Sunday, December 24, 2017

An Honest to God Christmas

A Christmas Greeting

Hush you old world!

Silent Night
Holy Night
The Baby sleeps
In Peace.

The Holy Family
Dogs and cats
Curl and cuddle
Their breath and bodies
Giving warmth
Holding off the chill of night.

A silent Star shines in the sky
While Wise Kings follow their dreams
With precious Gifts
For the Holy Homeless Child

Herod, breathing threats and insults
Sleepless, paces the palace hallways
Afraid of the shadows he makes
The poor
The women
The sick
The outcast
The children and infants
The foreign born
Haunting him
The Child loves him.
Loving all enemies 
And all of us
ALL of us, whoever we are.

The Angles sing the Holy Birth
With Silent Star overhead
"Peace on Earth
Goodwill to All"
The Silent Song sings on
Then and now
Filling our hearts

On this Most Holy Night

You old world
Be Still
Be Calm
On the Listening Ear of Night.

Merry Christmas.
Fr Paul

Monday, December 11, 2017

Honest to God it is getting darker!

It is getting darker

Journal entry, Monday, December 11, 2017. 
Some sun this morning, 33 degrees F; the winds are SW at 14mph.
There has been an explosion in Times Square.
The Alabama election is tomorrow.

You came into the world because you loved it so much.
The world did not love you back, at least those in power didn't.
But You loved the world right to he last breath of Your life.
And forgave those who killed You and those with whom You died.

And now there is more crucifixion.
Innocents in the public squares by religious zealots.
In Your Name!!!
And more Innocents some even in their teen years
Exploited by more religious zealots
Also in Your Name!!!
Politicians and public figures and more
Seemingly no end to the abuse 

And still You came dying to Sin 
Rising to Life
Bringing Hope in a dark time.

Many look away in shame and denial
Many look away hateful and angry
But Your love does not go away
You are born again and again
Each year into the Darkness

Just a baby.
The King killed babies because of You
But Your love made it through the violence.
And here you are again
At exactly the right time
In the wake of an explosion
On the eve of an election.

You seem to know the right time
Exactly at the darkest hour
You love this gruesome, sinful world
Again, again, and again; seventy times seven and more
In the bleak mid-winter long, long ago
And, thank God, right now!
Fr Paul

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Honest to God: Prepare the Way!

Prepare the Way!

Journal entry:

Good morning. It is Sunday December 10, 2017.
Snow last night, I'd say about 5 inches
The temperature is hovering around the freezing mark,
The winds are calm and the sun is gloriously breaking through the clouds.

We don't have to trudge through the stuff on our way to church this morning.
Thanks be to God!
We needn't risk slipping or falling on the slippery spots.
We can wait a while.

Until perhaps this afternoon
When David sings in "Lessons and Carols"
A favorite Advent devotion.
Jeffrey will lead the choir and play the organ.
In a church where no one one gives
A second thought to
Sexual orientation, gender, race or ethnicity
Or even place of national origin
How pleasant and amiable is this.

We like good music
Good literature read well
Worship puts flesh and blood
On God in the way we love one another.
Or at least we try to!
We live at a time when
There are many who do not
Embrace such diversity


This too will pass.
We've been here before.
God knows we too can become ill tempered at times.
And on it goes.

But for now,
Be quiet
And look at the manger.
Just folk there.
Simple folk.
Taxed unfairly
Don't forget the animals too
Huddled up for warmth
The night we're told is
Faintly lit by a distant Star.

What wondrous love is born here
Not just in the Baby
But in us too.
One would Hope.

"Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye my people.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem".
We can Hope against hope for
The angels song.
"Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all"

Fr Paul

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Honest to God: Time to Hibernate!


Journal entry: Saturday December 9, 2017. Snow. 

God rested on the Seventh Day.
Perhaps a good idea.
I've been at it since 1972. 
Good God that's a long time!
Forty-five years!
Not a bad idea to take a breather.
Bishop Alan observed that I've been at it "full bore" for a long time
And in the context of some rather challenging situations.

Then it occurred to me
Perhaps like a New England Black Bear
Or a Montana Grizzly
I'll just curl up and hibernate in these winter months
For the first time in a very long time.
How pleasing is that idea to me.

No sermon preparation today.
No preparations for Christmas or Lent now.
Just the good sense to take a winter Sabbath
On this the Seventh Day and beyond.

I can still do the things I love to do.
I can write and ride the Subway
And take some photographs on a pleasant winter's day.

If You had the good sense to Rest
On the Seventh Day
So shall I in obedience to You,
In this my Sabbath Season.

In the meantime, before the snow hits,
I'll be off to tank up the car as Yankees do
A matter of sensible precaution.

The larder is stocked up
To put my feet up for a bit.
And then write to You
The way I love to do
To You and for You
The ongoing
Sacred Conversation.

And then...let it blow...
Let it snow...

Fr Paul

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Honest to God: A time for war?

Honest to God: A time for war?

Journal entry: Pearl Harbor Day 2017

It is a beautiful day for a walk along the Promenade in Lynn today. 
Mindfulness for me means our ongoing Conversation
I and Thou.
We speak together Honest to God
Openly, honestly, and candidly
In so doing we we open our hearts to one another.
There is Peace between us.
This is how You commanded us to be
With one another and with our enemies on Earth
You said; "Love one another"
Would that we could so walk together.

But we refuse
   Republican and Democrat
   Conservative and Liberal
   Evangelical and Progressive
   Extremist and Centrist
   Israeli and Palestinian
   The two Koreas
There are so many more.

We find ourselves as we often do in history
On the edge of warfare.
Name calling, stopping our ears; we will not listen.

