Thursday, September 27, 2007

My feet are filthy again

Just came back from two days at the Ranch; I helped staff clergy conference. That's still happening, until tomorrow afternoon--but I have class in the morning. I came back late this afternoon so I could study. Guess how well that's going?

One of my classmates calls the Ranch his cathedral. It is for me, also. Imagine how odd it is, to be in your holy place... doing Systematic Theology homework. I was sitting at a picnic table outside, studying, and one of the priests I worked with last summer (she's fantastic) came by and commiserated with me. A friend who graduated two years ago said it appealed to him. Different strokes, clearly.

I didn't get to go hiking; I was busy and it was really hot. But I still got to be there. I love that place, and those people, so much. Even though I was either working hard at being Ranch staff or studying, and didn't get to just catch my breath much, there's a peace about the place that is deeply healing.

The gathering was big, noisy--and strikingly friendly and open. I caught up with a few friends whom I hadn't seen since they graduated (a year, or two, ago). One of the recently retired priests from St. Gregory's brought me greetings from Olympia, via Honolulu. (We have a mutual friend in Oly; they bumped into each other at some art thing in Hawaii.) I met some neat people, too, over Social Hour when I was supposed to be something like a barmaid. They're new to me, but we run in similar circles, and it was good to get to talk with them. The work they're doing incorporates what I want, and in some cases have been tapped, to do. I'm excited about all of it.

Have to get back to Systematics, though. My sunburned scalp, dirty feet, and I have a quiz tomorrow. I'll be back up there again over Reading Week, in late October.

In other news, MadPriest linked to me! I'm a big kid now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Senior Sermon

I gave this yesterday in the CDSP chapel.

Feast of Edward Bouverie Pusey

Matthew 13:44-52

Have you ever lost your voice?

Have you ever had laryngitis?
A nasty cold?
A sore throat?

You know how frustrating it is,
when you can’t get the words out,
for a day, or two… a week.

But what about when it pains you not to speak?

Do you know what it’s like,
to be silenced?

Have you ever opened your mouth,
and the people you were speaking to
could not—
or would not—
hear you?

Have you ever been made to keep quiet,
when every cell in your body was shouting?

Have you ever told the truth… and paid for it?

Edward Bouverie Pusey was a founder of the Oxford Movement,
which was a revival movement in the 1830’s and 1840’s
in the Church of England,
centered at Oxford University.

Quoting from a biography,
“Fundamental to the movement
was “an appeal to the Fathers as interpreters of Scripture,
and a sacramentalism of nature and the world,
into which the sacraments of the Church fitted easily.”[1]
They pushed forward by reaching back,
and their ideals were high-church.
Today’s Anglo-Catholics have something of
the spirit of it.

Pusey was a good friend of John Henry Newman,
who became a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.
When Newman went to Rome,
leadership in the movement rested on Pusey’s shoulders.

He spent his entire academic life at Oxford.
He was a student there,
and then a professor of Hebrew.
He studied Arabic and Syriac,
as well as other languages.

Communication was his thing.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts says this about him:

“His most influential activity was his preaching—catholic in content, evangelical in his zeal for souls. But to many of his more influential contemporaries, it seemed dangerously innovative. A sermon preached before the University in 1843 on “The Holy Eucharist, A Comfort to the Penitent” was condemned without his being given an opportunity to defend it, and he himself was suspended from preaching for two years.”[2]

His sermon was condemned for sounding too Catholic;
for including passages such as this one:

“And so, where His Flesh is, there he is, and we receiving it, receive Him, and receiving Him are joined on to Him through His flesh to the Father, and He dwelling in us, dwell in Him, and with Him in God. ‘I,’ He saith, ‘in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.’ This is the perfection after which all the rational creation groans, this for which the Church, which hath the first fruits of the Spirit, groaneth within herself, yea this for which our Lord Himself tarrieth, that His yet imperfect members advancing onwards in Him, and the whole multitude of the Redeemed being gathered into the One Body, His whole Body should, in Him, be perfected in the Unity of the Father. And so is He also, as Man, truly the Mediator between God and Man, in that being as God, One with the Father, as man, one with us, we truly are in Him who is truly in the Father. He, by the truth of the Sacrament, dwelleth in us, in Whom, by nature all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth.”[3]

I wanted to let you hear him speak for himself.

Ironically, his whole point
in sharing his view about how the Eucharist unifies
humanity with God (and that goes on for 32 pages)
was to comfort sinners.
He thought he’d come down too harshly on penitents,
in earlier sermons,
and he wanted to give them hope.
He wanted them to know that God loved them,
and was with them.

