Friday, December 29, 2006


I hope everyone's having a good Christmas season. I'll post a real update later. Meanwhile, here's a quiz, ripped from Another Episcopalian Blog:

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




Reformed Evangelical




What's your theological worldview?
created with

Great, and probably accurate enough, except for the line about "older churches." I'm a thoroughly committed Episcopalian. I love liturgy too much not to be. Also, I don't know who the man in the picture is. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Remember the Christian Peacemaker Team workers who were kidnapped in Iraq in November 2005?

News comes from Sheila Provencher, a fellow CPT member and friend of theirs, that the men who kidnapped them have allegedly been apprehended and imprisoned in Iraq. Authorities have asked the three survivors to testify against their captors. James Loney, Norman Kember, and Harmeet Singh Sooden spoke at a press conference in London on December 8, and gave their response to that request.

Let these men be lights to the world, as winter approaches. If I ever were in a similar situation, I hope that I could respond with the same love, clarity, and living faith.

We three, members of a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation to Iraq, were kidnapped on November 26, 2005 and held for 118 days before being freed by British and American forces on March 23, 2006. Our friend and colleague, Tom Fox, an American citizen and full-time member of the CPT team working in Baghdad at the time, was kidnapped with us and murdered on March 9, 2006. We are immensely sad that he is not sitting with us here today.

On behalf of our families and CPT, we thank you for attending this press conference today.

It was on this day a year ago that our captors threatened to execute us unless their demands were met. This ultimatum, unknown to us at the time, was a source of extreme distress for our families, friends and colleagues.

The deadline was extended by two days to December 10, which is International Human Rights Day. On this day, people all over the world will commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 1948 by speaking out for all those whose human dignity is being violated by torture, arbitrary imprisonment, poverty, racism, oppression or war.

We understand a number of men alleged to be our captors have been apprehended, charged with kidnapping, and are facing trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. We have been asked by the police in our respective countries to testify in the trial. After much reflection upon our traditions, both Sikh and Christian, we are issuing this statement today.

We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting and holding us. We have no desire to punish them. Punishment can never restore what was taken from us.

What our captors did was wrong. They caused us, our families and our friends great suffering. Yet, we bear no malice towards them and have no wish for retribution. Should those who have been charged with holding us hostage be brought to trial and convicted, we ask that they be granted all possible leniency. We categorically lay aside any rights we may have over them.

In our view, the catastrophic levels of violence and the lack of effective protection of human rights in Iraq is inextricably linked to the US-led invasion and occupation. As for many others, the actions of our kidnappers were part of a cycle of violence they themselves experienced. While this in no way justifies what the men charged with our kidnapping are alleged to have done, we feel this must be considered in any potential judgment.

Forgiveness is an essential part of Sikh, Christian and Muslim teaching. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first of the Sikh Gurus said, "'Forgiveness' is my mother..." and, "Where there is forgiveness, there is God." Jesus said, "For if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." And of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) it is told that once, while preaching in the city of Ta'if, he was abused, stoned and driven out of the city. An angel appeared to him and offered to crush the city between the two surrounding mountains if he ordered him to do so, whereupon the Prophet(PBUH) said, "No. Maybe from them or their offspring will come good deeds."

Through the power of forgiveness, it is our hope that good deeds will come from the lives of our captors, and that we will all learn to reject the use of violence. We believe those who use violence against others are themselves harmed by the use of violence.

Kidnapping is a capital offence in Iraq and we understand that some of our captors could be sentenced to death. The death penalty is an irrevocable judgment. It erases all possibility that those who have harmed others, even seriously, can yet turn to good. We categorically oppose the death penalty.

By this commitment to forgiveness, we hope to plant a seed that one day will bear the fruits of healing and reconciliation for us, our captors, the peoples of Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and most of all, Iraq. We look forward to the day when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is respected by all the world's people.

Harmeet Singh Sooden, Norman Kember, James Loney

Monday, December 11, 2006

It must be finals week...

Here's a Christmas meme, courtesy of Mimi.

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate. I’m quite fond of Silk Nog, though I haven’t had any this year.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
I don’t have kids. When I was one, Santa wrapped presents.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
I like colored lights. Hate the flashing ones, though; they give me a headache.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No. We did when I was little, though. It wasn’t the real plant; it was a little elf-like thing in a sphere of plastic leaves.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
When I was a kid, sometime in December. Now I have Christmas at friends’ houses; sometimes I get to help decorate, sometimes I don’t. Last year, I went to Placerville with the Apostle in Exile to get a tree, and we decorated that weekend. I think it was the first weekend in December. This year, another friend already brought her a tree, and we'll decorate next weekend.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
My favorite tradition involves a potluck with friends in Olympia, so whatever’s there. I won’t be there this year; I’m staying in CA, and I’ll miss celebrating with them. (I’m doing the holidays this year both with the Apostle and at my own church, so it’ll be good.)

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child:
When I was 7, I got an indoor tent to play in, and a fluffy fake-fur rug. I crawled in there with books, paper, and markers, and was quite content.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I think I started putting things together when I recognized my grandmother’s handwriting on a present from the cats. I was something like 5.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Not usually. Now, waiting is half the fun.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
I don’t always get to—like now, I live in a grad student dorm. I’m going to the Apostle’s for Christmas, and we’re decorating this weekend. We’ll put up a new batch of white lights (her preference), and whatever ornaments survived last year’s sap-fest.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?
Love it, and won’t see it again as long as I live in CA. I’ve only had one white Christmas, when I was 4. I don’t really remember it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, though I’m wobbly at it. I’ve only been once; I always went roller-skating, as a kid.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I don’t have one favorite. I’ve had a lot of good ones. Last year, friends gave me both a wood carving of Mary and the infant Jesus, and a Jesus action figure. It was the perfect combination of “getting” what I’m doing, and having fun with the idea. I know one thing that I’m getting this year, and I will love it.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Celebrating the Incarnation in a community of love.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Probably fudge. The Apostle and I celebrate practically everything with truffles, though.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Midnight Mass. It's a big reason I'm staying south this Christmas; this is my favorite holiday, and I want to worship in my own parish.

17. What tops your tree?
Not mine, but I think a mutant angel tops the Apostle’s.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
Both. I’m usually excited about the gifts I’m giving, and I often have no idea what I will get.

Aside: I love getting presents, but I wish our cultural Christmas weren’t so much about that. The quiet, expectant waiting in the dark of Advent thrills me. Honestly, what does retail madness have to do with the Incarnation of God on earth? My friends and I share the holiday with a few simple, well-chosen (or much needed) presents; it’s part of the celebration, but not so much that materialism dominates everything. It’s fun, and still allows us to enjoy everything else about the holiday.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
God On His Birthday, which I can’t find a recording of. Also: O Come, All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, We Three Kings (okay, that’s Epiphany), Good King Wenceslas, and lots of other old, traditional songs. There's also a bluegrass "Star of Bethlehem" that cracks me up; I think it's Ralph Stanley.

20. Candy canes:
I’ll eat them, but I don’t seek them out.

21. Favorite Christmas movie?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.

22. What do you leave for Santa?
When I was a kid, milk and cookies.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Prophecy and discernment

It’s been a busy week. Above is a photograph I took of my bishop, Marc Andrus, on Thursday. I went with a friend from St. Aidan’s to a Eucharist in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco, in remembrance of all who have died in Iraq. About 200 of us processed down the hill from Grace Cathedral. My priest was there, as were a handful of other CDSP students, and my faculty advisor. It was very clearly a Christian service, with some nice interfaith touches. We sang, prayed, heard some of the Beautiful Names for God (read in English, not Arabic) and listened as names of the dead were read to us. Bishop Marc preached a five-minute sermon on the theme that no one dies apart from God. He celebrated the Eucharist, and quietly slipped toward the entrance of the Federal Building, where he and 12 others took part in a die-in. They were arrested for doing so. I am proud of my church, my bishop, and all those who were arrested with him. I don’t see it as a political statement; I see it as focusing awareness of the presence of God in a place that needs healing. I don’t want to be a bishop, but this is a piece of the kind of work I want to do.

I chose not to be arrested, because I’m still in school, don’t have a job, and am a little leery of law enforcement since I was caught in a pepper-spray incident at a protest in Olympia in March 2003. But they handled it really well, here; it was all done with order and respect. If I don’t have to fear for my lungs (I have asthma), I can think about sticking my neck out some.

