Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Silence

Most of Prayer is listening to

the Silence

Eventually that silence becomes

A Presence

That Presence then becomes

A Companion

And speaks to the heart

but only in terms

the heart can understand

Most often without words

Most always without words

The admirable duck

I admire the duck. When I was a child I loved Donald Duck and learned how to talk like the talk. I still do to entertain children. And then I lived with ducks by a pond in West Virginia. Whether it rained or snowed, whether it was hot or cold, the ducks just sat there and quacked. They seemed content in season and out of season. As I say, I admire the duck.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vermont and others have taken a big hit


A lovely place with covered bridges, has become inundated with torrential rains, rivers, and hundreds of roads have been closed. Whole towns and cities are isolated and cut off. It will take years to recover. You can help by giving to the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund, or to another charity of your choice. We have a number of churches in the Diocese of Vermont, and they have many needs to respond to. God bless you for your generosity.
Fr. Paul

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Hinge of Recovery Turns on the Experience of Doing


Many of my friends have been working the 12 Step Program for a good long time. Pick your poison; alcohol/drugs, tobacco, sugar and so on; the truth is that too many drink/drug too much, too many die of lung cancer and obesity is pandemic. My poison of choice is of the latter sort for my entire lifetime. In fact, it goes back way beyond me into the very genetic structure of my ancestry.
I have resigned myself to live with my imperfections, except that along the way I did discover Weight Watchers and over twenty years ago I became a lifetime member, having lost over 100 pounds.
But as with so many things, the weight jumped back on me over time. Various illnesses have creeped into my existence like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and most recently diabetes.
The primary factor in all this is the "weight management". Anyone who takes a quick look at me could have a quick chuckle about that one given the fact that I have so much extra weight to carry around. So many of us now share this "burden" that it has become a national concern.
The bout with prostate cancer sobered me up a bit and now I'm working at the recovery. I've got the sugar under control. I did buy a bike last year and do ride it, but not quite often enough.
A few moments ago, I came back from a visit with my nutritionist, and I must say, how wonderful it is to have such supports.
My bride and I are really pulling for each other now. She's doing well with the weight loss, I'm struggling with it. But I cheer myself with several good thoughts
1. I am quite a character with a fabulous sense of humor.
2. I am an indefatigable fighter for justice especially for the poor, the homeless, the outcast and marginalized and believe that the church I love should be a "House of Prayer for All People" just like Jesus said it should be, and that there should be NO outcasts. So that whatever race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation we should be one in Christ, just as Paul said it should be. (Galatians 3:28)
3. I am an activist priest; race, class, gender, and orientation have been my rally cries and now I am calling for us all to mobilize ourselves for Labor Day. Wake up America, they want to take away our economic freedom and give it all to the rich.
4. But, like my namesake, Paul of Tarsus, I have this "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians:12). I am a human being. Damn! So this I am learning; my recovery turns on the experience of doing. Eat right and exercise. That's it. Not rocket science!
So I stumbled across this phrase and it excited me. And now I have the rest of my life to look toward. A sea gull looks out over the sea, and I know what s/he's looking for. Man/woman does not live by bread alone but by every word that falls from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) and this is my word for today; "The hinge of recovery turns on the experience of doing".
Thanks for listening.
Fr. Paul

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bike skills by Danny Macaskill


This is an amazing video. Listen to the song too. An abandoned factory where there are no jobs, a war that wants to use him as cannon fodder, religions that pound away at any credibility. Youth makes of it what it can, and what a wonder it is to watch.
Fr. Paul

For the Church and the World

A Prayer

For the Church and For the World


Typically I’d be in church at this hour, saying my prayers with quite a bunch of characters. Hurricane Irene has inserted herself into our routine, so I thought I’d do the next best thing. I thought I’d pray for the church and the world I live in from this perch.


My prayer for the church is that she will become a “House of Prayer for all People” just like Jesus wanted it to be. I pray that folks will come to know that whatever walk of life, God’s loving and saving embrace knows no limits. Folks like to categorize people by race, ethnicity, class, gender and orientation. God doesn’t see things this way, God made us all a little different so that as pure colorless light goes into a prism and emerges every color of the rainbow, so too each of us reveals something of the Glory of God. That’s how God and Science see it, so do I.