To us, that would be almost a non-issue.
If you ask each of us what we believe about the Eucharist,
you’d get a range of answers.
We might be advised on what not to say on the GOE,
but we wouldn’t be condemned.

But for writing this about what happens when we receive Communion,
and for speaking it publicly,
the University of Oxford suspended Edward Pusey
from preaching for two years.

Think about it.
Oxford had been his home for something like 25 years.
More than half his life, in 1843.
He was chair of the Hebrew department.
A language scholar.
A communicator.
And, he was also a priest.
Preaching was a tremendous part of his life.
It would have been an inner compulsion.
A calling. Like we know.
And suddenly, he couldn’t do it at home,
in the place that had always embraced him.
He was cut off from participating in his community
in a way that was vital to him.

In our time and place,
there are other options.
We might think, “I’ll just go somewhere else.
Get a different job.
Preach to people who will be more receptive to me.”

No. He didn’t leave the university.
Even after his friend John Henry Newman went to Rome,
he didn’t leave the church.
He stayed an Anglican, and an Oxford professor,
because that was his life. That was his way of being faithful to the Gospel.

A man found a treasure hidden in a field.
He went and sold all that he had,
and bought that field.

Jesus is saying, the Kindom of God is worth
all that you have
and all that you have ever had
and all that you can imagine having.

This is the vision that Edward Pusey served.
He sacrificed his voice for two years,
and whatever additional advancement
the university would have given him,
had he not preached that sermon,
to serve the truth that God forgives and loves us all
and the Eucharist is how we experience that love.

Parables have multiple layers of meaning.
They are ways of telling the truth
by tugging at your soul
and making you hear something in a different way
for the first time.

Can you hear something else in the story of the buried treasure?
People don’t bury valuables in the ground anymore;
that’s what safety deposit boxes are for.
But in Jesus’ time and place,
it was common—
particularly under occupation.
If you wanted something to stay safe,
you buried it.
You might have to move, quickly,
and you couldn’t throw it in the trunk of your car
and pack it with you.
Then, if it was ever safe to come home,
you could dig it up.

A man buried his treasure in a field.
Another man found it,
and sold all that he had to buy it.

I can also hear Jesus saying,
“Don’t bury your treasure.”
Because it will be found.
And it will be given.
You are called,
and you can not help it.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.

The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price.

The kingdom of heaven is like…
the most precious thing that any of us can imagine.
But the Reign of God is not an abstraction.
John Kater—
God bless him,
I’m pulling this directly out of my notes from his Ethics class last fall—
defines the Reign of God
as the way into understanding what Jesus is about.
It is shalom: deep peace,
true wholeness.
It happens when God’s will is done.

We help to create the conditions for the Kindom,
when we do the will of God.
Ministry is what we do to embody
and celebrate the Reign of God.

Ministry takes all kinds of forms.
we are all doing ministry.
And we are all learning what that ministry will be
and what it will mean to the creation,
and the people,
whom we serve.

St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel at all times.
When necessary, use words.”
We are all called to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So. Do not fear the consequences.
Take everything you know about the Reign of God,
and everything you’re learning.
Take courage.
Breathe deeply.

And speak the truth in love and joy!

Let us hear you.

[1] Cummings, Owen F. Eucharistic Doctors: A Theological History. (New York: Paulist, 2005), 241.
[2] LFF 2003, p. 372.
[3] “The Holy Eucharist A Comfort to the Penitent.” Bound in Pusey’s University Sermons. (Oxford: 1843), 14-15. (Each sermon has its own pagination.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I got sung to at church, and very well taken care of by the people I most wanted around me.

Was asked to preach during Advent, at church. That's obviously not a birthday present, but a very cool thing. Preaching excites me as much as it can sometimes scare me. The act of speaking doesn't frighten me, anymore. I pressure myself to come up with good content, but I can if I pray and listen well enough.

Dinner was, of course, fabulous.

Came home to tons of happy-birthday wishes on my Facebook page. All in all, a sweet, fun day. I felt, and feel, very loved.

(And thank you Eileen, for the birthday shout-out at your place.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blessed be the One, Holy and Living God.

I’ve been awash in grace, the past few days. I haven’t done anything in particular to deserve it, I don’t think—I just feel really loved.

