Thursday, December 29, 2005

Arts and Ideas

Today, Luke catches up with me in age. I am three months older, and we like to make a thing of it in the months between our birthdays. Well... I like to make a thing of it. But, today is Luke's birthday and now we are the same age again. Happy birthday!

To celebrate, we went to the Claudel & Rodin sculpture exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. We had quite a crew - Luke's parents, my mom, and Luke's brother and our nephew and brother's girlfriend, who are all here from New York. It was crowded at the museum, but we still had a good time. Art runs in Luke's family - his grandfather and an uncle are architects, his mom does a lot of painting, and his brother is a painter and a sculpter. They're good people to go to art exhibits with, and we had a great time. Plus, afterwards, there was ice cream cake. So all in all it was a good deal.

Tomorrow, a good handful of different people will be gathering at our house for a musical project. Some of you may remember that the camp Luke and I grew up at was closed recently. During our years there, some of our friends wrote songs that we sang at camp. Luke came up with the idea of making a CD of this music. So - he has gathered a good group of musicians to come over, and we'll see what we can do with four or five guitars, a tambourine, a drum, lots of voices, a couple of microphones and a Mac with GarageBand installed. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Friday/Monday/Tuesday Five

I've been away for a long time. I decided to take an Advent sabbatical from writing this page, and then I decided that it was silly to break my sabbatical to post and say I was doing that. Frog threatened to post and say that I had been watching Celebrity Poker instead of writing, which wouldn't be entirely wrong. Silly TV - it just sucks me in. But now I'm back, and now you know where I was.And I'm catching up on my RevGals memes - but only yesterday's version.

1. What is the best gift you received this year? (Tangible gifts only, please!)

Hmmm. I got nice things from my mom - sweaters and cds and a cookbook I've wanted. I think my favorite of these was really for Luke - but cds are for both of us, right? Anyway, my mom got him/us three Tom Lehrer cds. He is a very very funny man.

2. What is the best gift you gave this year?
Luke and I are excited about what we got for his dad - but he doesn't have it yet so I'm not telling.(He is sick and didn't join us for dinner on Christmas. Very sad, but we will see him Thursday.) I also gave the music minister at our church a copy of A Song To Sing, A Life To Live - and I think he really liked it.

3. When did you do most of your shopping/creating?
Thursday. And a little on Saturday. Oh, and we aren't done yet actually.

4. Did you go shopping the day after Thanksgiving (U.S.)? Today?
Yep. To both. Well, I haven't gone yet today, but Luke is doing some of our Christmas shopping today, so that sort of counts.

5. What stands out already about Christmas 2005?
This was my first Christmas as a priest. So far, there is no better time to be able to preach and celebrate, even though I missed my home parish very much.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Because it inspired my Christmas Day sermon

It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on earth, good will to men,
from heaven's gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
with peaceful wings unfurled,
and still their heavenly music floats
o'er all the weary world;
above its sad and lowly plains
they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o'er its Babel-sounds
the blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
the world has suffered long;
beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
and warring humankind hears not
the tidings which they bring;
O hush the noise and cease your strife
and hear the angels sing!

O ye, beneath life's crushing load
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow;
look now, for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophets seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years
shall come the time foretold,
when the new heaven and earth shall own
the Prince of Peace their King,
and all the world send back the song
which now the angels sing.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace...

Go, tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain,
that Jesus Christ is born.

While shepherds kept their watching
over silent flocks by night
behold throughout the heavens
there shone a holy light. Refrain

The shepherds feared and trembled,
when lo! above the earth,
rang out the angels chorus
that hailed the Savior's birth. Refrain

Down in a lowly manger
the humble Christ was born
and God sent us salvation
that blessèd Christmas morn. Refrain

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

A stable lamp is lighted,
whose glow shall wake the sky
The stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
And straw like gold will shine
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine

This child through David's city
shall ride in triumph by
The palm shall strew its branches
and every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
Though heavy, dull, and dumb
And lie within the roadway
To pave his kingdom come

Yet he shall be forsaken
And yielded up to die
The sky shall grown and darken
And every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men
God's blood upon the spearhead
God's love refused again

But now, as at the ending
The low is lifted high
The stars shall bend their voices
and every stone shall cry
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the Child
By whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled

- words by Richard Wilbur
-tune I like by Ana Hernandez

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Blood, Chocolate and the Friday Five

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

We had a splendid holiday here in snowy Michigan. Luke and I hosted Thanksgiving at our new house - not technically the first time we hosted, but last time I don't think we actually cooked anything. It was a good-sized crowd from my perspective and a small intimate group for another perspective. We had orginally planned for 12-15, but various circumstances kept all of our siblings away this year. Thankfully, our reduced numbers meant that we did not think twice about inviting Tripp and Trish, when there plans for traveling were also thwarted. So, the seven of us gathered and ate enough food for at least the 15 people who could have come! We sat at the dining room table (a handsome gift from Mark before his move) for a grand total of four hours and had a lovely time with family, the kind we were born with and the kind we choose. Did I mention how thankful I am for both kinds?

My clothes, unfortunately, did not have such a good day. About half an hour before dinner, I had my only real moment of panic about how on earth all the food was going to get heated up and served and on the table. Here is a tip from my finger for those stressfull moments: Do NOT use that time as a moment to pull out the chef's knife and furiously chop an onion. Seriously. Its not a good idea. Its not the onions fault that too many things are happening in any given moment, and it may even move out of the way of the knife which leaves only your finger for cutting. oops. So, I yelped and wrapped my finger in my tshirt. Stained clothes #1 of the day. Did I mention that I am thankful for a loving and patient husband who doesn't freak out at the sight of blood in my hand the way I do?

Then during the dessert round - where there where three (3) desserts for the seven (7) of us - I was serving the Pear Meringue Tart. Somehow the chocolate just kept appearing all over my left hand. I'm not entirely sure how - the platter was at least six inches away from my own plate. But, the mysterious spreading chocolate managed to get all over my hand and then onto my nice khaki pants from Ann Taylor. Did I mention I am also thankful for stain sticks?

It really was a great time. The in-laws got on the road around 10:30 or so, and the rest of us decided to watch Singin' In The Rain and then went off to bed at varying rates.

The next morning involved coffee, showers, and packing to head home for the people who don't live here. Which leads me to...

The RevGals Friday Five: Leftovers

1) Did you cook or bake anything for Thanksgiving?
Sure did! Although, not the turkey. I cooked a bunch of sides. They were good, but my favorite was a green been dish from my favorite cooking buddy, Rachael Ray. It was really easy and good: simply steam the green beans whenever you get a chance and put them in the fridge. Then, dice up some onions, cook in olive oil for 10-15 minutes til they're nice and brown, and add a cup of cider. Let the cider reduce to a syrup, and toss in the cooked beans. I added some slivered almonds too.

I also found a wheat-free dessert courtesy of the Moosewood Book of Desserts, because my mother-in-law can't eat wheat. Of course, she ate the insides of my mom's pumpkin pie and Trish's Chocolate Mallow pie and just skipped the crust. But the dessert I found was very happy: a meringue crust (really, just a 10-12 inch circle with nutmeg and crushed almonds folded in, topped with pears sauteed in apple cider and butter, with cloves and nutmeg, sprinkled with bittersweet chocolate shavings.

2) How was it received?
Everything was very well received. At least, considering the amount of food we ate, thats my final answer.