As for the world, we keep screwing things up with wars and such. Things do seem to be warming up if you take a good look at the polar ice caps. Our scientists tell us we're fouling things up a lot. There still is too much suffering and way too much poverty. There are a whole lot of people fussing about class warfare, as if we the poor, middle and working class were waging it. The truth is that it is the rich who wage war as they always have, and somehow they manage to convince so many that it is our fault.


So my prayer is that we find our voice again and tell the truth with such a resounding voice that America may turn her heart again toward the poor and the suffering with a heart of compassion. This will take the prayer of everyone, so I will need a lot of help with this one. Can you help me?


There are all kinds of sick and dying people out there, many, many suffer. As any one diminishes so we all do. The healing touch of Jesus cannot be present unless each of us provides a healing touch because we are all the very hands and hearts of God.


Finally, the church triumphant; all those who have gone before, we commend them to you, especially those whose lives meant so much to each of us along the way. Especially my grandmother, just another unknown saint, known to almost no one but You. Please enfold her in your love and as we take our turn on earth, help remind us of how we too are Companions along the way to one another.


I do thank God for each of you. How wonderful it is to be in your company day by day, just like my dear, dear friend St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253) was fond of saying;

“Thanks be to Thee my Lord Jesus Christ,

For all the benefits Thou hast given me

For all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for me

O Most Merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother

Day by day

May I know thee more clearly

Love Thee more dearly

Follow Thee more nearly

Day by day.


Blessings on all,

Fr. Paul


Saturday, August 27, 2011

It Takes Two Wings to Soar


To Soar Like An Eagle

It is a symbol of America; flying, soaring, free, noble and beautiful. The eagle cannot soar without both wings; right wing and left wing.
The left wing tends to be liberal, with a heart for the poor and the disadvantaged, the working people, and the middle class. The left wing sees the need to adjust taxation so that the rich, the super-rich and the multi-national corporation pay their fair share.
The right wing tends to be conservative, with a heart for those who have earned their money and are doggedly committed to letting them keep it. The answer for these folks is tax cuts, so that business can save us all
Thus I over-simplify, but no doubt each wing can express their feelings and thoughts with conviction. That, at least, is the idea. However, what we see instead is partisanship hobbling our national spirit. Bi-partisanship is a word, but it is like statesmanship; marked more by its absence than by it presence.The right wing found its voice with Limbaugh and Fox News. Now, finally the left wing is finding its voice too, somewhat too little, too late.
The problem is that we are no longer able to have conversation with each other. Both the left and right wing deny each other, without realizing the Eagle cannot soar without both. As a left wing liberal, I am convinced we need the conservative wing, but I am not so convinced that the right wing thinks the same about me. In fact I am convinced that the right wing thinks I pose a threat to the republic with my socialist leanings. Truth be told, I feel the same way about the right wing because if the wealth of the country is concentrated in too few hands the republic is also threatened.
Just today I tried to have conversation with yet another conservative. It quickly degenerated into accusation and counter accusation. This concerns me. If we cannot have civil conversation in this country, we will never learn to fly let alone soar.
Congress in in gridlock for much of the time. The nation is divided into polarities and we seem to push one another further apart. This is what poses a threat to the republic; not so much that the left/right wing is correct and the other wrong; it is because we cannot seem to come and reason together.
A nation that cannot hold conversation cannot endure. In almost every quarter, we hear of the tenor of debate in Washington has deteriorated to the point where there is no conversation, merely posturing and political arm wrestling. Moreover, we are not so much in gridlock as we are in a cat-fight. Our political life seems poisoned with diatribe, vitriol, and a constant undertone of racism. I am reminded of an old Irish Limerick that goes like this;

There once were two cats from Kilkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many
So they fought and they fit
And they spat and they spit
'Til instead of two cats, there weren't any.



