They are inexorably moved, like the machine of which they are a part. Prisoner in the world of objects, they have no choice but to submit to the demands of matter. They are pressed down and crushed by external forces, fashion, the market, events, public opinion. Never in a whole lifetime do they recover their right mind! The active life! What a pity."
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
"The Cross is the sign of contradiction . . . but the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purposes. Yes, it is for them, too, a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy! This, of course, is the ultimate temptation of Christianity! To say that Christ has locked all the doors, given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved--while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy, which alone is truly serious and worthy of being taken seriously."
I am convinced that the sign of the Cross is a direct contradiction of the self-righteous smugness and exclusiveness of some who claim to be Christian. For me, the Cross is the sign of God's all inclusive love and forgiveness -- the sign under which we can choose to live as a worshipping community of those who seek to live in the awareness of God's love for all of us, where there are no outcasts.
The sign and symbol of the Cross should point to our willingness to let God be at the heart of our life together, forming all of our actions, our decisions, the use of our resources, how we vote, and our care, not only for one another and those we like, but even our enemies, not allowing evil or revengefulness to rule our hearts, but to conquer evil with mercy and kindness.
Those who live under the sign of the Cross are those who are together called to be a people of radical hospitality and inclusive love and mercy -- a sacred community where all are welcome and invited to enter and find God.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
THE REVEREND DANA E. BUCHANAN, 51, died on September 15, 2001, after a long battle with cancer. Dana was ordained a Deacon in the Diocese of Virginia in February. She was a faithful, valiant, and compassionate servant of God and God's people in the church and the world. There was a wonderful "Celebration of the Resurrection" for her at Saint James' Church in Leesburg, Virginia, on September 24, 2011. Dana had planned most of the details of her service over a year ago. Included was a piece she had written and had been set to music which was one of the Communion anthems:
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
"The third commandment enjoins quietness of heart, tranquility of mind. This is holiness. Because here is the Spirit of God. This is what a true holiday means, quietness and rest. Unquiet people recoil from the Holy Spirit. They love quarrelling. They love argument. In their restlessness they do not allow the silence of the Lord's Sabbath to enter their lives. Against such restlessness we are offered a kind of Sabbath in the heart. As if God were saying, 'Stop being so restless, quieten the uproar in your minds. Let go of the idle fantasies that fly around in your head.' God is saying, 'Be still and see that I am God' (Ps. 46)."
This quote was discovered in Martin Laird's book, Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation (Oxford Press 2006). I recommend this book to give to those who are seeking to live with more of a contemplative awareness and practice in the midst of their busy and active lives.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
To Be or To Do?
By Joan Chittister, OSB.
If there is a sin in the Christian life it is probably action. We talk about “strategizing” and “mobilizing” and “lobbying” and “renewing” and “aligning” and “reforming” as if it were all up to structures; as if action were enough. We do and do and do. And there’s the problem. We set out to do something that the world needs, instead of to be something that the world needs. We set out to change instead of to illuminate. And we wonder why, with all the changes, nothing ever changes. After all the changes come, there is still the fighting, still the poverty, still the greed, still the exploitation.
Why? Because deep down inside where it counts, there is still the anger, still the arrogance, still the attitudes of control. Except that now I’m the one in control. The Chinese wrote: “Now people exploit people but after the revolution it will be just the opposite.”
The contemplative questions for people of action in our day are: Who will be and also do? How can we do and also be? The problem of this culture is that we make natural enemies out of prayer and transforming action when the two are really Siamese twins: either without the other is incomplete.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Henri J.M. Nouwen, in Reaching Out, which I believe is one of his greatest books, spoke to the very important distinction between "loneliness" and "solitude" which is often confused in the minds of many who take seriously their quest of the inner life. Many run from seeking an encounter with the Holy within, out of fear of being alone and coming face-to-face with themselves, or that which they may not understand. By being willing to live only in the active, outer world, deprives one of the riches of the soul which we discover in the inner quiet, while on this mysterious, mystical journey towards God.
Friday, September 16, 2011
If there was such a thing as a divine suggestion box, I’d suggest that God make things easier. Or if not easier, at least clearer. I would love to close this book with something more substantial than empty faith, unattached love, and hopeless hope. I would love to be able to make practical suggestions about how to identify and claim the transformative qualities of the dark night in your own life. I yearn to offer something that would really make the hard times easier and bring a definite sense of meaning to the unavoidable sufferings of life. It would be so wonderful to be able to prescribe effective methods or understandings that could help us get a grip on our destinies. But the nature of the dark night does not permit that. It comes as gift and in obscurity, as and when it will, taking us where we would not and could not go on our own. And though in truth we say yes to it, we have little or no control over it. The reason for the obscurity, John says, is to keep us safe, so we don’t stumble because we think we know where we’re going. I do want to trust that.
All we have in our own hands is our desire, which is at once our prayer, our yes, and our hope. For me, in the good times, hope is synonymous with trust. I move into the next moment with confidence and an expectations of goodness. In the hard times, hope takes on an increasing feeling of risk. I hope for the best, but the next moment feels uncertain, even scary. And in the worst of times, the hope and desire may be reduced to a bare ember, so faint as to be almost undetectable. But it is always there, and sooner or later we are drawn to it. I believe that with repeated experiences of touching that desire, we do learn to recognize it, claim it, and know it as who we really are. Maybe, in a way, that is a kind of progress.