3) Anything left over?
Oh yeah. All guests were sent home with copious amounts of leftovers, and we still have a ton in our fridge. Except the turkey - since Luke doesn't eat meat, that went home with other people.

4) What's the best use of Thanksgiving leftovers you have ever seen?
Pumpkin pie for breakfast. Of course.

5) And the worst?
Hmmm... I'll have to go with non-use. The kind where you find the leftover sweet potatoes in the back of the fridge sometime in January... ew.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Did I mention that I am thankful for this crazy online world?

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tips from the Office

1. When Jesus talked about living water, I think he might have meant coffee.

2. Fancy new copiers that do cool things are great.

3. Getting fancy new copiers the same week there are seven or eight mailings to be be done is less great because you spend an awful lot of time figuring out how to use the new machine.

4. That said, Fancy new copiers that do cool things are still great.

5. Fitting a regular week's worth of work into a short week makes people tired. But it also makes them more excited for the holiday and friends coming to vist. So excited that you might not even care how on earth all that food is going to get made in one little kitchen.

6. Volunteers who come in, help fold and sort mailings, and still make sure that you have eaten lunch are awesome.

7. People really appreciate it when you let the boss answer their Important Question before yours gets answered. So, take a breath a just hang on a sec because it really is all good.

8. Probably, Jesus didn't actually mean coffee. But I still like cofee.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What I've Been Writing

I had a post all thought up in my head yesterday, ready to go. Then, my team lost the big game, and I was very sad, and it took extra concentration to finish my sermon for this morning. So, I will share the sermon, and maybe later when I am less sad about football I will remember what that other post was about. At least Penn State won the conference - their first Big 10 championship. Nice going, guys.

And now, A Sermon For The Feast of Christ the King

How do you feel about final exams? As a student of the social sciences and humanities, I honestly haven’t had that many final exams since high school. My professors were more the paper-assigning types. Recently, A friend in a similar kind of program told me that one of her classes this term is having exams. It turns out, though, that the professor is bending over backwards to ease their anxiety. He knows that many of them aren’t used to exams – especially those who have been out of school for several years – and so he has provided them with a list of questions, and promised to pick the exam questions from the list. He really wants his students to feel that they can do well.

As I read the lessons for this week, it seemed to me that my friend’s class is somewhat like the situation we have in today’s Gospel. Jesus is warning us what the final exam question is going to be – presumably because he wants us to do well. There are no trick questions here. The question is straightforward and plain: Did you – or did you not – feed me, care for me, visit me and welcome me by doing it to just one of the least of God’s children? Now, depending on your feelings about final exams, you may think this one is rather unfair in its scope. After all, there are lots of good things we do in our lives that don’t seem to matter to Jesus. Can Jesus really mean that all we need in the end is to have fed one hungry person, visited one sick person, or welcomed one stranger in the name of Christ? What about all those Sundays when we got up and went to church, or all those days we remembered to read the Bible, or those years we served on the Vestry? Its only natural to want all of our good days to count.

But even with this small complaint of unfairness, today’s Gospel makes it seem easy – salvation is within our grasp. The invitation into God’s kingdom is not reserved for those with extraordinary lives of faith – martyrs and famous saints and brilliant leaders of the church. Any one of us can answer the call to feed hungry people, to care for people who are sick, or visit people in prison. And its great to know what the final exam question is in advance, because on that day, we can stand up and say – yes, I did that! We donate food and clothing to Katrina relief, gather our coins for the United Thank Offering, and visit our friends and family when they are sick. Jesus asked the question, and we have an answer. With salvation right there in our grasp, we are free to celebrate God’s goodness. Now, there are many ways to celebrate and praise God. For me, that might mean pulling out my guitar and singing some praise songs from my camping days.

But if I did, I would come across a particular cartoon that was given to me on a high school retreat. I keep it in my binder with my camp music, along with several other stickers and bookmarks and mementos from those times. The cartoon strip is called Pontius Puddle, and the scene is a pond, where two frogs are chatting. The first says “Sometimes, I’d like to ask God why he allows poverty, famine and injustice when he could do something about it.” The second frog asks, “Why don’t you?” and the first replies, “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”

And I would remember the second half of today’s Gospel story, when Jesus explained to those on his left that “just as did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” It seems that our final exam question may not be as easy as we first thought. As easily as we can remember the good times, when the love of Jesus reached through our lives to touch other people, we are aware of those times when we missed the opportunity to help those who needed us. Whether we were distracted by our own busy lives, or weighed down with our own concerns, or simply chose to ignore the need, we have all fallen short in the category of “loving our neighbors.” The prophets of the Old Testament warned the people of Israel about the day of the Lord for just this reason: for all the good they thought they had done that would save them on the day of the Lord, there was injustice and oppression among them that God would not ignore.

God will not ignore these things in our midst either. God cares for the poor, the outcasts, and the sick – and expects us as followers of Christ to do the same. Yet, today there are eight million children in America without health insurance and over 1.5 million children with a parent in prison . In the next 24 hours, more than 30,000 people will die of hunger around the world , and millions are still displaced by the hurricanes in our own country and earthquakes in Pakistan. These problems can seem paralyzing. None of us can solve problems of a global-scale on our own – and no one, especially Jesus, expects us to. But how many of us can even say we have done all in our power to help fight them? Even knowing what is on the final exam, we are too busy, too distracted – too much a part of fallen humanity to pass such a stringent test of good works.

So, we are left with quite a paradox: the same people who celebrated God’s goodness and could count ourselves among the sheep are just as easily herded in with the goats. How are we to know where we stand with God?

The key to that question lies in the nature of the paradox. Today’s reading is really a parable, and it has much less to do with whether or not we can be sure of our invitation to the kingdom than it has to do with the nature of God. It is a story that tells both of God’s judgment and of God’s mercy. God counts us a sheep because God loves us so deeply that mercy will find even the one good moment in our lives, when we helped another child of God. But. God counts us as goats because God loves everyone else so fiercely that even one instance when we could have helped a child of God and did not help is an eternal affront. And we will all be crowned by the one and convicted by the other.

So, perhaps Jesus is not trying to give us a special study guide to pass the final exam and earn a passing grade into heaven because none of us will ever work our way into the kingdom based on good behavior. Thankfully, God never thought we would. Instead, we have a God who loves us deeply and fiercely – and wants us to love back. It may be simple, but it certainly is not easy.

This week, I finished Anne Lamott’s book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. In one chapter, she writes about making her teenage son Sam come to church every other week, even though it would probably be easier not to fight that battle. She writes, “And there are worse things for kids than to have to spend time with people who love God. Teenagers who do not go to church are adored by God, but they don’t go to meet some of the people who love God back. Learning to love back is the hardest part of being alive.”

Like her son, we all need these lessons in loving back. All of these big and small commitments: reading our Bibles, coming here on Sunday mornings, gathering our coins for UTO or Episcopal Relief and Development, spending time talking about our vision and how to be a welcoming church – all of these things teach us to love back. These things shape our hearts until we are the kind of people who visit prisoners and provide clothing as part of our very nature, rather than to win points at coffee hour or at Judgement Day. In short, the kind of people that Jesus calls sheep – flaws and all.