You said;
"Come let us reason together". (Isaiah 1:18)
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it, how often how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings." (Matthew 23:37)
"Love one another".  (John 13:34)

And then You died trying.
The violence within won and died and then 
You rose again from this death.

The time is short;
Make us love what You Command.

Fr Paul

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Honest to God, that's better...

Honest to God, that's better...

Journal entry, December 5, 2017

Much improved today
No sooner do I pour out my soul to You
Then Your Grace rushes in.

A Lamentation over the "way" retirement hit me
It needed to be said;
It needed to be prayed

So I read the paper, have a leisurely breakfast
Say the Daily Office, remember friends and family in prayer,
Then write to You in my Journal.

Then, finally, out for a walk.
The first "real" walk since the fall in July.
I took my walking stick; a sensible precaution
The sun was shining 
The sea was sparkling
And I rejoiced in You and said;
"Maybe this retirement thing is not so bad after all".

So many kind words of encouragement from so many family and friends
Some of you even a bit worried
And you're right. 
Thank you.

Maybe come Spring and Summer I can do a bit of supply work.
But for now rest, relax and allow time to heal
Write and take some photographs.
This I love.

And walk with You:
We can talk things over the way we do
And maybe, just maybe
This retirement thing will work out after all.

In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen
Fr Paul

Monday, December 04, 2017

Honest to God, Early Winter

Honest to God

Journal entry , Early winter 2017

Honest to God I've been a bit out of sorts lately.
So is Cindy.
We're both fighting off colds.
There is a bit of a let down after the frenzy of packing and moving from Helena to Lynn.
The knee injury and the brain bleed are reminders of the inevitable.
And speaking of the inevitable, Doug died. His funeral was Saturday.

And then there is the facing of the fact that I'm done now. 
After 46 years of parish priesthood.
That's it.
I'm done.
My stamina is not what it once was. 
Truth be told I'm 72 now. 
But the rest is helping.

When I remember You, God knows that helps.
That would be YOU! God knows.
Honest to God, I forget You often
In the tossing and turning of it all
The ache and the pain of it
This is when I forget you. 
And then almost as if a lightbulb switched on 
There You are.
Present in the Silence.
Unseen in the Darkness
But like those wonderful days when I was a child, we talk.
I talk.
Honest to God to You
I pour out my heart to You about all the above and more
And soon
I sleep.
And that's the part I don't remember either
In the arms of Your Heart, I sleep
As soon as I remember, it seems, I forget once more
Through it all You are there
Whether I forget or remember
Honest to God.

Fr Paul

Friday, December 01, 2017

Honest to God

Honest To God

When was the last time an Episcopalian actually "invited" you to church? As Advent approaches this year, that's exactly what I'd like to do. Last Sunday was my first down day in a while. I just plain slept in, read the paper, drank coffee and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. After 46 years of priesthood I thought I deserved a break. Being an Honest to God Pagan from time to time has much to commend itself. 

But then Cindy and I started thinking about Advent. What shall we do? Obviously it makes sense for us to visit churches we've served since retirement. It has been quite a journey. And we're both curious. 

But that begs the question. Why would I invite you to church?
You could be a perfect stranger to me.
You may be reluctant given what passes for "christian" out there. 
I agree with you there. I feel no connection whatsoever with the evangelical conservative movement which feels contrary to much of what I value in the Gospel.

For me, Jesus searched out and loved the outcast. 
In those days it may have been the leper. In our day it feels like the LGBTQ community. 
Jesus searched out the poor, the meek. the brokenhearted and the persecuted.
These were among those Jesus described as blessed. ~Matthew 5

The Episcopal Church and other "mainstream" churches have struggled to be inclusive communities that search for justice for the poor. 

Jesus is compassion, reconciliation and above all, Jesus is the Love of God made flesh and blood.

This is Who I seek.

When I want to focus on the Love of God made flesh and blood I look to Jesus. There are four magnificent snapshots we have of him in The Sacred Writings: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. The reading of them takes center stage in our Liturgy. The Gospel Book is brought into the midst of our congregations as Jesus came into our midst in the town squares to long ago.

I invite you to come and meet this Jesus along with the rest of us.

May I suggest that if you wish to take me up on this invitation you do so "Honest to God". This is the only place to begin, in the center of your Heart of Hearts where God lives. 

I invite you to go to the very center of your Heart of Hearts this Advent and come to rediscover who God is for you. This is how I seek to approach the Sacred. And to tell you the truth after 46 years of life in the church, that is pretty much where we all begin; "Honest to God". 

This is not to say you will not find pettiness and hypocrisy in the church. God knows I've fought many a petty battle with what I considered "small minded" folk for many years. Truth be told I can also get a bit petty and small minded too. 

To tell you the truth, there is plenty of pettiness and hypocrisy to go around. But there is also a far higher truth to live into also. To find a place where we can come to terms with the lesser within us as well as with the noblest within us is exactly what the church is designed to be: Honest to God!

Yes. I invite you to church. Pick one. They're all pretty much the same. Wonderful people who will be a blessing to you and a bane as well, I assure you. This is true of us all. The church is a wonderful place to come to terms with the truth about us all "Honest to God".

In the silence before sleep, this is Who I discover "Honest to God". As I converse with the hallowed emptiness of a sleepless night, there You are, the same now as ever. What seems empty to me, Honest to God, is full of your Love for me. Eventually, this is how I fall asleep; In Your love.

This is what keeps me coming back to church, to learn and learn and learn again that You are there in our midst; "Honest to God".

And so I invite you to church, not so much to "go to church" as to "be the church".
Having folks who can be "Honest to God" with one another is such an inviting prospect!

In the Name of God; the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity.

Fr Paul