I’m going to be sticking my neck out in other ways, which excites me tremendously. I met with my rector on Wednesday, and was sent along to the Vocations Committee at my parish. I haven’t gotten to speak with the coordinator yet, so I don’t know exactly what the next steps are. After we’ve spoken, I’ll share what I can; what this means is that I’m moving from being a member of my parish with clear intentions, to being actively and officially in the discernment process.

I feel so affirmed, and so deeply, completely ready. I could have initiated the conversation that led to this months ago, but was flirting back and forth with feeling ready to do it until now. The doubts I still harbor are about my calling, not about myself. (It’s incredibly liberating, just to realize that.) I’ve been through a lot and I’ve come through a lot; I know who God is and I think I know who I am. I want to test and push and experiment. I’m ready to be challenged by a community that will be discerning with me. I want that, even. I’m not afraid of the idea of people knowing who I am, anymore.

A friend affirmed this in the car, the other night, on our way to an Advent liturgy that a group of us is doing in the East Bay. She said, “You’ve done your time. You’re ready to do a different kind of time, now.” She also said she was glad our priest had talked me into realizing that. That wasn’t my take on our conversation; it felt like we were sort of chatting about how everything was going, and I asked the question, “Now what?” We both knew what my intentions were, but I did need to be the one to say them. And I did, and I could, and I’m here. I’m both grounded, and bouncing nearly out of my skin.

This means three important things:

1) I have a spiritual home that I’m safe and happy in;
2) I’m on the right road, and people besides myself can see it;
3) I’m really ready to be open to God, my community, and my own heart.

Alleluia, amen.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Advent/Christmas music

Stolen from Deb...

1. What are your favorite Advent/Christmas hymns?
My absolute favorite is "God on His Birthday"; everything else I love is old and traditional. Others that spring to mind: "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Good King Wenceslas," and "The angel Gabriel from heaven came...".

2. Which are your least favorite?
I hate, loathe, detest, and despise "Away in a Manger." Always have. Don't care much for "The Little Drummer Boy," either.

3. Which secular seasonal songs make you want to run screaming into traffic?
Most of them. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is just plain evil; what idiot decided to enshrine not crying as being "good"? "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" irritates me, but it doesn't make me mad. I much prefer old/traditional/religious music at Christmas. New or quirky arrangements are fine; the Miserable Offenders did some really neat stuff, and see below for favorite CDs. Most of the secular winter songs are just cloying, to me.

4. Do you play Christmas music around the house and in the car? What are your favorite holiday CDs?
Yes. My favorites right now are by Bruce Cockburn and John Fahey, respectively. I'm going to try to restrain myself until it actually is Advent, though. (I'm in a folk/gospel/bluegrass groove right now.)

My, I'm blogging a lot. What am I procrastinating from? Don't ask.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Easy way to donate for AIDS

Click on this post's title, light a virtual candle, and Bristol-Myers Squibb will donate a dollar to the National AIDS Fund. It looks legitimate.

World AIDS day is this Friday. I'll be at my church. If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, come.

Tod, Lars, I remember you. I pray for my friends who lost hundreds of their loved ones. I pray for all who live with HIV infection, and all who love them. I pray for all who work for education, treatment, and access to both.

Be safe, everyone. And while you're here,visit the UNAIDS website to find out what you can do globally.

Just for fun

The last sentence is very accurate.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PSA: Supporting Faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin

"Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin has issued a letter in which he unfolds his plans to leave the Episcopal Church. Part of this plan involves passing various resolutions at the diocesan Annual Convention scheduled to conclude December 2. There is some question as to if these resolutions will pass. If they do, then as of December 3, many in San Joaquin will have officially left the Episcopal Church. It is fairly safe to assume that some of those who leave will also take the keys to the buildings with them, which will most likely result in long legal struggles."

Read the rest from Father Jake.

I don't live there, but a good friend does; the suggestions Jake posted are hers. The diocese covers the Central Valley of California, from east of the coastal mountains to the Nevada border, and from just south of Sacramento to just north of Los Angeles. They need support--emotional, spiritual, financial--to help them build Episcopal communities if the diocese affiliates elsewhere, and to continue in their current ministries if it doesn't. If the diocese does align itself with a more reactionary province, polity will be the least of the changes. The spirituality, culture, and ethos present in the Episcopal Church will be much more difficult to find. In its place will be the homophobia and sexism that are motivating this schism.

The bishop of San Joaquin is one of three remaining Episcopal bishops who does not ordain women. The rest of us have been doing that for 32 years. General Convention decided three years ago to affirm New Hampshire's choice to call a gay man to be their bishop. The bishop of San Joaquin believes that practicing non-heterosexuals are sinners. He is choosing to align himself with an official body that preaches the same.

We believe that God is love. This schism is driven by the desire to exclude. Please help those who may be left without a church that feels like home to them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sustainability, scheduling, and future plans

I went to a Green Festival in San Francisco today. It felt a bit like a giant reunion of food co-op types, only it was incredibly crowded and generally uncomfortable. I had a strange experience.

It was weird for me, because these people used to be my tribe. I was all about organic food and sustainable community. I still believe that way. But, I’m not into the spirituality that often goes with it. I’m not a Goddess-Christian-Buddhist-Pagan anymore. I absolutely believe in interfaith connections, and support them with all my soul. I don’t (and never did) go around with “4:20” patches on my hat. I won’t wear a T-shirt reading, “I believe in God / I just call God Nature.” Eleven years in an interfaith community, and those friendships I still hold onto, gave me an openness that I pray will always be part of me. At the same time, I myself am thoroughly Christian. It felt like there was no space at this festival for people like me.

I need to explore my, and our, options around this. I now have a yoga-practicing, equality-preaching, environmentally-concerned bishop. There is support for sustainability in this diocese. (As there is in the wider church; that’s what the Millennium Development Goals are all about.) When I want faith-driven political action, I start with and go from there. If I want spiritual affirmation of the world I want to live in, without its being tied to any faith, I go to Yes magazine. The only organization I can think of that is dedicated to Christian environmental action is Earth Ministry, a local/regional project based in Seattle. I know there are more; we watched An Inconvenient Truth in the refectory last month. All of these groups need to know about each other. There should be no outsiders at an environmental festival, ever. I wonder what I can do to encourage connections?

I might have a little time to think about that, because I just dropped one of my classes. I’m only going 3/4 time for the rest of this year. I wasn’t keeping up in Modern Church History, even with encouragement to do so. I think I just needed a mental health break. I went full-time last year, and I really struggled to balance giving enough of myself both to academics and to personal growth. Honestly, I think I just need to be happy and not stressed, for awhile. I’m loving Homiletics and Ethics, and Hebrew is the easiest class I have. I’m incredibly happy with my involvement at church, and in our after-school program on Wednesday afternoons. I love the community, and that's mutual. I just want to enjoy all of this and not die, for now anyway.

I talked with my advisor, and my new plan is to do an internship the year after next, rather than to break up my academics. I don’t know yet whether I’ll want to go to school full-time next year, or keep at the current pace. If I go full-time, then I can be academically done after next year. If I continue at a 3/4 pace, I’ll have either one more semester, or a year of half-time work to do. I also want to take classes from the Social Welfare school at Cal, so this all could work out really well. CDSP accepts electives taken at UC Berkeley, if we can integrate our studies there with our vocations. I’d just have to write papers connecting the two. That’s actually fun.

I’ll have to take the Modern Church History—Constructive Theology sequence next year, instead of now. I’m truly okay with that. The work load is really heavy, and I think I’d almost have to take only 3 classes at a time to do them well. I’m excited for next semester; I’m taking Postmodern Christian Education with Sue Singer, whom I know slightly and like very much; an exegesis course on Hebrews, taught by Bill Countryman (very good, and retiring); and a reading course with John Kater on the works of William Stringfellow. (A reading course, for any other Evergreeners reading this, is our version of an individual contract. You and the faculty decide what you’re going to do.) I knew John as a person before this year; he’s a good friend of the Apostle in Exile, and I’m on his regular list of cat-sitters. He’s an incredible teacher, and so obviously loves it. He’s heading off to Asia next year, so I’m learning from him while I can.

In fact, I ought to get some reading done now. I’ve taken quite a bit of this weekend off.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Homily, Feast of All Saints

I preached this morning at St. Aidan's.

Matthew 5:1-12

Wow. It’s All Saints Day. It’s fall in California!
This is the day when we remember all who came before us.
We praise famous, and not-so-famous, people.
We think about what it means to honor them,
with our lips and in our lives.
People jump into our minds at odd moments,
and we wish them happiness and love.
We send out a quick thank-you for the ones we love,
as we go back to studying or washing the dishes.
We might notice a grandparent in a child’s smile.
We remember, in turn, who we are,
whose we are,
and how we are called to live.