Jesus chose this “final exam” question to illustrate the point for a good reason: because if we haven’t done these things, then we never really got the point of everything else. God loved us so much that Christ the King came to us as a baby so poor and humble that he was born in a barn. That love frees us from fear of judgment, frees us from our need to keep score so that we can love back. Jesus gave us this story to remind us of that love, and to say “its not that the rest doesn’t matter. Its just that the rest of it looks like this – glimmers of light, actions of love and sheep in God’s pasture loving back.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Two

I am sitting in the office/spare room at my friends Dave and Stephanie's house. I am thankful for miniature vacations. And, since I am on a mini-vacation, I will reserve the right to abbreviate the RevGal Friday Five. So, here are two pie stories.

Apple Pie: My friend Stephanie makes amazing apple pie. She grew up in Maine, and knows a lot about different kinds of apples. While we were at seminary, she was going to teach me how to make pies, and I was going to show her how to make bread, but we never got around to it. Three years just isn't enough time for everything. Anyway, she has a special ingredient for apple pie. But I'm not telling you what it is. Then it wouldn't be secret!

All other pies: There is a really really good restaurant in northwest Pennsylvania, in Butler to be exact, called the B&B. It is a little roadside place, across the street from an antiques shop. Now, I haven't been there in years, so probably the food actually wasn't that good, but the pie most certainly was. They had about 20 kinds of pies every single day. Chocolate pie, cream pies, meringue pies, coconut pie, berry pie, apply pie, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie. All written on a chalkboard, the way God intended.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Book Update

It seems that the first printing set of A Light Blazes In The Darkness had some issues. If you (like me) ordered copies, and the cover printing is messed up, you can simply get them replaced. Theres some more info about it over at the RevGals page.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Sing A Song of the Saints of God

My week is saturated with thinking about saints. We celebrated an evening Eucharist yesterday for the Feast of All Saints. Evening services are not common practice in this church, so it was small-ish, but still a good and holy time.

On Sunday, we will mark All Saints Sunday with baptisms, solemn Communion, and welcoming of newcomers. In the evening, we will have an festival with storytelling, crafts and games - all celebrating the lives of Saints and encouraging our lives as saints. I'm really enjoying planning the party, even if I did bite off a bit more than I can chew. Either ministry is going to increase my capacity to chew, or God better shrink my jaws so I stop doing that.

Anyway... my good friend Micah over at St. Jerome's Libary is thinking about saints lately too. He has a fabulous new project at called Communion of Saints - meditations (written and in podcast form!) on each feast day, based on the Episcopal Lesser Feasts & Fasts calendar. Micah is a wonderful preacher. Give him a listen - I guarantee you will enjoy spending a bit more time thinking about saints too.

Monday, October 31, 2005

On My Desk

We had several house guests this weekend. Our Diocesan Convention met in my town, so my in-laws stayed with us Friday night. Then, on Saturday night, our sweet and cute godson came to stay overnight. Since he is only 22 months, he brought his parents - good friends of ours from my home church in Ann Arbor - and his super fun three-year-old brother. It was a blast, and even though our house isn't very baby-proof, we think they enjoyed the visit. It turns out that an empty but finished basement makes a pretty good race course, and that running up and down provides hysterical entertainment for a good forty-five minutes!

Anyway, to accomodate all our visitors, I promised Luke that I would clean my office (a.k.a. - the Spare Room). This meant actually taking my books out of the boxes, and putting things on shelves to create floor space. In one of the boxes, I found a small picture frame holding the prayer of Saint Francis. I framed several of them for my discernment committee, just four years ago. It seems like another lifetime - and indeed, is signed under my maiden name, as if it was another person who made these small gifts. I knew that I had to put the frame on my desk at work, to try and remember why the prayer was so important to me four years ago. I am sure that its significance has changed, but I just can't quite put my finger on the difference.

Pehaps this prayer will stir something for you as well.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that weare born to eternal life. Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Light Blazes

Ex-tra, Ex-tra, Read all about it! The Rev Gals have published a book - daily devotionals for Advent and Christmas, including one by yours truly. Everyone should go buy the book! Surprise someone with an early Christmas present! Send it to your favorite priest! Send it to your favorite niece so that she knows that when she grows up, she can be a Rev Gal if she wants to.

There is fancy code in my sidebar, so you can continue to buy the book even when this post has fallen off the page.

Also, other fun people have written devotionals - probably some people that you know! So, even if you're not excited about reading the devotional I wrote, you should buy the book.

And, better yet, money from the proceeds of the book are being sent to Katrina relief. So, in case you missed this advice earlier, buy the book because its doing something helpful.

It hasn't quite sunk in that I'm published and I will have a book with something I wrote in it. But its sunk in enough that I am excited. Fabulous.

Later Editor's Note: I've fixed the link on the sidebar, so now you can really go buy they book!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What is Tab Collar?

Did anyone else watch Jeopardy! tonight?

Did anyone else notice that the woman in the champion spot was wearing clericals?

I got home sort of in the middle of the little interview time with the contestants, so I hit the DVR rewind button to see what she had said, but they didn't talk about the fact that she was in a collar. Did anyone watch last night and hear more about her?

I just love seeing women in clericals shown on TV. Especially when they aren't part of a crime drama of some kind. I'm just sayin...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shadowed Beneath Thy Hand

Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement, Dies

May her soul, and all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Really? Already? or The One Where Its Time for the Friday Five

I'm having a hard time believing that its already Friday this week. Where did my week go? And why is it that on the weeks I have a sermon to prepare, the time seems to disappear much more quickly?

Well, thank goodness the RevGals keep me on task with the Friday Five. So, here are my answers.

1. What was the last CD you purchased?
Well, I hardly ever buy CDs. With the advent of ITunes Music Store, I tend to just buy single tracks. So, I'm going to cheat and go with the latest CD I've accquired, which is Carrie Newcomer's The Gathering of Spirits.

2. Did you like it?
Yep. I love it.

3. Is it the kind of music you would call your favorite?
Yep again. Chicks with guitar music, preferably with a spiritual bent of some kind appreciated but not required. (Think Carrie Newcomer and Indigo Girls)

4. What was the first album (CD for you youngsters) you ever owned?
Hmmm. We had a record player when I was a kid, but the albums were all sort of jointly-owned among the three of us kids. A particular favorite though was "Free to Be... You and Me". That may actually be the last CD I purchased too, since I bought a copy last spring. Our other favorite was a Bill Cosby record, but I dont' remember what it was called.

5. And what was your favorite cut from that recording?
Wow. Its such a great compiliation. I think my favorite from "Free To Be... You and Me" was either "William's Doll" or the title track. From the Bill Cosby album, it was definitely the Noah sequence.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Read It and Find Out

I'm in that "inbetween" time at work this afternoon... normally, I would be packing up and going home, but we have a six o'clock vestry meeting. So, I feel justified in taking a few minutes to blog.

I keep meaning to do more reading than I do. I've never been a great academic, but in between planning activities for kids, making postcard reminders and attending meetings, I find myself missing seminary classwork. So, I was chatting with Trevor... well, see for yourself:

Trevor: played black eyed peas in class last week
Me: Nice!!
Me: how'd that go over? what'd you play?
Trevor: "where's the love"
Trevor: to go with on christian doctrine
Me: as in, Augustine?
Trevor: yup
Me: i'm sure he's rolling over in his grave
Me: i should get that out and try and read it again... i definitely didn't read it all for AKMA's class (editors' note: oops. Sorry, AKMA.)
Trevor: SUSIE
Trevor: that's the single most useful document from 150-1300 CE
Me: well, i read some of it
Trevor: nice save
Me: c'mon. i'm good at the diplomat stuff at least :)

Alright. So, the part I'm curious about is this: is De Doctrina really the most useful document? I'm not really sure. Of course, I can't really argue until I've read the whole thing. Nothing like a good argument to inspire me! But, in the meantime... what say you all?