The Limerick is not only a telling object lesson for feuding families and their tragic ends. They are also a prophetic warning to us. Unless we learn to listen, probe, and support one another and then respond with the same courtesy in return, we run the risk of watching this nation go to ruin.
Read the history books my friends. It was the threats from within, that felled the Republic of Rome. The sad chronicle of each succeeding Empire is full of the divisive self destructive tendencies from within, one tiresome time after another. Is this to be our fate? Just another Empire, just another civilization coming and going?
The Eagle! What a glorious symbol for a nation! A house divided against itself cannot stand. A bird without two wings cannot fly. I miss a time when Eisenhower considered all of us Americans. I miss Lincoln and those fine Republicans who pulled us together. What I miss mostly however, is just you and me, in the art of conversation; an art-form that has fallen sadly into disrepair.
Fr. Paul

Friday, August 26, 2011

It is worse than I thought


The Scandal Continues

Here Our Lady holds her son in her arms. In Catholic spirituality she is known as "Our Lady of Sorrows". I cannot help but think that her heart is broken every time she has to face the daily account of clergy sexual abuse of children. I had no idea it was this bad. Today's Boston Globe lists 159 archdiocesan clerics who have been accused of abusing children sexually. It is indeed much worse than I thought. Some charges have been dismissed but there are far too many who appear to have been the agents of a child's undoing. Lest we forget, Jesus gets very agitated about the undoing of a child; "If anyone causes on of these my little ones to stumble, it would be better if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he be thrown into the sea" (Matthew 18:6) Those are strong words for a fellow known for his capacity to forgive and have compassion.
This is very serious stuff. The scandal reaches across the country, into Canada, Ireland, Germany. There are those who raise questions about the oversight of this whole mess in all the above mentioned places. Even the Holy Father's oversight in his former Archdiocese has been under scrutiny.
One cannot help but wonder in all this how well celibacy is holding up as a valid discipline for clergy. It is abundantly clear that clergy are human beings, and human beings have sexual drives. It is as simple as that. To impose such a discipline without a fuller understanding of how pent up sexual energies may express themselves over time is very risky business.
We (The Episcopal Church) discovered that clergy can act out more than 20 years ago and began mandating that every single priest be subjected to a background check every single time s/he moves from one congregation to another. And more to the point, we contracted an outside agency to do those background checks. Obviously we are a whole long way from pure, but we are making headway. AND at least we allow our clergy; male and female, to marry and to love those they promised to love.
Furthermore, when the Church does its own discipline, it becomes suspect. It raises eyebrows. It makes one think of the wolf watching the henhouse. When the hens keep showing up dead, one begins to suspect the wolf. It may make some sense to get background checks done on every single priest, and to contract that work to an outside agency.
Many clergy rail on about abortion, and I mean in rather uncharitable ways, and end up calling those of us who are pro-choice "murderers". May I point out that we must get our priorities right. Lets worry about the children we have on the planet right now, and lets protect them from predators inside and outside the church. My God, imagine we have come to the point where we have to speak so bluntly.
To raise the credibility of the church, lets hear her raise her voice for the victims of abuse, the victims of poverty, homelessness, war refugees and so on. Lets take care of the living breathing children we have in front of us right now. Then we'll can stand on a much more secure ethical footing when we speak to the issues of family planning, abortion and so on.
In the meantime, I must hasten to express my profound gratitude to all those who serve the church faithfully and keep the vows they made some time ago. There is this one assuring thing. The church has survived a very long time with human beings running the show and we will continue so. And the Gospel light of Jesus will continue to shine through it all. And the radiant faces of the faithful who show up day after day to make manifest the love of God to this sin-sick world, will continue to reflect the Glory of God.
And when we act so, Our Lady's sorrows are not so much to bear. She will continue to embrace her child in her arms, until all human suffering is brought within God's embrace.
May God bless us all.
Fr. Paul