The first record of a feast set aside to commemorate all the saints
dates from before the year 270,
in a work by Gregory the Wonder-Worker, a bishop in Greece.
The date was fixed to November 1 in the eighth century.
This is our way of honoring our ancestors.
We’ve been doing it for a very long time.

What is a saint?
Is it someone who lived a legendarily perfect life,
and died centuries ago in the service of the faith?
Is it someone about whom we tell miracle stories?
Is it the statue under the birdbath in the yard?

The catechism in the Book of Common Prayer says this about sainthood:
“The communion of saints is the whole family of God,
the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt,
bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.”

Saints are the faces on the icons,
and the names forgotten centuries ago.
Theirs are the stories we tell once a year on their feast days,
and the stories remembered only by their children.
We are the babies of the family.
Ours is an ancient line of love and faith,
seeking and finding,
wrestling with and celebrating God.

This is a time to honor our own pantheons,
as well as those individuals specifically mentioned by the church.
Not only Aidan, monk, missionary bishop, and generous soul,
but Dymphna—patron of madness and also, for us, of creative chaos,
amazing organizational skills, drag-queen nuns, and children.
Not only Francis, who loved peace, practiced radical poverty,
and kissed a leper on the street—
but all who have lived and died and worked and played
and loved in this city.

I honor friends right here, who have welcomed me, laughed with me,
taught me a new skill, and helped me through a difficult time.
I honor a woman I never knew in the town I came from,
who roused her friends to create a flock of doves out of paper mache,
old sheets, glitter, paint, and glue.
They marched in an annual street fair celebrating life,
the year before she died on Palestinian soil.
I honor her parents, who carry on Rachel’s work
and who have become good friends to me.
I honor a child I cared for when I was just out of college.
She’s a self-conscious thirteen-year-old now;
she no longer jumps into my arms when she sees me.
But she taught me more about joyful assertiveness than anyone has,
before she even turned two.

I honor Mary, the bearer of God, saying yes to wild possibility.
I honor Mary Magdalene, first, vocal, witness to the resurrected Christ.
I honor Thomas, who honored his own need to see and touch the resurrected Christ for himself.
I honor all those who serve the San Francisco Night Ministry,
and who give their time by volunteering anywhere
in the service of God’s people and creation.
I honor those, too numerous to mention, following their faith
with thoughtful abandon,
stepping out bravely and joyfully into new ministries,
serving the God who calls us all to be our true selves.

Who do you honor today? How do they help you hear the call of God?
How do they encourage you to shine your light for others?

Saints are the holy ones, and saints are all of us. What is holiness?

Jesus said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Blessed are the ones who are not attached to material things,
or financial security,
for they will find freedom in the generosity of God.
These are the ones who can share what they have,
with others who need even more than they.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Blessed are those who can feel their true feelings,
who can grieve and cry without shame.
They have the courage to ask for the comfort that they need.
When others need to be held, or rocked, or listened to,
these are the ones who have the strength to give that.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Blessed are the ones who meet anger not with posturing and threats,
but with openhearted, unreserved love.
These are the ones who can heal the ruptures in this world.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Blessed are those who seek God through working for justice on this earth.
The power of God will be with them
like a mighty stream.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Blessed are the ones who can reach out with love and offers of forgiveness,
for they too will be loved and forgiven.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Blessed are the ones who are not complicated by greed,
hunger for power,
or any wrong attachments.
These are the ones who can pray in silence.
These are the ones who can be still, in their bodies and souls,
and make space for the love of God to fill them.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Blessed are the ones who work to heal divisions
between all peoples of the earth.
This is the work of shalom to which God calls us;
when we do it, we live into our call to be co-creators of the Kindom.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
God is with us in our hurt and fear and pain,
as much as God is with us in our joy.
God knows our deepest intentions, and God loves us immeasurably.
God “gets” who we are.
In a time when it was physically dangerous
to practice a countercultural faith,
Jesus was assuring his listeners that God was present with them,
even in their suffering.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The work we do here matters.
Our lives matter.
The love of God, shining through us, matters.

Shalom is a Hebrew word that means more than peace;
it means wholeness, completeness, union with one another and with God.
Our new Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori,
preached yesterday on what it means to embody the concept of shalom.
She said,

“The ability of any of us to enjoy shalom depends on the health of our neighbors. If some do not have the opportunity for health or wholeness, then none of us can enjoy true and perfect holiness. The writer of Ephesians implores us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace – to be at one in God's shalom. That is our baptismal task and hope, and unless each of the members of the body enjoys shalom we shall not live as one. That dream of God, that word of God spoken in each one of us at baptism also speaks hope of its realization.”

We are given the work of holiness at baptism,
the very moment at which we enter the communion of saints.
When we do this work,
we affirm the love, the creativity, and the reconciling power of God.

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.
Our cloud of witnesses is right here with us.
Let us do the work that God has created us to do.
Let us be who God has called us to be.
We are the family of God.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Friday Five on Tuesday, courtesy RGBP:

1. Do you enjoy a good fright?

Depends. I won't watch horror movies. I love a good scary story, though.

2. Scariest movie you've ever seen:

Aliens. I was 16, and watched it at home from under a blanket.

3. Bobbing for apples: choose one and discuss:a) Nothing scary about that! Good wholesome fun.b) Are you *kidding* me?!? The germs, the germs!

I did it once when I was 8 or so. I didn't enjoy it, mostly because my mouth (yet to experience palate expanders, oh joy) wasn't big enough. I wouldn't do it now, because I don't like immersing my face in cold water. Brrr!

4. Real-life phobia:

Heights, with spiders a close second. ::shiver:: I climbed steps up to a tree house over the weekend, and my hands were sweating on the way back down.

5. Favorite "ghost story":

Easy: the Seattle Underground Tour. Go, if you're up there; it's really fun.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Update, of sorts

Just back from Reading Week. I went to the Apostle in Exile’s house from one Friday to the next, ostensibly to study. I got some work done, but didn’t catch up as much as I’d wanted to. She works during the day, so that was my reading time. We also took her 2½-year-old goddaughter to the pumpkin patch, went to a concert at her church, did projects and hung out at home. It was a good, and restful, week.

I came back to Berkeley for three hours last Friday, and then went off to my parish retreat. We went to the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg. It’s really beautiful there. The theme of the weekend incorporated Scripture, prayer, and “surrounding ourselves with spiritual friends.” I had such a great time. I loved being able to have longer conversations than we can over a Sunday morning coffee hour. We got to sing a lot. The story circle was deeply powerful. And we built our Sunday Eucharist together, in small groups. It came together in a joyful celebration.

My poor blog. I feel like I owe everybody an update; I just haven’t known how to give it. My friend Molly introduced her story last Saturday night by explaining that she’s living in a story she doesn’t know how to tell yet. That’s where I've been, also.

I’ve started updates several times, and didn’t finish them because I couldn’t string the sentences together to say what’s really happening. Since last summer, I’ve been finding pieces of me that I hadn’t known existed. I’m having huge experiences, mostly internal. I want to share them, but I really just need to let myself integrate them first. I also don’t know how to do something so personal, publicly.

For right now, I’m not sure how to use this space. I like the idea of telling stories to illustrate the literal truth; maybe I’ll experiment with that. God knows I don’t really have the time, anyway, even though I want to keep writing. Please bear with me while I figure this out.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Job, the Rich Young Ruler, and the Amish Children

Yes, you never hear from me anymore; you just read my homilies. This did not come together as well as the last one, but I think it's still worth posting. I preached it in class yesterday.

The process here was entirely different from the previous one. Before, we each had a different passage from Mark to preach on. Now, four or five of us each week are preaching on the following Sunday's lections. I could have had an easier time if I'd just chosen to preach on Mark. I wanted to do something more challenging, and different. I was not as connected with these texts; but that can hardly be helped, when I got my totem text on the very first try. I was looking for parallels, and I explored midrash (without knowing that name) looking for them. Someone said she wanted actual interaction between Job and the man in Mark; I like that idea, and it would be something to think about playing with later. This, like the last one, came together right before I had to give it.

I felt mildly heretical in a couple of ways; our instructor advises us to choose one lection, and we had a discussion before about how outside poems may or may not work. I used one anyway, and I probably would again, though I'd think about it more deeply.

