Friday, March 31, 2006

To Channel the Energy of Love

Friday, March 21, 2006 -- Week of 4 Lent (John Donne)

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this link --

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 955)
Psalms 102 (morning) // 107:1-32 (afternoon)
Exodus 2:2-22
1 Corinthians 12:27 - 13:3
Mark 9:2-13

To Channel the Energy of Love

To the Egyptians, Moses was just a murderer, or maybe even a terrorist. His killing of the Egyptian who was beating one of the Hebrew laborers had a political component to it. He fled for his life. The Midianites who took him in -- did they give sanctuary to a justice warrior or did they harbor a terrorist?

In one sense, we can see Moses' violent act as a response that is motivated by love. His love for his people provoked his fierce anger when he witnessed the injustice of their forced labor. That love was focused in the particular incident when he came across the Egyptian overlord beating the Hebrew. His act was premeditated. He looked around. No witnesses. He struck. He buried the body.

Anger is the appropriate emotional reaction whenever someone or something you love is threatened. Anger stimulates action. But underneath the anger, there is love.

Gerald May writes: "Searching beneath anxiety, one will find fear. And beneath fear hurt will be discovered. Beneath the hurt will be guilt. Beneath the guilt lie rage and hatred. But do not stop with this, for beneath the rage lies frustrated desire. Finally beneath and beyond desire, is love. In every feeling, look deeply. Explore without ceasing. At bottom, love is."

What do we do with all that love? If love is the energizing cauldron of emotion, how do we channel that energy into constructive rather than destructive directions? Paul says today, "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." Love may be the underlying motivation for one's speech and powers and sacrifices, but if that love is exercised through anger and violence, it can become destructive nevertheless, as Moses learned.

The model for us is Jesus who transfigures human life and love. Today we see Jesus on a high mountain joined by Moses and by Elijah the prophet. Jesus is bathed in dazzling light. Jesus will take the energizing love of freedom (Moses) and justice (Elijah) and he will channel that energy in a pure and non-violent way. He will stand up to violence and injustice, exposing it and soaking in its evil without giving it back in some violent counter-reaction. Instead, he will trust God's deliverance, and unmask wrong, forgiving perpetrators and liberating victims alike.

Love expressed through love is the transfiguring way of the Light. All other expressions of love must beg God's mercy.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Egypt or One Body?

Thursday, Mary 30, 2006 -- Week of 4 Lent

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this link --

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(p. 955)
Psalms 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 // 73
Exodus 1:6-22 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 Mark 8:27 - 9:1

Egypt or One Body?

"Now a new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph." Those words signal a tragic shift of relationships. When Pharaoh no longer has a personal relationship with the Hebrew people, he begins to think of them abstractly, as less than personal. They are "those others" or "the immigrants" or "workers." It's a small step from valued-friends to things-to-be-manipulated. Power tends to corrupt. Power tends to abuse the weak. Today we read about life in Egypt.

Read it as a metaphor. Egypt is all around us. Egypt is where work demands are oppressive. Egypt is where people are treated like things. Egypt is where money and power are the driving forces. Egypt kills the future possibilities for the poor and weak.

God is determined to get people out of Egypt.

Paul offers a vision of God's way. We are all one body. If any part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts. Every part of the body is needed and respected. There is special respect given for the weaker parts of the body or for those that are thought of as less honorable. The body gives special preference to them to protect and convey value to them.

So much of the wisdom of the bible is more descriptive than prescriptive. These passages are both. They describe conflicting ways of being in the world. God works with us to dismantle one way of being, life in Egypt. God invites us into another way of being, life in the one body.

Most of us grow up getting used to life in Egypt. That's just the way it is. We're taught the rules of Egypt. Compete. Acquire. Get the symbols of power and prestige. Don't worry about the poor or weak. Enough will trickle down to them. Besides, if they were as good as you they would be competing and acquiring successfully too.

But that's not the voice that God listens to. And that's not the path to happiness. So many who have lived in Egypt find themselves enslaved by Egypt. Sixty and eighty hour work weeks. More to do than they can do. Debt and maintenance -- their possessions actually posses them. They grow accustomed to their lifestyle. To give it up would be too expensive. So entertainment and diversions provide moments of escape. But power and possessions ultimately do not satisfy.

Jesus says today in Mark's gospel, "Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?"

For many of us, to lose our life is to turn our back on Egypt and head toward an unknown wilderness. The promised land on the other side is a whole different existence. We are one body. One world. All of us interconnected. All of us belong to each other. When we care for any, we care for the whole. We care.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Learning to See Clearly

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 -- Week of 4 Lent (John Keble)

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this link --

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(p. 955)
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 // 119:121-144
Genesis 50:15-26
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Mark 8:11-26

Learning to See Clearly

Over and over in Mark's gospel, the disciples just don't get it. They've seen the two feedings of the multitudes -- one among 5,000 Jewish listeners, the other with 4,000 Gentiles. But still they are anxious about their needs. There is not enough bread for everyone, they worry. Jesus asks them, "Do you not yet understand?"