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Doomsday Drivel

Whacky Religion

Get ready; some religious whacko out there is about to make some dire predictions about the end of the world. They'll be nattering on about an earthquake in Washington and a hurricane along the Eastern Seaboard. They'll be whacking well worn leather bibles, gesticulating, and spewing out all kinds of divine judgment agains liberals, atheists, abortionists and all their ilk.
They will no doubt quote the scripture. God knows that there are plenty of passages to pick from in the Gospels, and the Book of Revelation to support these warnings.
I'm sure many will remember Pat Robertson's famous "Pact with the Devil" quote about the suffering people endured in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Other's will remember that the same Mr. Robertson thought hurricane Katrina was God's judgment against abortionists, and that it was somehow connected to 9/11. Using the word "thought" in connection to anything that comes out of Pat Robertson's mouth is a stunning misuse of a word.
What makes all this drivel so dangerous is that there are so many who believe it. Pat Robertson is just the latest in the long line of snake oil salesmen. Rest assured that Limbaugh will find a way to blame Obama for whatever reverses befall America. I am indebted to Mark Twain in this rather acerbic view of latter day religious charlatans.
In the meantime, all we have is FEMA and human compassion. That should sober you up in a whole hurry up! There are plenty of humanists, atheists, and the old standard brand religions who will no doubt mobilize to respond to impending disaster. Episcopalians have the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. There are scores of other good charities that can carry relief to those in the sites of nature's fury.
If we want to look for the end, we needn't look for signs. It is a simple calculation. Some people live; some die. Civilizations come; civilizations go. The list of disasters that befall humanity is endless; warfare, global warming, population explosion, etc all bring "ends" in and of themselves.
The "End of the World" can have a double meaning. It can be understood to be a catastrophe. Whacko religious zealots think the whole world is about to burn up into a cinder and that the rapture will carry off all the true believers. They believe a whole bunch of other kinds of malarkey too which I don't want to bother with except to warn you about it. I personally give much more credence to the scientific community whose dire warnings about all the above are based on very careful mathematical calculation. If you are looking for "ends" you need not look any further than science.
If I read the scripture right, "the end" of the world we live in is more purposeful than that. Our "end" is to love God and to love one another. Those two commandments are interchangeable just as Jesus said they were. (Matthew 22:36-40) If you say you love God, but don't love your neighbor, you're not quite hitting the nail on the head. The scripture is less polite than I am. (1 John 4:20) It says you're an outright liar if you don't love both.
So the end is at hand. The kingdom is at hand. It always has been But the end of both is not about bad news; it is about Good News. And the end is this; love one another. No big mystery here. Love one another. In the meantime keep the many millions in your thoughts and prayers. Some will die. Many will loose their homes. There will be unforeseen calamity. But don't listen to the Doomsday Drivel that is inevitable.
Instead watch out for one another and see one another through the storm, and give to the charity of your choice. This is God...human beings caring for human beings.
Fr. Paul

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Idolatry in the USA?

Think Idolatry is a Thing of the Past?

The story goes that as Moses tarried on the mountain, the people soon grew impatient with a God you cannot see, hear, touch or feel. So they made a Golden Calf for themselves, they made a god like the other nations roundabouts had. It was very tangible indeed. (Exodus 32)
If we were to read the Biblical narrative aright, we would notice a clear and present bias on behalf of the poor. In the one unmistakable moment of social gospel in Matthew, Jesus indicates that the nations would be judged by the way in which the least among the people would be treated. These words hold are a stunning moral imperative for any nation.
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25)
I am puzzled and perplexed by what appears to be a profound disconnect between all the clamor of what passes for religion in America, when what is really being preached is a belief in the Almighty Dollar. The poor are blamed for being poor. They are lazy and shiftless and deserve their plight. All the while the rich are fleecing their pockets, the super-rich and the multi-nationals pay little or no taxes. Jobs are shipped overseas, and the jobs that are left in the public sector are falling to the scythe of budget cuts. In the meantime any attempt to ask the rich, the super-rich and the multi-nationals to share in the tax burden, is spurned by folks who use the name of God to fleece the pockets of the rich.
This while Mary sings her song;
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:46ff.)
Folks this is not just beautiful poetry. This is the very Dream of God; it is when the poor are lifted up and the rich are sent empty away. I think that's a bit harsh. I'd settle for just plain justice. But as it turns out, the rich have never been well known for their generosity, with some very notable exceptions, like Warren Buffet for instance; who is calling for a more just tax code.
So I submit this proposition to you. Given the biblical bias for the poor who are the atheists in a more contemporary sense? Are they the ones who, in human compassion call out for the needs of the poor, the homeless or the naked, or are they the ones who turn their backs on human need and suffering?
I know an atheist when I see one. I know the Almighty Dollar when I see it. I know that it is not the use of the name of Jesus that makes anyone Christian, it is rather the way we treat the least of these. For when we treat the poor with compassion we treat all of humanity so; and that is the Dream of God. For when you treat humanity with compassion, we also touch the heart of God.
Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter claimed he did. If that is so, Jesus insisted, also three times, then "Feed my sheep!" (John 21).
I know an atheist when I see one. It is not the one who denies God's existence. It is rather the one who turns his/her back on the poor. As Jesus himself rather pithily put it at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount; "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven." (Matthew 7.21)
Folks I'll take a secular humanist who cares for the poor any day, over a so-called "christian" who turns his back on suffering and poverty.
I also know idolatry when I see it. It is something you can feel, touch, see; it is the Almighty Dollar and the bottom line. Compassion, love, generosity and forgiveness are a much tougher sell.
I know an atheist when I see one.
Fr. Paul

