Friday, May 31, 2013

Forgiveness

I had the honor and privilege to moderate a workshop at Taize Red Shirt on forgiveness. There were three presenters, Basil Brave Heart, The Rev. Lyndon Harris, who was priest in charge at St. Paul's Chapel in NYC at 9-11 and tells a powerful tale of forgiveness, and Wendy Johnson formerly on the bishop's staff in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. 
This is what I learned about forgiveness,  “Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.”



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pilgrim or tourist?

I find it amazing that this sabbatical begins with the Taize Red Shirt pilgrimage, and will end with me being a pilgrim at Taize in France. In between there will be some time of being a pilgrim, I will go to Iona, Scotland, sojourn through Ireland, meet family in Norway, and there will be a time of being a tourist, seeing sights, the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London. The difference has something to do with location. As a tourist we stand apart from the people and look at them, as a pilgrim we stand with the people and listen to them.
As a pilgrim I encountered God's presence at Red Shirt Table. 
 
The tent village at Red Shirt.


Pilgrims climbing the hill for the last time.

Fabulous music team.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pentecost Yr C May 19 2013


Many people have asked me how I'm doing with the Taize event so close, and with leaving for the sabbatical so close, and my response has been, I'm breathing, breathe in, breathe out, it's really all I can do right now. I invite you to close your eyes and breathe with me. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. Breathe out God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. The Spirit is here, in this room, Ruach, God's breath, soft and sweet, or the rush of a violent wind.

"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." What if the miracle of Pentecost was the gift of speaking God's language, and the companion gift of hearing God's word? What if the miracle of Pentecost today is the gift of speaking God's language, words of grace, healing, and reconciliation? What if the companion gift is actually hearing the truth of grace, healing, and reconciliation? Oh, what a miracle it would be. I can just imagine filling the room, this air and this space, so that it spills out into the street, and the neighborhood, and the community, with words of God's love, with words of God's grace, with words of God's healing and reconciliation. I can just imagine all of us going out into the world breathing out God's words of love, of grace, of healing and reconciliation. I can just imagine those words falling out into the air, and being breathed in by those who so desperately need to hear God's words of love, of grace, of healing and reconciliation.

It is harder for me to imagine the companion gift, the gift of hearing. That I think is the harder part. So many people have so little experience receiving words of love, of grace, of healing and reconciliation. They are suspicious, or frightened. Maybe paranoid, or perplexed. But I do think that is part of the miracle of Pentecost, the gift of hearing God's word, Love wins. I choose to live in a world of Spirit, a world in which God's word surrounds us, and is in us, a world in which peace and reconciliation is in the wind and in the breath, and falls on each and every one of us.

And this Spirit transforms us. We are transformed together into a community that calls others into relationship, that calls for turning around and changing our ways. We hear in Acts, that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy(i). Remember a couple weeks ago I talked about the idea that the book of Revelation, and prophesy in general, is not about foretelling the future. But it is so much better than that. It is about having the power to change the narrative. No longer must our story be one of destruction, we can give up our destructive ways and instead with God's help, build and create a new way of being. No longer must our story be one of power and greed, we can give up our greedy ways and instead with God's help, build and create a giving way of being. No longer must our story be of isolation and alienation, we can give up our isolating ways and be in relationship with God and with others. As we walk into this new story, this story of healing and reconciliation, this story of wholeness, we leave love in our wake, we deposit words of grace, and our world is changed.

The Spirit transforms us individually as well. The Spirit not only blows into our lives, but seizes us and claims us as children. You are in this family because you have been claimed and named as one of God's beloved, and we cry "Abba! Father! That is your identity. You are God's beloved, you have been filled with Spirit, washed in water, marked with oil, claimed as God's own child, and that changes you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.

And the Spirit transforms us, blows in and through us, both in our community of faith and in our individual lives, for the purpose of loving one another. God's mission of healing and reconciliation is to  love one another. The Christian life is to show forth God's love in the world, and to love one another.

We Episcopalians are a little timid about telling our stories of transformation, a little shy about talking about the Spirit's work in our lives, a little embarrassed to tell others of our call to ministry by virtue of our baptism. But, these are important stories, tell them. Your story tells of God's forgiveness, your story tells of the Spirit's movement, your story tells of Jesus' healing.

Just the other night I heard an Episcopalian tell a story of transformation. I heard about heartache and healing. I heard about death and resurrection. I heard the Good News that God creates a new heart and a new spirit. I heard that even when we fall so far that there seems to be no more hope, God raises us up, Love wins, forgiveness happens, healing begins. God changes the narratives of our lives, we tell a new story about our identity as God's beloved. Listen for these stories, tell your stories. Tell your story of God's amazing and abundant love in your life. Tell your story of feeling abandoned by God. Tell your story of feeling not good enough and yet being loved completely and absolutely. It is by the Spirit we speak God's language, God's words, God's actions.