Back in Peter's village of Bethsaida, there is a blind man. He really can't see. So Jesus takes him aside and performs a healing ritual. There is progress. "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." But his vision is incomplete. So Jesus gives him a second touch, laying his hands on the man's eyes again. Now he can see everything clearly.

What is the meaning of this multi-stage healing? Maybe the message is that though Jesus is misunderstood during his lifetime, after his resurrection his disciples will see more clearly. Maybe it is a metaphor for the process of growth and healing. We tend to understand things in stages. There are moments of illumination, but they always seem partial. Even when we have sufficient understanding to live in grace, our eyes need a lifetime of adjustment to open even partially to the dazzling darkness of Mystery Itself.

"And help us this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray." John Keble

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Discerning the Body -- Feeding and Caring

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 -- Week of 4 Lent

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this link --

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 955)
Psalms 97, 99, [100] // 94, [95]
Genesis 49:29 - 50:14
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Mark 8:1-10

The description of the first Eucharist at Jesus' last supper with his disciples is very possibly the most treasured narrative of the Christian scriptures. Today we read the earliest existing written account as Paul hands on what he "received from the Lord." There are similar versions in Matthew, Mark and Luke as well as The Didache from the early second century and our earliest eucharistic prayers. Every Sunday, and every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we repeat the story. "On the night when he was betrayed [Jesus] took ...bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is [broken] for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'" Has any command ever been so followed?

Paul exhorts the congregation to celebrate their communion mindfully. He scolds them for eating "in an unworthy manner." They must "discern the body." Not only must they recognize the presence of Jesus in the communion, but also his presence in the body of the church. Paul complains that the church has failed to honor the Eucharist in two ways. First, there are divisions along social and economic lines. The wealthy eat and drink, feasting and becoming drunk, while "those who have nothing" (literally the "have-nots") are hungry. Second, they have failed to recognize the body because the church has failed to care for some who were weak and ill, and some have died. The Eucharistic community is one where all are fed and where the weak and ill are cared for.

What a nice synchronicity that we read of Jesus' feeding of the 4,000 in the Decapolis. The crowd is hungry. It is a gentile crowd -- they are in the Decapolis, ten gentile cities across the border from Israel. Jesus feeds them with seven loaves and a few fish; there are seven baskets full. (Seven is the universal mystical number symbolizing perfection -- three [the spiritual order] plus four [the created order]. Earlier Mark told of Jesus' feeding the multitude in Israel using 12 loaves with 12 baskets left over, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel.) The feeding is not just for the tribe of Israel. Nor is it just for the community of the Christian Church. Jesus feeds all.

It is significant not only that the Eucharist has become the characteristic form of Christian worship, but that feeding and caring are such characteristic forms of Christian ministry. That is certainly true in our congregation. We love any excuse for a meal. Every Sunday there is breakfast prepared and during Lent there is supper. We welcome all who come to Community Meals on Mondays and Wednesdays, sharing that ministry of feeding through the week with Central Methodist and Seven Hills. We feed the multitudes monthly through our Angel Food ministry. And we keep a commercial freezer filled with homemade meals for anyone who is ill or in need. We visit the hospitals and pray for the sick. We offering a healing service on Tuesdays and deliver pastoral meals regularly. We exercise various pastoral ministries of care for those who are ill or troubled. Feeding and caring are central activities for us.

Whether we are receiving communion or passing out Angel Food, Paul reminds us that it is important to recognize the presence of Christ, "discerning the body." Tomorrow he will talk about what we are to do after we have been nourished and fed by Christ.

Monday, March 27, 2006

One Body; One Blood

Monday, March 27, 2006 -- Week of 4 Lent (Charles Henry Brent)

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this link --

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 955)
Psalms 89:1-18 // 89:19-52
Genesis 49:1-28 1 Corinthians 10:14 - 11:1 Mark 7:24-37

"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

The life that we know is embodied. I look at my hands on the keyboard typing, and I see the very concrete reality of my presence. The thoughts of my mind create the words that my fingers type. They appear on a screen and will soon be shared with other embodied beings. My thoughts to you create a relationship. The words embody some of my thoughts, some of my being. It is all done physically -- with fingers and keyboards, electricity and silicon.

On the night before his death, before his life was to become dis-embodied, Jesus took bread and wine and identified them with himself -- "this is my body; this is my blood." That Sunday evening as his friends were at table, they knew him in the breaking of the bread. For centuries ever since, Christians have participated in the embodied life of Christ through the gifts of shared bread and wine. It is such a profound, intimate relationship that we say that we are one with Christ. He lives in us and we in him. Jesus nourishes us, strengthens us, accepts us in this ritual meal.