Monday, August 22, 2011

Butterflies and Baptisms


Stunning Beauty!

It was a pleasant summer day for a drive into the Berkshires. There in a town called South Deerfield is a place called "Magic Wings". It is a butterfly conservatory and I took a number of shots there of some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. It was an enchanting experience. Quiet New Age Music, butterflies flitting about, and flowers and fountains all making a quiet tribute to the beauty there is all around us every day.
It is no wonder that the early Christians selected a butterfly to be the symbol for the resurrection. It is interesting to note that such an everyday event like a grub becoming a chrysalis, and then emerging as a beautiful butterfly became a symbol for baptism and the resurrection.
The early Christian church understood that what God was looking for from the human family was a total change and not just "membership". For faith to take root, there needs to be a total renewal, a "metamorphosis" of the nature of human nature itself.
This is not just a few drops of water on the forehead. This, like a butterfly, a whole new way of being.
We were really enchanted by the butterfly conservatory. We wandered transfixed by beauty and silence. How like God to evoke in us a sense of the holy in just such a way. How awesome is life. We wander transfixed by the magnificent dimensions of the many moments we experience.
If we want to absorb it in in all its fullness, we will be much more than a common grub, or even something cooped up in a cocoon.
We will emerge at some point into what we were meant to become. We are meant to be "something beautiful for God".
Fr. Paul

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls

Dead Sea Scrolls Online

One of the most exciting discoveries of modern biblical scholarship was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Containing 972 of some of the oldest texts known to exist from scripture were found at the site on the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. Now the materials have been published online
Take your choice of Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Any of those languages. They have been translated into English for those who are limited to the last few hundred years of human experience. The passages give us an amazing window into the ancient world, its thought, its faith, and its practice. It tells us much about the Essenes, a community Jesus may well have known about; some go so far as to say he may have been taught there.
Whatever the case, happy trails for those of you wishing to take a look into the Ancient Near Eastern World.
And then there is the literature itself. Here's a favorite passage from the Servant Songs of Isaiah. God's word does not return empty. The servant may suffer, there may be a national calamity, such as the one Isaiah and his people faces in the Babylonian Captivity. But God's word endures for ever.
Here is an example of beautiful Biblical poetry;

10 The Second Song of Isaiah Quaerite Dominum
Isaiah 55:6-11

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;
And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rainbow Marriage