I found out last Monday that I’d be preaching in the chapel this coming Tuesday. I did family stuff all day Wednesday, and wasn’t here. I got an e-mail from my classmate who preached last week, saying she was praying for me. Thursday morning, I pulled my resources together and started working on it. The Gospel is the “pearl of great price.” The feast day celebrates a founder of the Oxford Movement, who was silenced from preaching for two years, for something he’d said. Risk/worth, silence/speaking—I don’t know what I’m going to say yet, but I know I can do this. It’s right up my alley. The senior sermon is a rite of passage—it has to be good—and these texts hit me where I live. And I know that writing it will further transform me. I am not afraid anymore.

I carried this assurance into a meeting with Marcia in the business office, who handles our financial aid stuff for us. She asked how I was, and we got talking. I told her about Wednesday, realizing as I spoke that what’s happening is not in a vacuum. I have always had fantastic friends. (I’ve told my Cali family that they remind me very much of my Olympia one.) God knows, how you gravitate to certain people, and they to you. Some relationships are only explained by grace. My friends who can, have always done a lot for me. Sometimes materially—always on a soul level, which is where I count wealth anyway. You celebrate what you’re swimming in.

Marcia mentioned something she saw when she first met me. I said, “Yeah, but when I first met you I was a road-weary mess and my phone didn’t work, and you helped me.” She remembers that too—and she says that we are only mirrors for each other. I can’t see anything that’s not in me. All I’m giving is what I see.

For her, it’s karma. For me, it’s grace. I can recognize that I’ve been giving love and good energy—but what I’m receiving is so enormous, in proportion. This cannot be only up to me.

My pre-discernment prayer group met on Thursday night. I opened, easily, but I couldn’t empty—so much is going on, and it’s all so good. I felt like I was floating. Every time I came back to God, I felt so deeply, exuberantly loved.

I e-mailed my mother earlier in the week, and I gave her the link to this blog. Our history is not for public consumption, but that is a huge big deal. She wrote back yesterday morning; a brief, nice note.

Marcia gave me a birthday present, yesterday. It’s a little metallic heart, with flowers all around it. She’d bought two; one for herself and one to give away. She knew after we talked, that this was mine.

It’s so little—and it means so much.

I had a headache from yesterday afternoon until bedtime—but the light is still glowing. It’s palpable.

Glory to God for ever and ever.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another way of being home

I took a slightly ill-advised day off today, considering I'm preaching next Tuesday and have piles of regular homework, and did early birthday stuff with family-friends. (I asked them for family time; they're giving it.) They picked me up and we went out for breakfast, then to IKEA to get bookshelves for me. Out again for lunch, then we shopped for dinner stuff and went back to their house to make it. We baked communion bread for church. Their other friend came by and we all had focaccia, salad, and some sort of fish-chowder concoction; dear God it was good.

Taking me back to school, we were talking about driving through Olympia. They have relations north of there; they know the roads. I didn't make it up this summer, and I should have. I don't know when I will, as I'll be at the Ranch during Reading Week, NOLA in January, and I haven't planned spring break yet. I won't drive my rattletrap stick-shift minivan over the Siskiyous in December. I said to them, "You wouldn't let me."

Clearly, they couldn't stop me. They wouldn't try to guilt me out of it; they wouldn't feel angry with me if I went. I know they'd worry, though. They care about me in this sweetly protective way. I tease them, but I love it. I haven't had that in a really long time.

I'm blessed in so many ways right now--and blessed again, to know it.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

In other news...

I left the Ranch eight days ago. I've taken showers every day since. My toes are still dirty.

I love that!

The most fun I've ever had in church

I couldn't tell you what the Gospel was, if you paid me. But the sermon was about God's loving care for creation.

I didn't hear all of it, because I was helping to pass out balls of white clay, and napkins. We were instructed to make a bowl, a vase, a vessel or container of some sort, while we were listening. It was the coolest thing ever.

Tommy asked, "Do you like it?" I yelled back, "I love it!" I didn't realize he meant the product, not the process. It didn't really matter, because if we didn't like what we came up with, we just squished it up and started over. Like God--who doesn't throw anything away.

Afterward, we all had dried clay on our hands. I felt like I had creation all over me. And I got the neatest mental image: God washing her hands in a waterfall, when she was done. :-)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thank you, Madeleine.

I discovered Madeleine L'Engle's books in middle school, through friends who had read them in childhood. I devoured them; I read everything, then. I didn't read her again until my late 20's, when I searched her name in the Seattle Public Library, on a rainy late-fall day, and found her adult books. I read Wrinkle again, three years ago, while working with a class of third-graders. It was their teacher's favorite book.

And I feel as though I've again lost my grandmother--who was, to this child's mind, a keeper of her own magic.