I'm working very hard on vocal presence and delivery. I'm realizing how powerful and how important it is to bring what's inside of me out, through more ways than writing. I didn't feel as grounded in my body as I'd wanted to; part of that was nervousness in front of a video camera. Vocally, though, I'm getting it. That feels really good.

Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Mark 10:17-31

Have you ever wanted something you couldn’t have? Have you ever had everything you could have wanted, and lost it in an instant?

If God completely blew your mind about the whole idea of having or being enough, what would you do?

Today, we hear two answers to these questions. We meet a man, in the gospel of Mark, who cannot separate himself from his things. And we witness Job, who has lost everything in one stroke, and who cannot bear the thought of losing God.

We know the man as the “rich young ruler,” but that is a conflation of all three Gospel stories. Luke calls him a ruler; Matthew says he’s young. In this earlier account, he owns many things, but speaks of his youth in the past tense.

We meet him running after Jesus, on a journey we know not where. This story directly follows Jesus’ encounter with the children; perhaps the man had heard him tell the disciples to let the children come, and that the Kingdom of God belonged to them. Perhaps he heard them laugh; he saw a joy there that he distantly remembered. He’s grown now; he is weighted down with adult concerns. Perhaps he saw Jesus smile.

Whatever this man knows of Jesus and his movement, he sees something here that he wants. He chases Jesus and stops him on the road, asking how he can get that too. Jesus challenges him, first asking for the flattery to stop and then pushing him to think past the conventions that he already knows.

“Yes,” the man agrees, “I’ve followed the law from my youth.”
Jesus looks into him, with love.

“Yes, you have, but can you leave your wealth behind?”
“Can you sell off everything that establishes your identity in this world, and give to the ones who need it?”

One commentator reminds us that pious men were expected to prosper, as a sign that their religious observance granted them favor with God. These men then could be benefactors for others, giving at their discretion to people in need. The recipients would then of course be grateful, and the wealthy donors would have good reputations. In a class-bound society, their status would increase.

Jesus is saying, “Give all of that up. This is not about how the world sees you. The path to God is not about earthly privilege. This is about true freedom. This is about the capacity of your love.”

The man cannot do it. He can’t let go of his status, his wealth, his security. He sees in Jesus true assurance, true joy. He wants that, but he can’t let go enough to receive it. He goes away sad.

Jesus knows what he’s asked of the man, and he understands why it’s hard. Money talks. How you dress and what you own tells other people who you are. It tells them how to treat you. It tells you how to treat them.

God’s economy runs on completely different principles. God asks different questions.

How clear can your heart be?
How loving can you be?
Can you give up everything you hold on to, to follow me?
Do you know that I love you?
Do you know that the little, unencumbered, vulnerable, free child in you is enough?

I don’t think the man ever would have forgotten this conversation. He had looked in the eyes of pure love, and said no. But that experience would not have left him.

I wonder, as the preacher from Galilee became stories whispered over campfires, as the occupation tightened, as the man’s fortunes changed, did these words of Jesus roll around in his head? Did he fall asleep praying for understanding? Did he still see those eyes in his dreams at night?

As the siege began and the temple burned, and with it everything that a good, observant, faithful man never questioned, I wonder if Job would have had an answer for him.

Job is not an Israelite; he lives in another land and his name comes from the wider area. He is introduced in the first chapter as a man who has always striven after God, and always been astoundingly successful. He is “blameless, upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” He is scrupulously observant, and staggeringly wealthy. It is said that Job is the greatest of all the people of the east. At a time when material wealth was a clear sign of divine favor, Job is sitting happily in God’s lap, a shining example of all that is good.

Until the day Satan pokes God in the ribs. Satan happens by one day, out for a long walk hither and yon around the earth. God seizes the chance to brag on Job. Satan says, “well of course he’s faithful; he’s never been tested.”

“Oh,” says God. “Well, then, have at him.”
The next thing Job knows, four messengers have told him that his animals have been stolen or slaughtered, his servants killed by fire and violence, and a house has fallen on all of his children. His wealth has vanished, and his children are dead.

Job’s world has been destroyed in an instant.

Job responds with a natural grief. He tears his clothes, shaves his head…

and falls on the ground and worships.

God watches, knowing that he has allowed Job to be destroyed for no reason. Satan challenges God again, and Job loses his health. He continues to be faithful.

Today’s passage is in context of a long conversation. Three of Job’s friends had heard what happened to him. They came to comfort, console, and challenge him: how could such awful events happen to a righteous man?

What must Job have done to deserve this?

Job knows that he has done nothing. In answer to his friend’s accusation, Job protests. He still doesn’t know of the arrangement God has made with Satan. He doesn’t know why he is suffering. But he is sure that if he could find God, he could get God to listen. He would plead his case before God, and God would answer him. Job wants to understand.

But Job cannot find God, though he looks everywhere. And that, paired with the knowledge that God will do whatever God chooses, terrifies Job. He desperately seeks an audience with God. He also desperately wants to hide.

But he doesn’t.

Job grieves his lost connection with God. But he does not doubt that God still is there. When his life gets difficult, he doesn’t understand. He loses his rootedness. But he stays in the soil. He stays in the struggle. He stays in the conversation.

The man in Mark thought that giving up all of his things was impossible. He walked away defeated. Job has had everything taken from him. He is living in the impossible place. He screams and shouts and rails against it. But he stays present. All his life he has lived in communion with God. He wants that back. If he has to fight for it, he will.

A week ago yesterday, a man walked into an Amish one-room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, PA. He sent the fifteen boys out of the building, along with four adults and their infant children. He shot all ten of the girls. Five of those girls died. The oldest was 13; the youngest was 7. Another girl, six years old, is not expected to survive.

The man also killed himself. He leaves a wife and three young children.

The man had lost a newborn daughter nine years ago. He was clearly disturbed for other reasons as well. He was angry at God, and confused, and distraught. He took out his rage on these children.

This man was buried yesterday. About 75 people came to his memorial. About half of them were Amish.

There’s a poem by the 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi, that helps me understand their compassion, their will to forgive, and their commitment to stay faithful to God. He writes,

Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, come, whoever you are,
Even though you’ve broken your vows a thousand times,
Come, yet again,

We are about to celebrate the Eucharist. We are about to enter with our bodies into communion with God.

If you are happy and content with your life, come.
If you have a good and quiet conscience, come.
If something wonderful just happened, come.
If you are hiding a grief that consumes you, come.
If God is asking you to do something difficult, come.
If God is asking you to do something impossible, come.
If you’ve got four things due before Reading Week and you haven’t started any of them, come.
If you are angry with your mother or your child or your partner or your best friend, come.
If you are angry with God, come.

God calls all of us into struggle, into life, into conversation, into communion. All are welcome at the table of the Lord.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Woman with the Alabaster Jar

Yes, I know, my blog needs a real update. I'll try to get to that in the next day or so. For now, here is the homily I preached in class this morning. It's my first, before my peers. We picked passages from Mark on strips of paper our instructor held out to us; I seem to choose or be chosen for the ones I need most.

We are "pretending" to preach in a Eucharistic context, which explains a bit toward the end.

Mark 14:1-9

What is going on in this house? Who is this woman? How has she managed to scandalize everyone? And what can we make of Jesus’ answer?

What are we supposed to do with this story?

We come upon this dinner party in what we know will be the last week of Jesus’ life. Mark has set the scene just previously, with apocalyptic prophecies, warnings to be watchful, and a note that the Passover is two days away. Jesus is wanted by the Temple authorities. There is not even a pause between this story and the next, when Judas betrays Jesus. In our minds, we fast-forward to Friday. Jesus is doing the same.

Whom do we meet here? We are in Bethany, which strikes me as iconic because one of its Hebrew meanings is “house of the poor.” We see Jesus, at a dinner party at the home of an outcast, a man with a disease that marked him with a giant Quarantine sign. He is not alone; there are friends and family there with him. And here is a woman, appearing silently out of nowhere to pour oil over Jesus’ head. To the shock of everyone around him, Jesus doesn’t seem fazed by this. Instead, he castigates the others for mixing up their priorities.

We aren’t told her name. The writer of John identifies her as Martha’s sister Mary. The author of Luke considers her a prostitute, who not only anoints Jesus but weeps over him, and dries his feet with her hair. Mark, the first written gospel account, gives us the bare bones that others built from. She is simply a woman, who somehow came by a jar of ointment worth nearly a year’s wages. She breaks it open, and anoints Jesus’ head, as if he were truly a king.

She doesn’t just dribble a little. She pours it all out over him.