Monday, October 17, 2005

M is for Monday Memes

People have been quite busy with quizzes and such. I've been busy with our clergy conference (vacation) on Mackinac Island. So, I bring you Monday memes and quizzes from around the blogiverse.

You Are Italian Food

Comforting yet overwhelming.
People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

Well, my favorite cookbook is Jack Bishop's Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.

The "Inside the RevGals Studio" Meme. (Has anyone seen the episode with Robin Williams? He is hysterical on this show...)
1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on, creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Creatively? Taking a nap. Seriously, I think in my sleep. My Saturday sermon prep always includes a power nap with a notebook next to me on the bed.
4. What turns you off?
Not knowing how to do something.
5. What is your favorite curse word?
Is there a difference between a swear word and a curse word?
6. What sound or noise do you love?
Onions and garlic sizzilin in olive oil
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
Bob Dylan's voice - and anyone imitating it.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Event planner. Hmm... actually, I do a good deal of that already...
9. What profession would you not like to do?
Pilot. The long hours would be very hard, plus I really don't like flying very much, and I like it even less when I'm looking out a window.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Welcome home

You Are Likely a First Born

At your darkest moments, you feel guilty.
At work and school, you do best when you're researching.
When you love someone, you tend to agree with them often.

In friendship, you are considerate and compromising.
Your ideal careers are: business, research, counseling, promotion, and speaking.
You will leave your mark on the world with discoveries, new information, and teaching people to dream.

Huh. Nope - I'm a youngest of three. Oh well.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Liturgical Weightlifting

Yesterday at church I spent the first part of the sevice in Church School with the kids. We are in the midst of our Stewardship Campaign (one of those lesser-known Episcopal feasts: October is Stewarship month!), and we had some activities in Church School related to stewardship. A member of the committee came and talked about stewardship, then I told a story, and we had a treasure hunt and some crafts. It was fun, typical Church school stuff.

After the classes split into their own rooms for the treasure hunt, I went upstairs to get vested for when we all joined the service at the offertory. After I put on my alb, stole, and microphone, I went back down to the classrooms, to give them the 10-minute warning and see how things were going. When I walked into the first grade room, a little boy looked up from his coloring and said "You look strong and mighty now!"

Huh. I guess thats why we get dressed up for church.

Friday, October 07, 2005

RevGals Friday Five

I was coming to my computer to post about how Luke's best friend is fixing our plumbing problem from earlier in the week, but then I saw this meme from the RevGals home page, and decided that it was a much better idea. After all, I wouldn't want to jinx the boys by commenting on how well the project is or isn't going before they are done. So, thanks to Songbird, here are the Friday Five:

1) What is your earliest memory of church?
When I was three or four, our Beginners Sunday School class went up to church to watch a Baptism. . Our priest was going to pour some of the water on our heads too, so we could see what it felt like for the baby. Now, when I was three or four, I was also terrified of water. I still don't like being under water, I still don't like putting my face in the water, and I never really did learn how to swim very well. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was about the idea of having a priest pour water on me in front of a whole lot of people. I started to cry. My Sunday School teacher picked me up, calmed me down and promised that I did not have to have the water on my head. She didn't yell at me, she didn't make me leave or make me feel bad for being scared. It was comforting and wonderful and welcoming.

2) How old were you when you first took Communion?
I don't remember exactly. In my church growing up, children were encouraged to take communion at a very young age, so I don't really remember not ever taking Communion. This was not the case everywhere in the Episcopal Church at the time - when I was about 9, we were visiting my grandma and went to the Episcopal church in her town. The priest turned me away at the altar rail because I was clearly not old enough to be confirmed. Boy, did my mom go through the roof.

3) What is your favorite Bible verse/passage?
That's crazy. That's like asking which is my favorite ice cream flavor - I love ice cream to much to have a favorite. Tonight, I think I will go with Ephesians 4:11-16. The part about God giving gifts to us, that we might then equip the saints for the work of ministry - that is the nutshell version of my theology of ministry. Plus, a couple verses later, Paul charges us to with "speaking the truth in love' - which is complicated enough that we could spend a lifetime of discipleship mastering just this one line of Scripture.

4) What verse/passage nicks you uncomfortably?
There are the obvious ones, the ones that some people believe mean that women or gay people should not be included in Church leadership, or you know, included in the Church at all. But the one that has been under my skin lately is Matthew 18:6-7. It seems inevitable that we will all become stumbling blocks to one another at various points in our lives. My best comfort here is that these verses come in the same chapter were we are given practical advice on reconciliation. Lord, have mercy on us all if we can't see that entire context.

5) What's your favorite hymn or praise song?
If I was really tech-saavy, I would know how to design an html thing that would change my answer for this question every time you clicked on my page... but I'm just not that person. So: My favorite praise song is "Prayer for A New Day" that I posted a couple days ago, written by my friend Hans. But, if we're going to talk about songs that someone else may actually know... then, it would have to be "How Can I Keep From Singing." At least, for tonight.

Alright, I'm going to see whats going on. I think the boys may be using a blow torch...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

In My Head

The camp closing this weekend has exhausted me. Some of it is that good tired, the kind of worn-out from working hard with friends on a good and important task. Some of it is emotional exhaustion, from all the sadness and anger and disappointment around the camp closing, my own and listening to others. It would be fascinating for someone less connected to all this to think and write about stages of greif at work in this community. All I can think about is the energy of the teenagers, jumping around at our final Eucharist. We sang an amazing song, with a sacred story, written by a good friend of mine. In December of 1999, Hans was driving up from Ohio to staff the Wintercamp program in our diocese. While driving, he was overcome with the lyrics and music to a song. If I recall correctly, he actually pulled over so he could write it all down. The song spoke of reparing the world, of justice for captives, of respect for the earth. What Hans did not know was that the theme for our Wintercamp program was the Jubilee Year of 2000. This song was a gift of the Spirit, given life by Hans - and it has given life to this community for five years.

Prayer For A New Day
by Hans Ericson

As we look into the future, we realize the past
Wondering how the world could be changed by us at last
For there is much we can do, even though we're young
For its always the youth who make it come undone
We ask for patience, Lord, until the day we're looking toward

Refrain: On this day, we will sing, in one voice "Let Freedom Ring"
On this day, completely undignified,
we will all be standing as one in your light.

Love in not in ignorance so accept all those who seek
If you want peace you have to be peace
And turn the other cheek
Who's right and who is wrong, who is in and who is out
Gotta give up my pride to see both sides 'cause thats what love's about
And theres a power in this to calm to the fighting fist

Refrain: On this day, we will sing, in one voice "Let Freedom Ring"
On this day, completely undignified,
we will all be standing as one in your light.

What will it take for love to bind?
(have a voice, rejoice on this day, say it proud and aloud, freedom reigns)
Or shall we watch it all unwind?
(have a voice, rejoice on this day, say it proud and aloud, freedom reigns)
For who will counter if not us?
(have a voice, rejoice on this day, say it proud and aloud, freedom reigns)
This injustice with the notion to suffer the children,
and love as if we're blind

Teach us to love Lord, teach us how we all connect
Help us to save our earth, and show her some respect
And as for violence, fear, ignorance and hate
Teach us to hear each other's truth before its too late
Thanks for the choice of will, to move or just stand still
Thanks for the faith that we stand all as one in Christ
That day when we unite

On this day, we will sing, in one voice "Let Freedom Ring"
On this day, completely undignified,
we will all be standing as one in your light.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Matter of TIme... Catching Up

It was only a matter of time...until I had to turn on the silly word verification on my comments. I've started getting junk comments, and its time to cut those off before they get any worse. So, sorry for the extra step, but please keep commenting. That is, if you are a real person and not some robot leaving fake messages. You know I love to hear from you.