Meals have always been powerful symbols of relationship. How different can we be from one another if we are literally being constituted by the same food? Our lives are energized and built up, given strength and future by the same entity when we eat together. We are one -- one body, one blood. There is an ancient tradition that if ever one were to eat at the same table with another person, you would be forever enjoined from killing that other in battle or elsewhere. The two persons are forever linked, for they are of the same substance. To kill the other would be to kill one's self.

We are all joined in a mystical relationship of life in Christ. We experience the presence of Christ particularly in the embodied gifts of bread and wine. His life enters into us, renewing and healing us week by week in the Holy Eucharist. We experience our union with countless others around the world who participate in this same mysterious feast. It is a foretaste, and symbol of the union of all life in God's creation. For after all, all humans eat from the fruits of the same earth.

Bread, the staff of life. Wine, the elixir of happy fellowship. Body and Blood, the stuff of life. All of it taken into relationship with the divine reality of intimacy and resurrection. In a sense, it is all we need to know. It is a mystery deeper than thought. It is also an act so simple that any child can participate.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Next Sunday's Scriptures - April 2

April 2, 2006

5th Sunday in Lent, Year B

Episcopal Revised Common Lectionary

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 51:1-12 or Ps 119:9-16

Hebrews 5:5-10

John 12:20-33

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new

covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will

not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I

took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a

covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the

Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of

Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within

them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their

God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one

another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall

all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the

Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin

no more.


How do you move from obeying God's rules to living in relationship with God?

In what ways do you "know the Lord"?


Psalm 51:1-13

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your

loving-kindness; *

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, *

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned *

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak *

and upright in your judgment.

6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *

a sinner from my mother's womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins *

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence *

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again *

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.


We began Lent with this psalm on Ash Wednesday.

Read this meditatively as a prayer of confession and forgiveness.


Hebrews 5:5-10

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest,

but was appointed by the one who said to him,

"You are my Son,

today I have begotten you";

as he says also in another place,

"You are a priest forever,

according to the order of Melchizedek."

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers

and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was

able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his

reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience

through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became

the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been

designated by God a high priest according to the order of



What does the High Priestly ministry of Jesus mean to you?


John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some

Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,

and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and

told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus

answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be

glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls

into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if

it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it,

and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for

eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am,

there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will


"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--'Father,

save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have

come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came

from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."

The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder.

Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This

voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment

of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people

to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to



What does it mean to you to die in order to live?

When have you given up and experienced new life?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Find Your Bliss

Friday, March 24, 2006 -- -- Week of 3 Lent

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 955)
Psalms 88 // 91, 92
Genesis 47:1-26 1 Corinthians 9:16-27 Mark 6:47-56

I think it was Joseph Campbell who first caught my attention with the appeal -- "find your bliss." Look for some form of endeavor that so captures your spirit, that you can spend yourself in it and be refreshed rather than spent. That is your calling. Another teacher I recall urged students not to look for a job that would just make them money, but first find something that they love to do, something they would do if no one paid them for it, and then figure out a way to make a living doing that.

Paul feels that way about his vocation to proclaim the good news that he has experience in Christ. He wouldn't be happy doing something else -- "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!" His sense of calling is so strong that it feels like an obligation. It's not work, he says, it's who I am and what I do. Telling about this good news is its own reward.

Paul took that one step further. Maybe because he didn't want it to seem like a job, or maybe because his experience of the grace of acceptance was given to him so freely, he chose not to make his living that way, not to make money through his preaching. He's got a right to be paid for his church work, but he doesn't act on that.

Instead he makes a living at his former trade as a tentmaker. And he reaches out with extravagant generosity to give the good news to others. He's willing to meet them in their own skin. He connects with people within their own context. He will observe the Jewish law when communicating with Jews. He will practice the customs of the Gentiles when visiting with them. He is free to be with people in their own environment, accepting them as they are, in order to share with them this amazing gift of grace freely given. That's his bliss. You can't pay him for it.

What's your bliss? I heard of an inner-city agency that worked with unemployed young adults. Their strategy was to find out from their clients what it is that they loved to do. What unique gifts and activities motivate and energize them. Sometimes it took a lot of patience and encouragement to discover their bliss. Sometimes it was immediately evident. Once they found a client's bliss, then they turned on the creative juices. How can this person make a living doing what they love to do? One by one they figured something out. Then they helped the person get established in their work. It was incredible.

Find your bliss and live it. I'll bet Paul's work making tents was completely changed when he started doing it in order to enable him to give away his proclamation of the good news. Time flies when you're having fun.