Picture this: A houseful of men are gathered, in occupied Jewish Palestine, two days before the festival celebrating their people’s deliverance from Egypt. They’re just sitting down to dinner. We don’t know who all is there. We don’t know how many. One commentator assumes an all-male gathering. We don’t know if Jesus brought the usual crew or if he showed up alone. We can guess that no one there came from any particular means; they would have risked too much by hanging out with a leper. We don’t know what they’re eating or drinking, or how much. We don’t know if they’re quietly or urgently making plans for liberation, or if they just want to have some fun before the craziness happens. There’s the potential for anything, here.

Suddenly, silently, she slips in, carrying a jar that cost a year’s daily wages. She carries it in front of her, with both hands, careful not to drop it. She knew what she was doing. She knew what she was risking. She locks her eyes on Jesus, breathes deeply, and slowly and with purpose, walks toward him.

There’s a rustling of elbows, a collective cough. She sets her jaw, and tunes them out. She grips the jar tighter, to keep her hands from shaking. She walks on, focused on what she came here to do.

Someone shouts, “Hey! Simon! Where did she get THAT?”

Simon shrugs back. They stop what they’re doing and watch. All eyes are on her now.

She reaches Jesus. He bows his head, so she can reach. She breaks the jar, pours it over him, and… instant apoplexy. Eyes popping out all over the place. There is oil everywhere, all over Jesus and running on the floor. Everyone in Judea can smell what it is.

There is one long indignant silence.

Then people start shouting. Where did you get that money? Why did you buy that jar? Don’t you care that people are starving? Why on earth did you pour that all over his head?

Maybe, who on earth are you? Who let you in here?

Definitely, what on earth just happened?

Jesus, somewhat used to calming storms, quiets this one. Sharply. “Leave her alone!”


“Yes, you. You were talking about the coming of the Kingdom. She just did something that mattered. You will have poor people, always, around you. You can care for them whenever you want. This woman—yes, this one right here—has anointed my head for burial. She has done a holy thing.”

I can hear them all just muttering, “oh.”

These are not shady characters. They’re thinking outside of themselves, already—they want to share what they have. They’re a bunch of people gathered in a house with Jesus, whom the Markan community knows as a tireless healer, teacher, and prophet with a pressing sense of urgency. Wherever Jesus is, things happen, and the kingdom of heaven is always breaking through. There is an energy always crackling around him. They are preparing for the great festival of liberation. They’ve got their minds on change.

Jesus doesn’t condemn them for that. He doesn’t tell them not to serve the poor. He takes for granted that they will do that anyway. He tells them that they have to do both. Sharing with people who have less than you is one way of loving God.

Seeing the need in one person, and filling that, is another.

Jesus often stands up for women. Why this one? It wasn’t she who gave her last penny to voracious Temple authorities. She did nothing like lose a quarter and search her whole house for it. She neither asks for healing, nor argues with him on behalf of someone she loves. She walks into this house without speaking a word, and she pours an entire jar of oil over Jesus’ head.

Nard is a member of the valerian family; it’s similar to what gives us Valium. It was imported from India, and was used both for healing and for anointing the dead. What she did, in her way, was to give healing to the healer.

She is told she’ll be remembered—but we don’t even know her name. Perhaps she is a member of Simon’s household. Perhaps she’s a perfect stranger here. We aren’t told how she got the money to pay for the ointment. The point isn’t how she paid for this. The point is that she held something precious, and she gave it away. She looked into Jesus, and she saw a king. She saw what he needed, and she did it for him.

She walked past all of these men, and she gave herself away.

If you look around, you can see people giving their whole selves for the healing of the world. Ten years ago, I met a man in downtown Olympia. He was sitting at a table in front of a magazine store I used to hang out in. He said hi. I said hi back. And I’m not sure why, but I sat at the table with him.

We got talking. He told me that he’d just gotten out of jail. He did time for something drug-related; I don’t remember what it was. He had just landed in Olympia, and was trying to figure out how to make a life there.

In the years since, he finished college and got involved in the local activist community. I know his last name, but I’ve never heard him use it. Everyone in town calls him “Long-Hair David.” He got involved with a program called “Books to Prisoners,” and brought it to town. There’s a regular thing now, where people bring books that they’re done with to a drop-off location, and volunteers package and mail them to inmates all over the US. He helped start a local harm-reduction program, and got the county health department to back him. He started a program offering donations of blankets and other essential items to local homeless youth. Many fall and winter evenings, you can see him on his bicycle, trailer packed with things to give away.

A year ago, I came to Berkeley with a question. When I trained to volunteer at a domestic violence/rape relief agency, we played a game on the last day of training. The instructors got us all together in a circle, and asked us this:

“How do you want to love the world?”

We were quiet for a minute, and then we played the game. One would ask the question, and throw a ball of yarn to another. That one would speak her answer, hold the string, and toss the ball to someone else. We repeated this until we had a spider’s web of connections, speaking who we were and what was in us to give.

I don’t remember what I said then. But I ask it again, now. Probably we all do. God has called us into a time of study and questioning, a time of learning and preparation for lives of intentional service. Sometimes we are absolutely clear about our passions and our callings. We’re off organizing for immigrants’ rights, or creating liturgies for peace. Sometimes we’re drowning in paper and deadlines, and can’t think past the next cup of coffee.

As we come to this Eucharistic table, let us remember who we are. Jesus saw the woman’s worth. Like her, we all are worth the love we have inside us. Our world is worth the love we have to give it.

Let us eat this bread, drink this cup, and with all the love we are given, give ourselves away.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Stretch out your hand."

The following is a sermon preached at CDSP on September 11 by Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, professor of early and medieval church history. I felt strongly that it be heard beyond our chapel, and asked permission to post it here.

Let us use our power to heal.

Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski
Monday of Proper 18, Year Two
Church Divinity School of the Pacific

I Cor. 5.1-8
Ps. 5
Luke 6.6-11

Jesus said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” (Luke 6.10)

Hands are powerful things in the Bible.

They are signs of action and strength.

The scriptures say when God’s hand is stretched out it destroys enemies and shelters the faithful.

Throughout the Bible, with outstretched right hands, people swear oaths, take up swords and act.

The outstretched right hand is a sign of vitality and power.

So when Jesus comes upon this man with a withered right hand, he sees someone who in very real terms in that time and place lacks strength and power.

And Jesus says to this man, “Stretch out your hand.”

Stretch out that hand that has left you diminished, that hand which has left you less than your complete self.

But what does this command by Jesus have to do with the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th?

How does this gospel story speak to the horror and fear and anger and confusion and grief felt that day?

There are no set readings for such a commemoration in our prayer book, no liturgical calendar has yet established this as a day to observe.

But as an American, speaking here mostly to other Americans, I think this text is appropriate for today.

I ask you this question, five years after 9/11, “How have we stretched out our hands and how are they shriveled?”

In the aftermath of 9/11, many cried, “Stretch out your hand.”

And stretch out our hand we did.

As a nation we stretched out our hand and attacked Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And we stretched out our hand again, rounding up suspected terrorists at home and abroad.

And we stretched out our hand again, limiting civil liberties in favor of security.

And we stretched out our hand again, secretly rendering without trial suspected terrorists to countries where they would be tortured.

And we stretched out our hand again, invading Iraq under the fevered specter of mushroom clouds, and mobile weapons labs, and nerve gas, and never-ending waves of terror.

Look where stretching out our hand has gotten us – Guantanomo Bay, shock and awe, Abu Ghraib, a fruitless war begun for reasons that we know now were wisps of fog, with the death of over 2660 American soldiers, the wounding of over 19,000 more, and at least 42,000 Iraqi civilians killed.

This nation asked for a righteous hand to be stretched out in order to feel safe, but do we?

Did we fight to take our shoes off in airports and to fearfully glance a second time on airplanes at any who looks brown and suspicious?

Did we cry for revenge so as many Americans could die in wars after 9/11 as on that terrible day?

Five years later, we have to admit that when America stretched forth its hand, we lost so much and gained so little.

In stretching forth our hand in righteous anger, we have drawn it back to find it withered and strangely powerless.

As a nation we have been reduced and our moral authority rooted in human rights and democracy shriveled.

And what about those of us gathered here?

What has become of us as Christians?

How do we speak the gospel in times like this?

The events of 9/11 spurred many of us to work even more for justice and reconciliation.

For some of us, those events opened our hearts to God’s call.

And yet, we find ourselves struggling to speak.

We find the words of our faith used for purposes of violence and division, not healing and salvation.

And so some of us have found it better not to speak at all.

Not only our hand but our tongue is withered.