It was only a matter of time... until Luke started the fall term commuting to Chicago. We are one week into this schedule, and thankfully there are only about 12 weeks of it. I am very thankful for Amtrak - they may run late all the time, and Julie-the-autobot may be hard to deal with, but they are making this whole commuting to Chicago time much easier on us.

It was only a matter of time... until we had our first homeowner's emergency! Wednesday was quite a day. The rector of my church & I had gone to do home visits, and stopped for lunch. I had a reuben. I love reubens. They are yummy and toasty and good. This reuben was apparently different somehow because shortly after lunch, I started to break out into hives. Have you had this? It feels like a hundred mosquito bites all over, all at once. Its uncomfortable. It has only happened to me one other time - but that was recently enough that I knew I had some allergy meds at home. Since it is hard to be productive when your face is kind of swollen and your neck is itchy, I left work in the early afternoon, went home, and found the pills. I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, and stepped right in a big puddle. I looked up, and the paint was peeling, dry wall was crumbling, and water was very definitely dripping through my kitchen ceiling. Being the smart, capable feminist that I am, I turned the water off in the house. I then spent a couple hours on the phone with various people, got a plumber scheduled to come and all that. There is now a big hole cut out of our kitchen ceiling, and we need a new faucet in the shower, but the water dripping has stopped.

It was only a matter of time... until the final celebration and closing day of the camp where I grew up. It is an Episcopal camp, and I have spent 15 of my 27 summers there. Gordonwood is a spiritual home to many, a sacred place where countless children, teens and adults were brought closer to God. It was the place where I learned what it means to live in Christian community. I have many things to say about it, but I will have to save them for another day. For now, I will say that there was a gathering of spirits this weekend, more bittersweet than any I have ever seen. Old friends were reconnected - many now with spouses and children. Memories, laughter, and music were shared. Many tears were shed, and promises were made about the future of youth ministry in our corner of the Church. I pray that the day we shared might be the spark that finally re-kindles the fires of youth ministry in our diocese. I hope that the day helped those who gathered to mourn the loss of such a special place.

It was only a matter of time... until my next birthday, which came and went over the weekend in the midst of all these other things. I am now 27. I don't really feel any older. Honestly, when people asked me over the summer how old I was, I would forget and say that I was already 27. Oops. We did find a little bit of time to celebrate - my mom gave me some awesome Michigan stuff and two Carrie Newcomer cds, my friend A gave me a pretty bottle of nail polish, and, of course, my football team actually won the big game. Thanks boys - what a nice present.

It was only a matter of time... until the rush of September ran me over. I'd like to think October is catch-up month, but October has its own events, with a children's Communion Instruction class, an All Saints family party, and a Baptism prep class to plan, sermons and articles to write, and people to visit. I knew ministry would be a journey, but I wasn't quite prepared for the speeding train ride. And now, its time to jump back on board and get back to work, with a song in my head:

Let it go my love my truest, Let it sail on silver wings
Life's a twinkling, thats for certain,
But its such a fine thing
Theres a gathering of spirits, theres a festival of friends
And we'll take up where we left off
When we all meet again. - "The Gathering of Spirits", Carrie Newcome

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Local Libraries Rule

When I was a kid, my mom had this crazy notion that instead of sitting around and watching cartoons on Saturday morning, the three of us should be out doing other stuff. We took swimming lessons (which was a miserable failure for both my sister and myself), I think I took some dance classes, we went out to breakfast sometimes. And, we'd go to the library. Looking back on it, I think this was probably a royal pain for my mom. My father would always stay home, so my mom would go out with the three of us - three small kids, and my brother was autistic - and she took us to the one place where we had to be quiet. Clearly, she thought it was important. My brother, being autistic, wasn't much of a reader. I don't really remember if he checked books out or not. But my sister and I sure did. Usually we went to the local branch of the library near our house - it was (and is) called the Loving Branch, and I think I used to mix it up with Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. That library was where I started reading chapter books.

Chapter books became special to me when I was very young. I learned how to read fairly early, thanks to my big sister's concern that I not go to school in Kindergarten without knowing how to read. So, by the time I got to first grade, I was ready to start reading chapter books. But, my first grade teacher had another idea. She didn't believe that any kids should be ahead of any other kid. So, when we had library time in school, we weren't supposed to check out chapter books. We were only supposed to check out the "easy reader" books. Well, one day I found a chapter book I wanted and I checked it out - and the teacher made me return it. My mom went through the roof! The teacher wouldn't budge on her rule though. So, my mom called the librarian. It turned out she also worked part-time as the Loving Branch! So, they worked out a deal where I could just check out chapter books after school, and my teacher just never had to know about it. My first chapter book was one she thought I would like. It was called The Saturdays, about four siblings who pooled their allowances so that each sibling could have a wonderful adventure with the money each week. I did love it. I read it many many times, and I kept visiting that librarian at the Loving Branch for years, borrowing Encyclopedia Brown, All of A Kind Family, and Betsy, Tacy & Tib books to my hearts content.

Some of you probably already know, but just in case, Micah has pointed out in this post that this is Banned Books Week. It is a sad thing to be kept from a book you want to read. While my reading hobby may have faded over time, my love for books hasn't. So, tonight, to celebrate Banned Books Week, I went to my new local public library and got myself a library card. And, while I was at, I checked out Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith . Its not on the list of "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books", but I hear its good and I want to read it. And that is what celebrating Banned Books Week is really about - not about reading the most shocking thing we can find, or being shocked by what other people find offensive, but celebrating our privilege to read what we want, when we want to read it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

To turn, turn 'twill be our delight...

A Sermon for September 25th, 2005 (Proper 21A)

When I was a kid, I had a book of Aesop’s Fables that I loved very much. At the bottom of each page, in italics, there was a short sentence to explain the moral of the story. It might say “Moral: Slow and steady wins the race” or “Moral: Be careful what you wish for”. While reading through the Gospel reading this week, the parable of the two sons, I couldn’t help but wonder how a children’s book of fables would explain this story. It seems to me that the most obvious, and common, moral attached to this short story is “Actions speak louder than words.” That’s a good moral – and has support from other parts of the Bible, such as the letter of James where we are admonished to be “doers of the Word, and not merely hearers.” (James 1:22). The parable of the two sons becomes another story where we sort ourselves, and all too often, all those other people we know too. Are we the kind of people who take action - even if we are somewhat reluctant, the job gets done? Or, are we more like the second son, the one with good intentions but nothing to back them up? We have a name, you know, for those second sons, the kind who say one thing but never do it: hypocrites.

More likely than not, this is what Jesus was getting at with this parable: The Gospel of Matthew is particularly concerned with the hypocrisy of the religious officials, and Jesus is addressing the Pharisees with this parable. Certainly, the story was intended to convict them, to show them that following the details of the law while ignoring the commandment to love was indeed hypocritical.
I’m sure most of us have known people like the Pharisees, who claim the name of Christian, but their piety seems more of a status symbol, never backed up by love in action.