They were of the same generation, and both storytellers; though my grandmother's stories were of her own childhood as a lively, mischievous Baptist preacher's kid in Virginia. When I think of Madeleine, I think of stars and beyond stars, love, time-travel, and God.

I'm missing both of them, right now.

"A sky full of God's children! Each galaxy, each star, each living creature, every particle and subatomic particle of creation, we are all children of the Maker. From a subatomic particle with a life span of a few seconds, to a galaxy with a life span of billions of years, to us human creatures somewhere in the middle in size and age, we are made in God's image, male and female, and we are, as Christ promised us, God's children by adoption and grace.

I stand on the deck of my cottage, looking at the sky full of God's children, and know that I am one of them."

from "A Sky Full of Children," Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. Farmington, PA: Plough, 2001.
Picture credit:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

First day of school

I’m ready. I’m looking forward to this. I’ll have split-shift Tuesdays: Systematic Theology with the Lutherans, and Liturgics here, done by 11 a.m. Then an elective I’m really excited about, The Rites of the Sick, Death, and Dying, taught by my advisor, 7-9:30 p.m.

I don’t have class Wednesday or Thursday, which is fine with me because I have two 4000-level classes. Monday afternoons, I’m taking Christian Theologies of Judaism. I’ll be busy, but I’m happy about all of it.

The hymns in chapel this morning were “Peace Before Us,” taken from a Navajo chant, and “God of Grace and God of Glory.” Whoever planned the liturgy really thought about it—the hymns distilled themselves in me as “Peace, wisdom, courage.” I know what to expect now; I know what my limitations are, and I know what I hope to challenge. 40 people in that chapel were just beginning. I hope they remember, and hold on to this. I’m writing, in part, so I do.

I’m still all Zen calm and happy from summer. I’m not behind yet, except for the readings I didn’t know about (and that Lizette understands). I’m interested in all of my classes. I have an outside-of-school support system that gets stronger all the time, centered in my fantastic parish. And I know that when I lose my mind, I can go up to the Ranch and work a weekend. Or, just go and be.

Up there, prayer became as natural as breathing. The place, the people, and God worked a healing in me. I need to hold onto that now. I’m doing great on the first day—ask me in five weeks or so how I’m feeling. It’s easy to lose your practice, and your balance, in seminary. There’s so much that you could be doing, at any given moment. There’s always more reading than anyone can do—and I came back with something to prove.

With last spring, and this past summer, in my memory, I know how important self-care is. I can’t hike to the peace pole, in Berkeley. But I can take BART into the city and walk the labyrinth at Grace. I can go down to the Berkeley marina, or up the hill to Tilden. I can call my family-friends for hang-out time.

I said to myself twenty times a day, all summer, “This is such a good life.” It was. And this life is too. Everywhere I go, I am. And God is.

I’m still breathing deeply, without having to remind myself. Now is the time to get organized.

Peace before us, peace behind us,
Peace under our feet
Peace within us, peace over us,
Let all around us be peace.
Let all around us be peace.
Let all around us be peace.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Best first-day-back-in-the-Bay-Area, ever

I spent yesterday with my "Calabash" family (that doesn't refer to a squash; it comes from a TV show that waaaay predates me), being spoiled completely rotten with love and hang-out time.

They just kept surprising me, and it's not even my birthday yet. Brunch after church turned into wandering around the Ferry Building and the waterfront, turned into an incredibly fabulous dinner (yes, we made it). All of us had time; I don't start class until tomorrow. We talked forever, about community, family, home, San Francisco, whatever came up. It was so easy, and so much fun. It was family time. They told me, and they showed me, what I mean to them.

I already knew--and that's part of the amazingness. I know that I can drink as much as I want. It isn't rationed. I can take in, and I can give back. I'm not chugging so fast that I choke. I think that's another gift of the summer, as much as it's a gift from them. I know absolutely, this is a God thing.

I didn't get home until ten. None of us set out on purpose to give me the day--it just unfolded. It is, and was, a gift to all of us--and that is grace out loud.

Co-creation is... yes.

Yeek, I had to make a new label for this post. How have I kept a blog for over two years, without ever addressing simple, still, grace-struck gratitude?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I am...

Hot. Sweaty. Hungry. I'm in the middle of moving and I haven't had dinner. I miss the Ranch. My room is a wreck.

And I'm more deeply, organically happy and relaxed than I have ever been, in Berkeley or anywhere. That's how good this summer was for me.

I just left that message, pretty much verbatim, on a friend's voice mail. It's worth shouting.

Sean, Jack, Sarah, Shannon, and everybody else at the Ranch--thank you.