But Jesus says to us as a nation and as Christians, “Stretch out your hand.”

Stretch out your hand, not to destroy but to heal.

Remember the gospel lesson you heard today.

Prior to the healing of the hand there is an argument between Jesus and other religious leaders over whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath.

Jesus gives an answer that is consistent with the Jewish tradition.

Like many other rabbis before and after him, Jesus declared that the word of God is something to live by, not to die by.

God’s law gives life, it does not diminish it.

God desires the healing of our hands, not that they stay withered.

So if you are like me, and find yourself burdened with sorrow as you reflect on where we have gone as a country in the five years since 9/11, remember that we have been given words to live by, not to die by.

As we search for words to live by in the face of the death we find around us, listen to Paul:

“Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Cor. 5.8)

How do we respond to the evil of terrorism and to the malice infesting our national and global life?

Paul says with a new bread.

For us this new bread is Christ who brings in the reign of God, which is irrepressible in how it works towards a world where love and justice are the bywords of all people and systems.

Let’s feast on this bread of truth, this true bread, our Jesus.

And after eating, by the power of the Spirit do the reconciling work given us by Christ.

Go and say to others, “Stretch out your hands.”

Say it to those near and far, to those in power and those without power.

Say it to those working for peace and justice, and to those who make war and are unjust.

Say it to those who will listen and those who will not.

Say it so they will also stretch out their hands and receive the healing bread of Jesus.

But first, come and eat our true bread.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sharing Our Stories: St. Aidan Member in the 21st Century

A different relatively new person is speaking at my church each week, from the Feast of St. Aidan in late August until Epiphany. The topic is how St. Aidan's intersects with our spiritual lives. I was asked to participate last Wednesday, and here is what I said this morning.

My mother was not Cesar Chavez’ lawyer, but my mentor was an Aidanite.

Our Dean of Students chooses current students to mentor each member of the entering class, to show them the ropes their first year. She knows the mentors she chooses; she has met each newcomer who has visited, and read their applications. By a stroke of grace or genius, I got Molly. We met by e-mail over the summer. She took me out for a much-appreciated beer, the first night of orientation. As she tells it, she “got me drunk and made me take Greek.” We talked about how each of us had landed at CDSP. She knew I was from Olympia, had come from a bit of an upside-down situation, and was going to be looking for a new home here. My path wasn’t entirely unlike her own. She told me about St. Aidan’s, and about Aidan’s Way and Dymphna. I knew who Dymphna was, because I’d gone looking for a patron saint the week before. This sounded like a good community, and an incredible amount of fun. Molly was doing Field Ed at Holy Innocents and couldn’t bring me here, but she urged me to come. I remember my exact answer: “I’d love to. I can’t. We stole your rector.” She said, “No, don’t worry about that. You’d love them, and they’d love you.” Prophetic words.

I went out of town for my class retreat and then my birthday, and visited Grace Cathedral and somewhere else. I made it over here for the first time on St. Francis Day. I got off of BART and waited what seemed like forever at the bus stop. I overheard people talking about the #52. I went over and asked them about it. That was Kate and Angela. They showed me around that first day, and introduced me. Everybody was so incredibly open and welcoming. They took me out to lunch afterward, and we talked for a really long time. They weren’t just being nice to the newcomer; they were genuinely interested. I came back the next week, and it was clear that my having a connection to Nedi had mattered for about ten minutes. People who hadn’t heard that piece were just as friendly, just as welcoming, just as enthusiastic and encouraging.

I visited a couple other places, but when I wasn’t here, I missed it. I connected with the worship; I loved the community. I connected right away with the sense of compassion and utter chaotic, creative joy. I volunteered at Dymphna so I could meet people. That resulted in the following often-repeated exchange:

“Hi, how was your weekend?”
“Great! I waitressed at a drag show for church.”

I’m bringing a friend from San Joaquin to that, next month. She was here last week, with me.

I explored a few more congregations, but I kept a foot here. The community was wonderful, friendly and supportive. I had a lot of sorting and healing to do, and that seemed to be possible here. But the future rector was an unknown quantity. Because of an experience in the parish I had come from, I needed to be able to trust the priest. I was hesitant to completely fall in love before I knew who that would be. I came back from break at Epiphany, and you announced that you’d called Tommy. He is a friend of a seminary friend, since graduated; she’d found him in the Baton Rouge phone book when she was looking for a church for her parents. They love him. I met him, got to know him, and there was no longer a reason for resistance.

I got on the rota, and started really feeling like a part of this place. I started coming to the women’s group. I did what felt to me like little random things, like putting together a sheet about the labyrinth last Holy Week, and being there for an afternoon. People have commented to me that they appreciated me jumping in. I’m here; how could I possibly not? I’ve been asked to participate in some ways, and been happily included in anything I’ve expressed an interest in. People here have helped and supported me, sometimes on purpose, often more than they know. One major question I came down here with is, “What do I have to give to the world, and the church?” You’ve been more than willing to let me explore. I’ve been really embraced here, encouraged to give whatever I want to, and loved for who I am.

I went to Seattle for the summer, and had a fantastic time up there. Puget Sound holds my roots, and I love it. The parish I was in was very active and inclusive. In the middle of all of that, I wrote to Sally and asked her to transfer my membership here. I visited because my mentor told me to. I stayed because I caught the spirit of this community. I came from Olympia last fall, needing to do a lot of sorting and healing, and listening to what the call to uproot my whole life is all about. I struggled a lot with the whole idea of home, being from one place and needing to be in another. I came back here last week, twitching all the way up the hill on the bus, because I would not rather be anywhere else.

Thank you.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Gold in California

(With apologies/homage to Kate Wolf; the title fits.)

The subject of an e-mail I haven’t answered yet reads, “Are you home?” (Hi Mimi, yes I am.) I’ve been back in CA for a little over a week, and back in school since Tuesday. It’s good to be back here.

I drove from Olympia down to the Apostle in Exile’s house a week ago last Wednesday, and have absolutely no recollection of when I got there or what we did. (Dinner and talking are safe assumptions.) I did my laundry the next morning, and came over here. Got lunch on campus, as it was the middle of orientation, and caught up with some friends. Picked up my keys, dragged everything from my car up to my room, made my bed and collapsed into it. Got up the next morning and bought my books, drove back to the Apostle’s house, and bounced back and forth between there, school, and San Francisco with her all weekend. We went to an art show in Sausalito on Saturday. (There was some neat stuff, and some very weird.) That night we went on an impromptu walking tour of Berkeley-Oakland. We wanted to go to Kirala for sushi; neither of us had been, and we’d heard it was really good. In daylight, when you know where you are, it’s four blocks from the Ashby BART. We came out oriented the wrong way, and walked about four miles. I have never worked so hard for dinner, or been so happy to get it. We ate about 9:30 that night. Walked back to BART the short way, laughing the whole time, and rode it downtown. We hiked up the hill from the Berkeley BART to school, and ate chocolate cake at midnight.

I brought her to church with me at St. Aidan’s on Sunday. I was so excited to be home that I was twitching all the way up the hill on the bus. (I’ve walked up many times, but she was already maintaining that I was out to kill her, so we didn’t.) I hadn’t seen most of these people since the middle of May, but we’d been in touch. Other than getting lots of welcome-home hugs, and the liturgy having changed for the season, it was like I really hadn’t been gone long. I fit back in without having to think about it. It’s home.

The Apostle and I went to lunch at a really good bistro, and part of a free Shakespeare play (The Tempest) in the Presidio. We got there late, weren’t following it, and got cold, so we left early. We went back to her house, and stayed home all day Monday. I drove back to school Tuesday morning.

We mostly had a really great time. I had done a lot of healing in Seattle. I was glowing, bouncy-happy, excited to be back, and ready for anything. But we talked about one thing that troubled me, which I won’t go into here. The result of it, though, is that I’m looking at God sideways. I pray reluctantly, and only when I’m leading it publicly. I haven’t been to chapel when I haven’t had to be. I’m going to church tomorrow, because I agreed to speak and because I love the community. I only can worship with a small piece of me. I need to talk to God, but I don’t want to. I’m angry, and I have to face that, but I don’t feel ready for the level of anger that I feel. I’m engaged in my classes, but not fully, because they’re all about learning, preaching, or doing theology, and there’s that hesitation again. I’ve gotten huge pieces of my happiness and competence back—but I feel like I need to go someplace and scream and cry for awhile, where no one can hear me but God. I live in a physical fishbowl; you can’t walk outside without being seen by all the resident students and most of the administration. I have a counselor whom I already know—but she’s out of town until October. I have good friends here—but last year held its own trauma, and I don’t want to feel like a poster child again.