And before we know it, our short parable has become a vehicle for judgment for us as well, as we sort our friends and those we are less friendly with into the categories of reluctant do-gooder or irresponsible hypocrite. Being the typical humans that we are, I’m sure we all know which category our friends are likely to end up in, and which category we tend to use to condemn those with whom we disagree. We all want to be like the first son, the one who messes up a little but is clearly better than the second son. After all, actions speak louder than words.

But, here is where I get somewhat stuck. It seems that this reading of the parable asks me to believe that words don’t really matter all that much, that the father wasn’t really hurt by the first son’s refusal. But I know from my own life – and I suspect that you might have experienced this too – words do matter. Anyone who has ever been the kid on the playground responding to teasing by saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” knows that the saying just isn’t really true. Careless words, angry words, mean and critical words – they do matter. Some words cause enough pain that almost no amount of action can repair the damage. Being the first son, the one who refuses his father, does not seem like such a prize anymore.

So, we have two sons, both of whom have hurt their father: one by his careless words, the other by his careless actions, or rather, inaction. Do we as Christians really aspire to either of these? Of course we don’t. Which is why this parable is a more accurate description of reality than we might care to admit. We all fall short of the glory of God – those moments when we remember our duty to love our neighbor, those points in our lives when we say yes to the call of Jesus are the good moments, and we all have them. And we all have moments when we refuse to listen to God, and points when we forget our promises to serve Jesus with our lives. If used as a tool for judgment, this parable will convict us all.

But, if heard as an invitation, this parable will welcome us all. Why is it that the first son returned to work in the vineyard, after refusing his father? Perhaps he had gone out to meet his buddies, and discovered that they were all working for their own fathers, so he turned around and went back. Maybe he was in the middle of a good book, or had a backache, or just in a bad mood when his father asked, but changed his mind and decided to help out after all. The point is, he changed his mind. He turned around. That is the root meaning of the word repentance: it simply means to turn around.

Changing our minds, seeing that we were wrong and repenting is not a popular thing these days. It flies in the face of our culture of self-sufficiency, of perfectionism and confidence. Admitting our mistakes – intentional or not – pulls at the masks of caring competence we tend to wear. It takes strength and courage to go back and fix what has been said or done.
Sometimes, we have to be in the depths of our messes before we realize how much has gone wrong. Kathleen Norris, in her book Amazing Grace tells this story of repentance:

“Once a little boy wrote a poem called “The Monster Who Was Sorry.” He began by admitting that he hates it when his father yells at him; his response in the poem is to throw his sister down the stairs, and then to wreck his room, and finally to wreck the whole town. The poem concludes: ‘Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, “I shouldn’t have done that.’ ‘My messy house’ says it all: with more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage and also gave him a way out. If that boy had been a novice in the fourth-century monastic desert, his elders might have told him that he was well on the way toward repentance, no such a monster after all, but only human. If the house if messy, they might have said, why not clean it up, why not make it into a place where God might wish to dwell?”

Why not make room for God? Why not find a way to mend, to heal, to reconcile ourselves with God and our neighbor? It seems to me that the parable of the two sons is unfinished. The first son has repented, and gone back to join his father and take care of what needs to be done. But what of the second son? I believe the invitation to repentance is still open to him, and his father is still waiting. I believe it to be true for him because I believe it is true for all of us.
There is never a wrong time to reconcile ourselves with the God who loves us, and it is never too late to turn around and try to do the right thing on the second, third or tenth try. In a perfect world, we would all say the right thing, and then do what we promise. But in this world, we have repentance instead, and Jesus has just issued your invitation, with the promise that God will be waiting when we come back, no matter how messy we are when we show up.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Copy Cat

Today is a stay inside kind of day, and what better day than to join in and play one of those memes circling around? Hence, I bring you the archive game, a la... well, lots of people.

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

At the same time, they conclude that this conversion is not automatic, and is not guaranteed.

I'm not sure if this really counts... its from a required post for one of Trevor's classes. But, since he is largely to blame for the existence of my blog, I'll let it slide.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Setting Up

I've been having some network problems at church. I haven't been able to access the shared drive or the database from my computer, which isn't a huge issue, but kind of a pain. So, our senior warden/computer guy came to my office after church one Sunday to try and fix the problem. It took my computer 20 minutes to boot up. I had just gotten used to that fact, but he happily decided that my computer was indeed too old and I needed a new one. So, I now have sitting on my desk a pretty new flat-screen 19" monitor, attached to a nice new computer on the floor. Its not a Mac... but hey, I have a new computer. I'm very happy.

So, I am setting up all my old bookmarks (I forgot to export them from the old machine. Oops.) And, since this is a somewhat mindless task, I am finally listening to the cds of a presentation by Phyllis Tickle on "The Stewardship of Time." She is phenomenal. I have been reading her book "Prayer is A Place", and enjoying it, but wow. It just doesn't even compare to hearing her talk. She is talking about the disciplines of keeping the Sabbath, spirituality, hospitality, corporeality, and Melchizedek. Ironically, I am multi-tasking while listening to her. I guess some messages take a few tries to soak in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Inspired by a Quiz

Test-taking time is over in our house, that is, tests of a serious nature. Thanks to all who shared good wishes for Luke.

I have pondering of late this latent desire I have to go back to school again. Now, granted, part of this is related to how I just got out of school. And it is partly due to the fact that this is the first fall since I was four that I wasn't either in school or working for a university. But, even with all that aside, I still like to entertain the thought of being a teacher someday, which would require more school. Of course, if more school means furthering my plot to have a few of my academically-inclined friends all relocate to the same particular West Coast town and attend the same seminary consortium program... then bring on the books!!

One of the somewhat-formidable hoops for going back to school is all those dern languages they want you to learn. So, when Beth had this lovely quiz about Which Language I Should Learn, I simply had to do it!

You Should Learn Spanish

For you, learning a language is about career advancement and communication.
Knowing Spanish will bring you tons of possiblities for jobs and travel. Bárbaro!

The best part? I already learned that one! What an encouraging thought on a Tuesday morning in September.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

This is a Test. A What? A Test.

Exams week has arrived in our household! For the next week, Luke will be taking the qualifying exams for his PhD. This is (ideally) the mark of the halfway point: he has finished his coursework and they gave him a Masters degree in June. Now he takes the exams to prove that he really has learned enough to start working on his dissertation. Then, this fall will consist of TA-ing for a class and writing his proposal.

All in all, the exams seem pretty humane. The first part was to write a 15-page paper that could serve as the beginnings of a dissertation chapter, and that was due last week. This week, Luke received three three-part questions (via email - thankfully, he can take these exams at home in Lansing where all his books are located). He has a week to answer each question. The questions are drawn from a set body of literature - between 100 and 200 books and articles for each exam area. He read many of these books and articles in classes over the last two years, and studied the rest over the summer.

Someone I was talking to recently about this said, "Oh - they sound pretty much like GOES." Since it was a useful frame of reference, I simply agreed. (For you non-ECUSA seminarians, GOES= General Ordination Exams, week-long exams ususally taken during senior year.) But, the comparison has gotten me thinking again about why the GOES need some, well, a lot of work. Now, I should concede up front that PhD qualifying exams have a different purpose from GOEs - the first being an indicator of readiness for further academic work, the latter being an indicator of rediness for ordained ministry. Still, both exams measure familiarity with the literature and topcis of particular areas at the end of coursework. The biggest problem with the GOEs, however, is that there is no canon of literature being measured! The GOEs are a national test, but there is no national curriculum being tested. So, seminarians spend months preparing for questions that they may never have covered at any point in seminary, with very little guidance of what to read. Now, most of the time, the questions are fairly reasonable. But sometimes they aren't. Without a particular body of literature to refer to, there is no contstructive was to say "Gee, it didn't occur to any of us that we needed to teach premillenial dispensationalism in our history classes because none of these books really ever talk about it."