As you tell your story, and as you listen for your neighbor's stories, you may hear a call to stand with one another in the work that God calls us to. You may hear a call to love one another. You may hear a call to action in places and with people that make you a bit uncomfortable. Listen, the Spirit is moving in this place.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. Breathe out God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. The Spirit is here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

6 Easter Yr C May 5 2013

It sure seems like we've come through a mighty long winter. We have been so very thankful for the moisture though, even as it came as snow. As I walk around Canyon Lake Park in the morning, I am seeing the ducks that stop on their way someplace else. And I look forward to seeing baby ducks before I leave. The moisture has turned the grass green and the trees may soon flower and the wood ducks will soon have babies. The snow that fell was life-giving. But as we know, all that moisture is life-taking as well. Flooding is always difficult to watch when we are just so thankful for the moisture.

The rains and yes, even the snow of this spring and the water that brings forth new life in the park, remind me of my baptism. I am reminded that I have been joined with Jesus in the life and death of the baptismal waters. I am reminded that we are in a constant process of life, death and resurrection. I am reminded that God is never finished with me, that there is always another layer to be shed, another washing, another opportunity. There is forgiveness and healing, and that always leads to new growth and new life. And, the baby ducks are always born in flocks and travel together.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit of each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

The book of Revelation was born out of a time when people who followed Jesus had to live under cover. Worship of the gods was proscribed by the Roman Empire. Empire and worship were one and the same. The book of Revelation gave hope in that context, and describes the community that Jesus has set up on earth that is an alternative to empire. These were people who would gather and sing songs to God and to the lamb, to share stories and to break bread in remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They came together around a radical and transforming vision of the joyful reign of God. In this letter from John this community heard a call to faithfulness, a call to renew their love for one another. They heard the promise that they would be victorious, provided that they resist the seductions of the empire. I reminded you last week that the signs and portents of revelation worked to wake up the people to change, to wake them up so that they could resist the seductions of the empire.

The vision of Revelation gathers the community together beside God’s riverside, to drink of its water of life, to find shelter beside God’s majestic tree of life with its healing leaves. As you read these verses in Revelation chapters 21-22, imagine yourself walking into this city through its open gates, exploring the landscape that the angel unfolds before you. You are safe at last. You are beloved.

I began today with my stories of being reminded of my baptism and being reminded of new life and resurrection because those experiences bring me to a place where I can imagine this reality that John describes for us. However, I know that the truth of our lives here and now is that the seductions are powerful. The seduction of greed, of exclusion, and of self-importance is powerful indeed. Chapter 21 in Revelation speaks specifically to the healing of all nations through the leaves of the tree of life. There is much in Revelation that some have used to dominate others and to create a culture of fear. The concept that some know as the rapture is clearly a misinterpretation of the message of Revelation. The call to transformation and to reconciliation and healing is clear in Revelation. The call to turn away from violence, to turn away from greed, to turn away from exclusion, to turn toward peace, to turn toward generosity, to turn toward inclusion is mighty powerful. God’s holy city provides enough food for all, in God’s holy city all hunger is satisfied.

Given this interpretation of Revelation, that revelation offers hope and freedom, nourishment and sustenance in a culture of greed, violence, and narcissism, I ask you this question. How does this speak to your deepest hunger? How does this speak to the deepest hunger of our world? I think we spend our lives yearning and searching for nourishment, for something that resembles the holy city that is described in Revelation. Our search takes us by way of false nourishment. Like eating potato chips instead of potatoes, or candy instead of fruits and vegetables. We look for satisfaction in places that can only offer us momentary delight. But when we look away from God to satisfy our hunger, we continue to go away hungry.

Gathered at the riverside, God’s people, you and I, have tasted life-giving water and manna from heaven. We have glimpsed God’s beloved city. Because of that, everything is different now. Everything and everyone is precious. The challenge is to live our lives according to the story of God’s beloved city, to live in terms of its blessing. We live in freedom, not enslaved by the need to please and perform, but fully and absolutely and abundantly loved by the God who created us, who came into our world to live, suffer, and die as one of us, who rose from the dead, and lives among us, and who will come again to reign here in the company of the creation.

We live our lives connected to one another. Barbara Rossing reminds us near the end of her book, The Rapture Exposed, that Revelation’s story is about seeing the Lamb beside you in every moment of your life, in the car, at the shopping mall, at work and at school. We might call that Lamb, the Love that wins. Revelation is about looking more deeply into God’s picture and seeing how the Lamb, the Love that wins, is leading you even now into a world of joy and healing.

And next time you are washed in the rain, next time you witness new birth, remember who you are, God's beloved, equipped and sent to love others.

Thanks be to God. Amen, Alleluia.