I need to work through this now, so it doesn’t keep shadowing me. I need to participate fully in this community. I will; I am so much better than at the beginning of this week, and I am nothing if not motivated. My church, school, and friend communities (including the Apostle herself) support me. If something I trip over breaks me open, I have to let it. I only need to do that in a safe place, to define when and how I will walk there.

My classes themselves are really good; I’m going to enjoy them. I’m not doing Field Ed now, like most of the continuing class, because I want to do a focused internship later. I needed to ground myself more where I am, in my own personal discernment and in the parish I've adopted. So, I’m taking a full academic load instead. I’m taking Hebrew, Modern Church History, Homiletics, and Ethics (which last is why Thursdays particularly rock; the instructor is fabulous as a teacher and as a person, and the whole question of the class is how to live your faith). I don’t know right now how to preach a God I’m completely in favor of, but I do know how to wrestle, and I know how to write and speak honestly. My passion is the inclusion of everyone’s voices; I want to learn to use mine well. My goal for this year’s history/theology sequence is simply to not suck. Hebrew’s easy and mostly mechanical; it’s memorizing vowels and grammar rules, and beginning to translate. I love that and I’m good at it. I’m back in the rhythm of prioritizing academic, personal, and spiritual time. It’s so tempting to do all the fun stuff first—and that does not necessarily include difficult reading. This is life now, though, and I’m here because I want and need to be. I know why I need this education, and I know why I want it. The secret, I think, is not losing touch with joy. I have grown a lot, and even I can see it. All I really have to do—the only non-negotiable in any of this—is stay open. Listen to what the words, nudges, and breezes are saying to me, and don’t worry about much else.

On that note, I have to finish my talk for tomorrow, and keep up with my history reading. Peace to all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Winding down

Well, lying down, at any rate, as I’ve got a stomach bug. The Apostle in Exile thinks it’s the same thing that teased her for days before it really knocked her down. I’m pinning my own hopes on exhaustion, and my body needing some catch-up time. I don’t get digestive bugs very often, but I’d still rather have this than a respiratory illness. I hate those.

She came up last Wednesday and left Sunday afternoon. We took care of the animals I was housesitting for (two cats and a bearded dragon lizard), and ran around all over the city. I got to play tour guide all around my back yard; it was so much fun. We did the Underground tour, went to the glass museum in Tacoma, listened to the wind in the trees in Discovery Park, and walked all over Pike Place Market and the waterfront. We had Thai food in Fremont, sushi in Wallingford, lunch wherever we were, and breakfast at home. I really wanted to take her on a ferry to Bainbridge for ice cream, but we ended up not having time. Oh well. We also had a lot of good talking time. She is and has been helping me heal from a whole lot of things in my past. (I was not the child my parents wanted, and still am surprised when people want to be around me.) She said once that she forgets how new it is for me to be completely accepted. I thought, fabulous—I’m evolving.

I really have started shedding my skin. There is no looking back from that; all I want to be is real, transparent, comfortable in the skin that I’m growing, and not overwhelmed by my own wants, needs, and fears. I’m getting there, and I am nothing if not supported—but it still feels like a long road. I want to be there now. This is my map: I’m not afraid of my own feelings at all. I’m used to them. I know how it feels to be me, when I’m happy, calm, overjoyed, hurting, angry… everything. I am much less scared to talk about the reasons for my tears; those words come almost easily now. I am still afraid that I overwhelm other people. This rock in the road is all about boundaries and trust.

My friend Don from St. Aidan's met us at church on Sunday, and took us all out to lunch. We talked about World in Prayer, the Communications Committee, how to get around the city, and suchlike. It was fun to see him. I took the Apostle to the airport Sunday afternoon, went back to Ballard to gather up my stuff, and moved in to where I am now (north of the U-district). I went to work Monday, but didn’t really get anything done. Mostly, I was tired. Woke up with the stomach thing yesterday, and it’s still coming and going, so I’ve stayed home. I need to finish revising my work for the Altar Guild, and e-mail that. Tomorrow I have to go in, because I have two meetings about fall worship services, and Dorian and the wardens want to take me to lunch.

Friday, I’ll get the a/c in my car looked at, and fixed if it’s not horribly expensive. I think I have a party in Magnolia Saturday evening to go to; during the day, I’ll catch up on little things for myself I’ve wanted to do while I’m up here. Sunday after church is a lunch by the youth who went to MA on a mission trip, and then I’ll pack up the car and head south. I’ll stay in Olympia until Tuesday morning, then drive back to CA. I’ll sleep that night on the Apostle’s couch, and settle back in to CDSP the next day. We're going to play in SF a bit over the weekend, and then I'll start school that Tuesday.

I’m very glad I came up here; it’s been good to do some useful work, come home, and heal. I’ve met some good people, and I’ve done (mostly) what I came here to do. By Sunday, I’ll feel very ready to leave. I miss my friends in CA and the rhythm of church and school. It’s time to move forward with all of this.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Homily, Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

Psalm 34:1-9
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 1:46-55

Today is the feast day of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Roman church celebrates this as the Feast of her Assumption into heaven; we don’t quite go that far, but we honor her. We, or at least I, think of her mostly in Advent, as the nervous but heroically faithful young mother of the One who was sent to save. She may have been every bit of that, but she was very much more. She was a human woman, who birthed, nurtured, worried about, rejoiced in, and loved the very incarnation of God.

I was listening to one of my favorite songs while I worked on this. It was written by Linda Allen, a folk singer in Bellingham. The verses tell the story of Mary’s interaction with Jesus throughout his life, and the anticipation, pride, terror, grief, and triumph she might have felt, carrying him, raising him, watching him come into his own. The chorus goes like this:

And the light’s still shining, Mary, Mary, can you see?
And the child you carried carries on the mystery.
God’s great promise in a young girl’s body,
Glory, Glory! Blessed Be, Blessed Be!
Glory, Glory! Blessed Be, Blessed Be!

She is famous for being an unwed, pregnant teenager. A kid in life-threatening trouble. If we listen to the Gospel accounts, Mary’s story goes something like this: A young girl is betrothed to a tradesman, likely older than she. Their families would have paired them; we don’t know why these two were brought together, or how well they knew each other at their betrothal. Like anyone, she would have wanted to love and be loved by him; she also would have known that marriage put her utterly at his mercy, should she ever displease him. It was easy for a man to divorce his wife, and women had little or no means of survival on their own. If a woman suspected of adultery were not immediately stoned, she could die slowly of ridicule and starvation. Mary and Joseph were not yet married when a strange traveler named Gabriel surprised Mary, told her not to be afraid, and then threw a serious curve ball into her life. He didn’t exactly ask her to be the mother of God; he told her that she had been chosen to bear the Messiah. She asked how, and was treated to a completely incomprehensible notion of conception. She picked her jaw up off the floor, thought for a minute, gathered up all her dignity and courage, and said yes. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” The angel left her to puzzle out how on earth to tell Joseph.

Joseph loved her. He honored her, and with God’s help, he believed her. They raised the child, and his many younger siblings, in a small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business, and no one ever let anyone forget it. This boy had a strong spark of God from the beginning, but he never made it easy for mere humans to parent, befriend, or love him. The young Jesus gets separated from his parents in Jerusalem. Panic rising, they search the city for days. They find him in the Temple, impressing the rabbis, having a wonderful time. He answers their frantic pleading with a perfectly adolescent, “Duh! Where did you think I’d be?” Mary, in John’s gospel, asks Jesus for his first miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding feast at Cana. He didn’t feel it was the right time to reveal himself, but she held her ground. Grumbling, he does it, and she can barely contain her smile. But there is also the report, in Matthew, of him openly shunning his family because they don’t support him the way he wants them to; in fact, they seem fearful for his mental health. She loved him, always, unquestioningly—but she couldn’t truly understand him, or hold onto him, or protect him. That knowledge must have terrified her, even as she took pride in the child he was and the man he became, even as she knew he belonged uniquely to God.

Mary said yes to the angel, yes to God, yes to her own wonder and joy. She said yes to a life she could not possibly have understood or imagined. The wide-eyed girl signed on for this wild ride, and the mature woman kept her faith, as her passionate son took more and more risks for God’s justice. She’d have heard of him healing on the Sabbath, forgiving sins, and arguing with religious authorities over who had any authority at all. She’d have heard of him challenging the Roman tax system, speaking dangerous words of insurrection had the wrong people heard him. Whether or not she traveled with him, word got out over exactly what he was preaching on the mountains, plains, or wherever, and what truths were served with bread and fish. And then there was that incident in the Temple. She looked in her son’s eyes as he was dying, and we only can imagine the grief and devastation that would have rocked her soul. On the morning after the Sabbath, she went with two friends to give him the last gift they could. They found shimmering white figures, folded cloths, a tomb unsealed, and a hope beyond all understanding.