My other problem with the GOEs is the rapid fire nature of the questions. Each section is given for three hours - you get the question in the morning, and turn it in at noon, or get the question after lunch and turn it in at the end of the afternoon. Now, even in my very very limited time in ministry, I've discovered that the ability to find information quickly and to write cogently in a short period of time come in handy. However - the lack of this ability should not be enough to keep someone out of the ministry!

I wonder what it would do to (for?) our seminaries if there was a basic canon of literature for the seven GOE areas. I wonder what it would do for the clergy over time. I don't think that reading from certain lists would create cookie-cutter clergy - just because we read some of the same materials doesn't mean we all agree with them, or interpret them in the same way. If we don't agree on Biblical interpretations, why would we agree on Phyllis Trible's take on Genesis or Lathrop's endless juxtapositions? Luke has certainly read books and articles that aren't on the exam lists too - so it wouldn't necessarily lead to "teaching to the test" anymore than profs already try to do. At least there would be soemthing specific to teach to!

The level of anxiety raised by comprehensive tests is never going to be eliminated. But, I believe it could be alleviated with some reform - and the GOEs might end up being the useful diagnostic they really want to be, rather than the ambigous-at-best/hazing ritual/stumbling block to ministry that they seem to be in so many cases.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to put those rapid writing skills to good use... newsletter deadline is this week!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

What She Said

I have a lot on my mind today, none of which gets a post. I mean, I think organizing the teacher resource room for the first day of Sunday School is fun, but I already know I'm weird. Although, Jane, it'd be nice to have you around this week :)

So, since my iTunes is running anyway, I'll jump onto Beth's game. I don't have an iPod, so I'm making it an iTunes game. Ha. I love making up my own rules.

How many total songs?
479 songs, 2.1 GB. I need to upload some more stuff!

Sort by Song Title - first and last songs?
First: #41 by Dave Matthews Band
Last: You've Got A Friend in Me from Toy Story

Sort by Time - first and last songs?
First: (0:05) An mp3 called Sunday Voice that Mark sent me once so I could hear how he lost his voice
Last: (12:03) Faye Tucker/Philosophy of Loss (hidden track) - Indigo Girls

Top Ten Played Songs
1. Beautiful You - Considering Lily
2. Watershed
3. Mystery
4. Shame on You
5. It's Alright
6. The Wood Song
7. Least Complicated
8. Hammer and A Nail ... 2-8 all by the Indigo Girls
9. Come Away - Fran McKendree
10. Martyrs and Theives - Jennifer Knapp

Last Ten Played (its been on shuffle for about an hour)
1. Bare to the Bone - Carrie Newcomer (now playing)
2. Groove Is In the Heart - Deee-Lite
3. O Praise Ye The Lord- Hymns Through the Ages
4. People of the River - Fran McKendree
5. Elevation- U2
6. You Are My All In All - Nicole Nordman
7. God Bless The Child - Billie Holiday
8. The Yes of Yes - Carrie Newcomer
9. Sisters And Brothers - Free To Be You And Me
10. In A Little While -U2

Find 'sex.' How many songs show up?
not a single one.

Find 'death.' How many songs show up?
man. I am so boring.

Find 'love.' How many songs show up?
36: praise music, hymns, soundtracks to RENT and Moulin Rouge... and, of course the theme to the Apprentice!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Curates Always Preach on Holidays (Proper 18)

Sometimes it can be frustrating to be Episcopalian and depend on the lectionary. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I found myself wanting to hear the story of Jesus calming the storm at sea, or a portion of Revelation, to hear the promises of the new heaven and earth, when God will wipe away the tears from our eyes. The end chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans with its simple, practical lessons in common courtesy leave me wanting a bit more. The devastating pictures on the news, hearing from friends whose houses and churches have been lost, the worsening situation in New Orleans leave me wondering “Where is God in all this?” And I’m haunted by the simplest song: Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.
What is true every day in our communities of faith is true in times of crisis and tragedy: God is present in the acts of genuine love we extend to one another.

And suddenly, the simple practical writings of Saint Paul shine as a beacon in a week of dark and sad stories. To see God at work in times like these we must let love be genuine – a simple instruction, perhaps, but certainly not an easy task.

The fast-paced life of modern America makes it hard for genuine love to flourish. The day to day busy-ness sometimes takes over, and we simply don’t see those opportunities to put love into action. In times of crisis and devastation such as we have seen this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the temptation to turn away is even stronger. The pictures on TV and the stories of desperate people are overwhelming, even numbing after a while. When the devastation is so incomprehensible, it seems that there is little we can do to be of any help. But genuine love does not need enormous miracles of Biblical proportions to be put into action. Rather today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus promises to be present whenever two or three gather in His name, when one child of God reaches out to another in genuine love.

First of all, this means walking through life “face first”, with our eyes and ears open to the world around us. Genuine love calls Christians to be present in all the moments that make up life: in the joys and the sorrows, in the celebrations and in the times of loss. How can we extend hospitality to strangers if haven’t noticed them sitting on our doorstep? How can we feed the hungry if we pass them by? We can only rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep when we open our eyes, and discover just who around us is weeping and who around us is rejoicing. Once love helps us see, we can take the time to stop and celebrate with the friend when she calls after her last radiation treatment, or sit and listen with the friend who just doesn’t know how to fix his difficult relationship with his teenager. It may not seems like much, but – as someone who has recently lost a family member – let me assure you that these moments are indeed holy.

This awareness of the world is weighty – which is why genuine love must be rooted in prayer, and perseveres only in prayer. In prayer and worship, we ground ourselves in the knowledge and love of God. That is why we come here every Sunday and gather together in worship: to remind each other and ourselves that nothing we do in the name of God is done alone. In our common prayer, we offer our cares to God, and remember that we are only vessels of God’s love, and witnesses to God’s presence in the world.

With our eyes opened and our spirits strengthened, we can name God at work in the world around us. And when the pain and loss of Hurricane Katrina seems too overwhelming, we can watch and wait and pray with the people of the Gulf Coast just a bit more. God will be present in all of these moments – and our genuine offers of love will guide us towards further action.

Because when we walk in genuine love, caring for those in need is a natural next step. Even if our actions seem small compared to the situations like our Southern neighbors face, acts of love point to God. Our catechism tells us that the mission of the Church is to restore people to unity with God: in a word, we are about reconciliation. Today’s Gospel lesson shows us how simple this can be. When one of us goes to another one in order to restore what has been broken, reconciliation – the mission of the Church – happens with just two people. So there really is so much we can do: over the next days and weeks, money can be donated to Episcopal Relief and Development, health kits and bottled water can be given, perhaps you may even be moved to help shelter refugees.

These actions help with immediate needs, but they do more than that. Genuine love gives birth to genuine hope: the hope that in good times, and in our darkest times, and even in death, we will never be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus. When we who are the Body of Christ in this world, are willing to walk with people in their trouble, to serve in times of devastation and give what we have in times of crisis – we witness to the truth: Where true love and charity are, God is there. May our words, our actions during the comings weeks and throughout our lives be a witness to this simple truth.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Things I'm Glad I Didn't Know Beforehand

I need a file for those things. My latest entry would be this: Our friend Morgan called Tuesday night. He and his family live in New Orleans. What I didn't know until Morgan called is that he had stayed in New Orleans during the hurricane. Thanks be to God, he is now out of the city and safe.