God set a rainbow in the clouds for a sign to all humanity of a covenant between us and God. It is a thing of great beauty. All the colors of the spectrum are present in the rainbow. Many of us see it as a sign that God's love is inclusive in ever widening circles of compassion.
Speaking of God's love and human love, there is a teaching of Jesus about marriage that is certainly provocative. It is this:
"Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’
His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’" ~Matthew 19
This is one of the most interesting passages in the Gospels. Jesus teaches his disciples about marriage and divorce, and suddenly he veers off into a totally unrelated subject about eunuchs. What in the world does that have to do with marriage? Or does it?
We can only imagine. Whatever Jesus is teaching, we do know this; not everyone can accept it. This passage cannot be easily dismissed. Eunuchs are common in the ancient Near Eastern world. The practice of castration for any number of reasons is widespread.
But what of the ones who are born "that way"? And what of the ones born that way who love others born "that way". Explain that to me.
Here it is now in black and white. Explain to me why Jesus goes to these lengths to embrace those "born that way"? Why, when he is teaching about marriage does he say that this teaching is so difficult for humanity to accept?
The fact is Jesus reaches out to all the outcasts; and specifically those distanced from the Temple by the Levitical Law code; such as prostitutes, lame, blind, tax collectors, and other unclean sorts. Leviticus specifically distances maimed sorts like eunuchs. Jesus contradicts that law code by his very life and in this particular teaching, by indicating that eunuchs can make themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. How remarkable!
Dare we say that Jesus is teaching us something about eunuchs we don't want to hear? Jesus didn't shy away from confrontation and controversy. So when he finds himself besieged by biblical literalists who press him for his thoughts on marriage, he describes an ethic of uncompromisingly high standards.
Then the disciples are bewildered and wonder why anyone should marry at all if these impossible standards are set in a manner that is so uncompromising.
Then, in an instant we find Jesus teaching something else difficult to accept.
Marriage is a covenantal relationship. Many heterosexual folks establish such relationships; some don't. Many gay folks have covenantal relationships that last a lifetime, some don't. Here is a controversy for you; when Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, do you suppose he died for those who love one another in fulfillment of Jesus' own command of whatever orientation?
The rainbow is a very beautiful thing. It is a sign of a covenant between God and his people. Jesus expects God's people to keep that covenant with God by keeping a covenant with one another. In this provocative scripture do you see what I see? Another rainbow in the clouds where all people may keep the covenant they make with one another!
Blessings on us one and all,
Fr. Paul

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Prayer of Trust~Thomas Merton

Here's a fine prayer. Many know it well. I shared it earlier today with a friend. I share it now with you. Thomas Merton is a favorite, I know he is a favorite of many. Have a glorious and joy-filled day.
Fr. Paul

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Announcing a cure for depression!!!


When a priest is "installed" as the rector of a church, s/he is required to say this prayer;

O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

When I stand at the altar, or sit in the church in a quiet moment these words come back to me. This prayer of oblation reminds us that it is not so much what God does for us that is critical, it is what we do for God and more especially what we do for God's people that matters more.

This wondrous prayer is a constant reminder that there is so much to do. This is not a duty. This is a joy. Remembering that just being alive is a gift, we cannot help but think that it is in the giving of life to others that great joy is to be found.

Depression is the common cold of the modern world. So is anxiety. I, no less than you, am subject to fits of depression and anxiety, but the best way I know to shake it off is to remember to give away all that I have; not of my money but of my life. This kind of giving is the greatest joy of my life, and is so easily forgotten. A prayer like the one above puts it all back in perspective. It is a wonderful prayer full of grace.

Best of all it is not just for ordained sorts like me, it is for the priesthood of all believers, folks of every way of life, believer and non believer alike, churchman and non-churchman as well. Give your life for others, and you will have joy; boundless joy!

Fr Paul

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A House of Prayer for ALL People-A Biblical Base

