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.