This morning’s readings tell us who God is, and who we are. Paul here gives us a gentle, empowering catechism. We who belong to God do not belong to anybody’s Emperor. We are slaves to no one. We are children of God—and thus heirs to God’s kingdom, God’s power, God’s justice, God’s love. God chose to be born of a woman, into this human society, to liberate us from a relationship through law alone. We are no longer bound by the fear of retribution, but by the call of love.

For the author of Luke, Mary is no passive child or Queen of Heaven, without a star out of place. The Magnificat, the hymn placed in her mouth, is a call to revolution. I am any woman, sings Mary, but God is my strength. God has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly. God favors me, God remembers his promises, and God will deliver my people.

Our work is clear. Claim your kinship. Be a child of God. Be free, be loved—and get busy feeding hungry people. Take the risks that present themselves. Be daring, like Mary; say yes to the call that you’re hearing. Birth the God within you, honor that love and let it do what it will. Trust in eternity, and love like there is no more time.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Slackerdaisicality, and a book meme

Yes, I’m still alive. Still in Seattle, still happy, still healing, growing, and having a good time. I’ve taken too many long, guilty looks at my and my friends’ blogs, and it’s past time for an update.

I finished my part of the altar guild project. I resisted it; I’m not sure why—I think I just had too many distractions. I’ve been moving every week or two or three, and had trouble finding my focus. All I needed to do was write up some information on church seasons, and find prayers to go with them. I did it at last while Dorian was on vacation, because I couldn’t have looked her in the eye when she came back. They’re going to finalize both pieces (mine and the procedural stuff that someone else wrote up), and make it available in September.

I’m housesitting right now for a family from Ascension, and taking care of their plants, two cats, and one bearded dragon lizard. They’re really nice people. One’s on the vestry, and when I went over to get the house tour and key, we ended up having a meeting regarding their fall retreat day (by which time I’ll be back in CA). I think so far that I’ve done everything I was responsible for, for that.

I’m getting to help plan a Celtic worship service, that will start happening here once a month in the fall. Even though I won’t be here then, I love doing this sort of thing. I had known next to nothing about the Celtic church. The history is fascinating.

The Apostle in Exile is coming to visit this week. We haven’t figured out what all we’re doing yet; how much touristy stuff can you pack into three days? We both kind of want to go to the San Juans; we’ll see. I’m also taking suggestions for sushi…

After she leaves, I’ve got exactly one more week here. Then, I’ll pack my car (ought to clean it out right now), and head back to Oly for a couple days. I’m having breakfast with a friend on the 29th, then I’ll hit the freeway. I plan to get back to Berkeley on the 30th, buy my books and settle in. I’m lectoring at the Orientation Community Night Eucharist on the 31st.

The Apostle and I have plans to show up at St. Aidan’s Labor Day weekend, and play in the city a bit. Then, I start school. I’m not scared at all, because I know what I’m getting into this year. I feel excited and ready.

Here, snagged both from Juniper and Mimi, is a book meme:

1. One Book That Changed Your Life: I don’t know about changed my life, but in a sense helped me define who I’d be: The Sneetches and Other Stories, by Dr. Seuss. It was my favorite book when I was five. I didn’t know about the WWII parallel until early adulthood—I just loved it for telling me it was okay to be me.

2. One Book That You've Read More Than Once: I read The Dark is Rising, the best in that series by Susan Cooper, most Christmases.

3. One Book You'd Want On a Desert Island: Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I could read this over and over. I didn’t get into Prodigal Summer at all; I’d like to try again. I love her essays, also.

4. One Book That Made You Laugh: Um… a Calvin and Hobbes anthology?

5. One Book That Made You Cry: The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. I read it in three evenings; would have finished it in one sitting if I hadn’t had to stop so often. And books never do that to me.

6. One Book You Wish Had Been Written: A book on early/medieval church history, in English. I have a difficult time with academic-ese; I can read it, and comprehend it slowly, but I start wondering why after awhile.

7. One Book That You Wish Had Never Been Written: I despised The Mists of Avalon. I endured it, in college, because I was taking a religion/mythology program and all the other women I knew raved about it. I never could keep straight who stole whose child, and who was sleeping with whom. Then, after sweating my way through 800-odd pages, I found Marion Zimmer Bradley’s conclusion: Mary is just Brigid anyway, in different clothes, so none of the previous fighting and intrigue have mattered. Ugh.

8. One Book You’re Currently Reading: Gospel Women, by Richard Bauckham. I’m preaching on Mary in the morning.

9. One Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read: Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community. I’ve had it out from the GTU library for months, and am going to buy my own copy before I go back to school.


10. One Book You Want to Read Again: The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin (thanks Max). I’ve never gotten into fantasy/sci-fi in general, but I discovered her several summers ago and binge-read her work. I have something else in that series checked out from the Seattle library right now.

Off to write a sermon. I’ll post that tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Homily, Feast of St. Benedict

Psalm 1 or 34:1-8
Proverbs 2:1-9
Luke 14:27-33

If you seek wisdom like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Today is the Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine order and generally considered the “father of Western monasticism.” Most of what we know about him comes from the Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great, written about sixty years after his death. This work appears to be a combination of biographical sketch and miracle stories. What we can receive as factual: Benedict was born around the year 480, in central Italy, of noble birth. He had a sister, by tradition a twin, St. Scholastica. He was educated in Rome, studying rhetoric and law, but was turned off by the excesses of Roman society. He abandoned the life he had been brought up to, taking his childhood nurse with him to a community at the foot of a mountain, maybe 40 miles away. He found a mentor named Romanus, a monk in a nearby monastery, who encouraged him to become a hermit, which he was for three years, embracing prayer, silence, and solitude. Benedict appears to have grown into his vocation during this time, and after he emerged, stories of miracles spread around him, and a community grew up around him. He eventually built twelve monasteries, each with their own abbot, and lived in a thirteenth monastery with a few select brothers, as abbot over all of them. He is noted for the Rule of St. Benedict, which is likely to have been an expansion of an earlier monastic rule, and is the only piece of Benedict’s writing we have. This rule stresses hospitality, humility, prayer, and work, in communal life.

We have, then, a picture of a man who grew up in material wealth, with a good education and all the advantages to succeed in the society of his place and time, who at some point around the age of twenty looked around at all the excesses all around him, and chose an alternative path. Benedict had a vision of what it meant to live in accordance with the Gospel. He did not set out to invent monasticism; it already existed. He added his own focus and energy to reforming what he experienced.

This brings us to the interaction of today’s readings. What are they telling us? First, the Psalm. [quote one line of whichever we use] Seek justice; praise God always. Proverbs centers our hearts in the wisdom of God. Listen, and you shall know how to live; you shall know the reverence and love of the One who created you, and loves you. God’s presence is a treasure which is not hoarded, but is poured out for all of us. If you seek God, you can't help but find God, everywhere.

Are you ready now? Do you know that you are loved? Good, because the Gospel doesn’t mince words. “Take up your cross, and follow me.” As much as we want to talk about love and peace and justice, we cannot get around this. Count the cost. Know exactly what you love, what you seek, and what you’re risking. Then, for the love of the kingdom of God, say yes. There is no other path.

For Benedict, this meant giving up the wealth and privilege that being a son of nobility provided. It meant living in a cave for three years, listening to the voice of God keep him up every night, and then putting up with the antics of twelve housefuls of sometimes harmonious, sometimes cantankerous men. It meant enforcing a rule of life on people who surely didn’t always realize what they’d signed up for, for the sake of creating places in that valley in Italy where God’s love would be the rule of life. For us, it means different things. Student debt, maybe. Perhaps biting your tongue at work; perhaps speaking out when someone is treating someone else unjustly. Perhaps moving across the country for an opportunity that you’re both excited about and frightfully unsure of. Maybe going out for coffee with someone you never thought you’d give the time of day to. All of these mean stepping into the unknown. God is in all of these places.

I can’t tell anyone what to risk or how to choose. We all come from different circumstances. Our lives give us different opportunities. I can ask us all, how do we make our choices? Where are our quiet places? Where is the voice of God, for each of us?