The Cleansing of the Temple
Even people who don't know much about Jesus know that he drove the money changers out of the Temple. Why this event is so memorable is anyone's guess, but I suspect it satisfies something deep in the human spirit. Something in us suspects the Temple authorities of corruption at the heart of religion. Jesus often looks askance at the super religious and sees hypocrisy, and a tendency to be exclusive, and sometimes even hateful, especially of those who are "different". There is also the sniff of money in the so-called holy places and Jesus gets pretty riled up when his Father's house is used for anything other than prayer.
There are so many left out in the cold when it comes to religion. Notice the poor if you will, notice the prostitute, the tax collector, the ordinary working folk be they fishermen or farmers, servants or slaves; notice the sick, the dying, the weak, the blind, the lame and the lepers. Even those of you who don't know much about Jesus, know that these were the very ones Jesus sought out to be his disciples.
So let me set the scene for you. Jesus enters the holy city, Jerusalem. There in tow with him are these very outcasts laying palm branches at the feet of the savior's donkey. When he arrives at the Temple gates his disciple remark at how impressive they are. Not Jesus; he wasn't one bit impressed. "Not one stone will be left on stone before all will be cast down".
We know that he Temple authorities were keeping close tabs on him. Remember the Pharisees, the Sadducees, The Scribes and the Sanhedrin. The literalists still like to run their mouths against the outcast like the scribes of old. Again, lots of my non religious friends know even this much about Jesus. That's why many like him just fine but look askance at his church. But I digress...back to the story!
He arrives at the Temple gates, and enters the Temple precincts and there they are; a slew of money changers right there along the main entrance to the Holiest place of faith for the people. They were peddling pigeons and anything else by way of religious trinketry that would appeal to the simply faithful folk of the time.
Jesus cannot take it any more. The very outcast he worked so hard to love and bring within the saving embrace of God were subjected to peddlers of the sacred, as if you can sell such a thing, a thing that is more precious than the pearl of great price, reduced to the profane profit motive of corrupt crooks.
Enraged, he turns over their tables, and the money is scattered everywhere. He drives the charlatans out of the place while saying these words: "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people, but you have made it a den of thieves!" This is what finally earned Jesus a spot on the cross, as the scriptures notes right there in black and white. Even there, in the heat of the moment, he goes right ahead and heals the blind and the lame and the children sing "Hosanna to the Son of David"! It was that following Friday that they trump up charges against him and lift him on the cross for all the world to see. By the way, all you biblical scholars, you can read all about this yourself. The story is in all four Gospels; Matthew 12:21-27, Mark 11:15-33, Luke 19:45-20:8, and John 2:13-16.
So the question then arises, when Jesus says "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people", does he really mean "all", or are there some exceptions, lets say gay people for instance? If we listen to the scribes and literalists of our own time, there seems little doubt of where gay folk are headed. Leviticus says that their behavior is an abomination. (18:22), and that both men doing such a thing deserve to be put to death. (20:13) Seems we have lots of killing to do, even though Moses tells us not to murder people. (Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5) Paul says they deserve to die (Romans 1). You can see where the literalists and the scribes get their nasty dispositions.
Here's what interests me. Jesus spent lots of energy on outcasts, and you can't get much more outcast than gay folks. Most religious people all the way up to this present moment have a big hang up about gay folks.
Jesus based almost everything he said on biblical material. We have no exception in this case. The expression; "My house shall be a House of Prayer for all people" comes from the most quoted prophet of Jesus; the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 56.
Read the chapter for yourself and make up your own mind. The prophet tells us to maintain justice and to do what is right. Then he tells us to be mindful of the foreigner who is fearful of being separated from his people (verse 3) and in the very same verse, the prophet is worried about the eunuch who fears that he will become just a "dry tree".
God then speaks to the eunuchs who do God's will "I will give within my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off." (verse 5). Wow! Eunuchs are specifically forbidden from worshipping God as are blind, lame, dwarfs and folks with broken feet! (See Leviticus 21 if you think I'm making this up), and here they are given an everlasting name that will never be cut off in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Which is it? And notice too that foreign folk are given this reassurance; "these will I bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer". (verse 7) Compare that to the evangelical right wing who want to deport all the illegals out of this nation, "under God".
When the Levites cleansed the Temple of all the unclean, they made it fit only for certain folks. When Jesus cleansed the Temple, he made it fit for all folks, eunuchs, blind, lame, dwarf, and folks with broken feet too! That together with all the others the Levitical code specifically excluded; these were included by Jesus. It was this very inclusivity that was at the heart of Jesus' ministry. Even folks who don't know much at all about Jesus, know this.
So then, let me ask you this; who are eunuchs? There is a great deal of speculation about this question and many are merely satisfied that we're talking about those who are literally mutilated by themselves or others for service in a harem or an official in the King or Queen's court. Other scholars see that the Hebrew makes room in the word "saris" for a more figurative and metaphorical meaning, and some scholars will even argue that we may indeed be talking about gay folks when we are talking of eunuchs in the bible
When we look at what Jesus taught about marriage, we find him teaching that divorce is forbidden under any circumstance (Mark 10) But in Matthew, a Gospel written a bit later on than Mark, Jesus seems to cut us some slack at least in the case of adultery. Then in one of the most extraordinary insertions of all scripture, that seems way out of whack of the context, Jesus said "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can."
Notice that Jesus is talking about marriage here. Then he is talking about eunuchs who were born that way...who do you think he's talking about here? You can't cross-breed self mutilation into a new born baby, no matter how hard you try. Some of us are just plain born that way. And most telling of all, Jesus points out that not all will be able to accept this teaching. If ever there were an understatement, that's it!
Many biblical scholars argue that the word "eunuch" used in this sense, particularly in the sense of someone "born that way" is a reference to what we have come to know as lesbians and gay folk, bi-sexual and transgendered, LGBT for short. There are many biblical scholars that will argue against the mere suggestion that Jesus makes any room at all for gay folks within God's great salvation plan.
So the question remains; when Jesus said "My house shall be a House of Prayer for all people", did he mean all people, or everyone except gay people? Given what he says of marriage and eunuchs, I submit to you that when Jesus says his house shall be a house of prayer for all people, he meant ALL people.
There is just a tiny corner of the Christian world seeking to be obedient to the Jesus whose heart is big enough to be the perfect offering for our sins, and not for our sins only but for the sins of the whole world. (paraphrase of 1 John 2:1-2)
The Episcopal Church is part of that tiny corner of the world of faith and I am so glad I stumbled into it when I was born. My uncle was gay so are two of my kids. And in my church's view, there is plenty of room in God's love for them, as there is their dad's heart.
I believe that there is a smile in God's heart for the emerging inclusive church. As the blessed Apostle himself said "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for we are all one in Christ" Galatians 3:28. When Paul says "Jew or Greek" he means any race or ethnic group. When he says slave or free, he obviously proclaims that the Gospel means rich and poor too. And when he says male or female, there is at least one corner of God's church that understands this; that means gay or straight too!
That all means that there is room in God's heart for you. No matter who you are. Now that is very Good News indeed!
Those of you with ears to hear, listen up!
Paul of King's Beach.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Thoughts on the priesthood

This Is No Job!

The priesthood for me is not a job, nor is it even a profession. The priesthood is a way of life. Just being a Christian is a way of life, although even as I use that word, I find that it sticks in my throat like a bird's feather. Christians have so sullied that word with bigotry and narrow minded hatred that I find it harder and harder to use it to describe what I want to say about the Way of Life.
We are on a journey and there is a way of living our way through that journey that brings us closer to God and to one another. The priesthood brings this way of life into sharper focus when it is doing what it is supposed to do. The journey toward the human heart, a journey that requires rigorous honesty and courage, also brings us closer to the heart of God. This is where heaven is, within us. And the more we come to the truth about ourselves, the more likely we'll meet God within as well. Thus we all become a lens through which we look into the heart of God. Here is where we can detect the heartbeat of God, when we listen very closely to the silence within, a silence that becomes a Presence. Don't be surprised when all you hear is silence when you pray. That's the first step toward the truth. Soon enough you will hear your own heart speak to you something of the truth. This is why I write, for it is in writing that I discover something I hadn't noticed before. The hand that takes up a pen to write does so with a Muse Who teaches, and speaks in surprising ways indeed.
As to the people who gather with their priest at the Altar of God, special gifts are exchanged between ourselves and God. In the gifts of bread and wine we may see through the eyes of faith the very being of Jesus. This feast then brings us so close to Jesus that it is as though his body and blood are actually present to us in the bread and wine we consume. It is only bread and wine, but so much more. In this bread and this wine my heart and the heart of Jesus become one. The chiefest fruit of that encounter is a way of life that overflows with love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. The scales fall from our eyes in this encounter and we see what it is to imitate Jesus. We see what it is to imitate God.
There is a way of life for all who would dare to call themselves "Christian" by name. That way of life is much more than a name, it is the way and the truth and the life itself of God. This priesthood is more than a priesthood prescribed in an ordination service. It is a priesthood of all believers gathered around a priest. Out of this wondrous encounter we respond to a cry for help, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace. We become present to one another in ways we never dreamt possible. And we become present to God.
To be a priest thus is no job. It is a way of life. To be someone daring enough to call oneself a "Christian" is also to claim a way of life. In that way of life we find joy such as no other way can bring.
The early church taught that there are only two ways to live; the way that leads to life and the way that leads to death. Everyone is welcome to live with such joy that many will be brought to God through the radiance that faith brings to the human face, because it is in the human face that we see the likeness of God. And the likeness of God is not in an appearance. It is in a way of life.
Welcome to the priesthood of All Believers!
Fr. Paul