Dylan noted that today will be a day for bloggers to help raise funds for relief from Hurricane Katrina. So, here are a few links:

Episcopal Relief and Development

Mercy Corps

Red Cross

Also, the Diocese of Mississippi has a listing of clergy and parishes that have been directly affected - six of their parishes are no longer standing- as well as a list of supplies that are needed in the area.

For anyone in the Michigan area, there will be two prayer services tonight at 5:30, sponsored by the diocese - one in Detroit at the Cathedral and one at St. Paul's, Lansing (my parish).

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers." -Romans 9:12-13, from this Sunday's lectionary

*** Later edit: Emily of Hazlenut Reflections has upped the ante for giving: for every Episcopal blogger who joing the "Blogging Episcopalians" ring in the next two weeks, she will increase her personal donation to ERD by $5. I know a lot of you are already on that ring, but if you're not, now is the time.

Monday, August 29, 2005

No More A Stranger Or A Guest, But Like A Child At Home

Thank you all for your prayers and kind words. The service for my brother was a good experience. We sang lots of music, had lots of friends around. One person commented that they had never been to a funeral marked by such joy, but there you are. I think that the tone was set by the two opening texts. First was the opening anthem from the Book of Common prayer, which sets the meaning of the burial rite in the context of Easter resurrection and the promise of life in Jesus. Secondly, was the short piece my mom wrote about my brother. Autism - one of the many health issues that surrounded my brother - is so hard to understand, even the experts don't really get it. Below is what my mom wrote, to help the gathered people understand the life we were remembering.

To a great degree, an autistic person is defined in terms of his disability. John was a lover of routine and predictability, with a phenomenal memory. But he also knew what he liked!

He loved to go out to eat, and had a preferred meal at each restaurant. Years afterwards, he would recall the exact date of almost any event in his life (especially if bringing it up would embarrass one of his sisters). He loved to swim – exactly 30 lengths of the pool, no matter what size the pool was.

He spent several hours each day watching his collection of Sesame Street, Charlie Brown, Veggie Tales and Star Wars videos. Although he couldn’t see to read the boxes, he knew where to find each one in his carefully arranged piles.

Those who remember John in church as a child will recall him standing at the communion rail proclaiming loudly and clearly “No blood!” when the chalice was served. Although he wanted nothing to do with it, he certainly got the point! It’s appropriate that we celebrate his life with a Eucharist.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me
Please keep my family in your prayers. My brother John died suddenly early Monday morning, from a heart attack brought on by an insulin reaction. My brother was both autistic and diabetic, and he had been sick which does bad things to blood sugar levels. I am staying with my mom this week - who has all of a sudden found herself with an empty house.

We will be having a service on Thursday afternoon at my home church. My brother also lost his eye sight several years ago to a brain tumor. As my mom and I sat and flipped through the hymnal, picking music for the funeral, we decided that this was a must.
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Probably could've guessed...

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

thanks to frog for the brief distraction. And now, back to our unfortunately unscheduled church school curriculum for this fall!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Thursday Tidbits

I posted this over on Berkeley Farm Girl's Love and Cooking page... but I heard recently that dark chocolate has iron. I also know that raisins have iron. Some of you know that Luke is a vegetarian, and so we eat vegetarian at home, which means that getting enough iron can be a bit of an issue. Luke's answer to this problem is to take one-a-day type vitamins. I think my answer is going to be a big jar of dark-chocolate covered raisins labeled "iron pills."

Did you know that Ralph Fiennes is going to play Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? I think that could be good, but it seems odd to have a face associated with Voldemort now.

I am running my first wedding rehearsal tomorrow, for my friend Paul's wedding. I will not be officiating at the wedding, but the priest who is (another friend), comes in on a plane tonight and can't make the rehearsal. I'm happy to do the rehearsal - but if y'all wouldn't mind sending up a few prayers for safe and timely travel for the officiant and his traveling companions, that'd be great. I don't really want to step in and do a wedding at the last minute.

I have a whole bunch of links that I want to add to the side bar - some Seabury folk I haven't put up, links from Rev Gals, other pages I read... and someday, I probably will.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

And just what are you implying, Ms. Subconscious?

Does your car have a name?

I was catching up on blogs a bit, and when I came across the to-do list over at Cheesehead in Paradise, I remembered part of a dream I had last night. Someone needed to find my car, and they asked me what its name was so they could find it. I had to explain to them that, in fact, we are not the kind of people who name our cars. So, rather than calling it and having it answer, they would have to find it themselves. Apparently, in dream world, cars come when called by name, but I still drove my red Honda Civic. Oh well.

In the real world, it turns out that I really am not the kind of person who names their car. Does your car have a name? How did that happen?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Take This Sabbath Day

I wonder how long I could go if I only used West Wing episode titles for post titles...

Anyway. Its my day off, so I'm hanging out at home, drinking coffee and enjoying my fake-satin cheap Old Navy pj pants. I've already read through one of my two new cookbooks.I'm so excited about my new cookbooks that I've even sworn off TV for the day! I found an older Rachael Ray book all of veggie Meals! Then, later, I get to read through the Moosewood Celebrates cookbook that my mom gave me as a housewarming present. It looks awesome! There are three main features I particularly enjoy in cookbooks. (Besides, you know, good recipes. That should be obvious.) First, its good if they are vegetarian-friendly or, ideally, vegetarian cookbooks. Second, I really like it when cookbooks give me menu ideas - "Dilly Beans are a great side dish with Cajun Skillet Beans, or you could serve them with a Caprese Salad and call it supper", for example. Third, I like it when cookbooks organize recipes by season. My cooking tends to use a lot of fresh produce, at least when I"m on top of my grocery shopping, and seasonal recipes help with that. So, I was very excited to open up my new Moosewood book and discover that, in fact, it fits all three criteria! It even has a menu called "Summer Heat Wave Dinner Party!" Too bad I didn't have that two weeks ago.

Lest you think I have somehow reverted into traditional gender sterotypes, my day off will also include my first baseball game back in Michigan. It turns out that both my bishop and my canon to the ordinary are big baseball fans. And, Lansing has a minor league baseball team - the Lansing Lugnuts! So, the Canon is taking all the Lansing area clergy and their families to a baseball game tonight. It should be a lot of fun. I'm not actually a huge baseball fan, but going to a game is sort of like gearing up for football season. Which starts in exactly 30 days, for those of you who are counting.

Alright, there are errands to be done and showers to be taken before the cookbook reading commences. Enjoy your day, and may your next day off be relaxing and restful.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Where you live should not decide
whether you live or whether you die*

Proper 13, Year A
Do you remember your favorite meal? I don’t mean your favorite food, necessarily, but your favorite meal – an event that included food but so much more than just eating? I was reminded of my own favorite meal this week: the proverbial wedding feast. Of course, as much as I love weddings, I don’t mean just any old wedding feast, or even the famed feast at Cana. I mean my own wedding dinner. When Luke and I were married, we decided that we wanted to put a good deal of thought and, yes, money, into the food itself. It was a wonderful mix of our own family tradtions. At dinner time in Luke's family, bowls of food were set out and everyone served themselves. But in my house, my mom would put the food on our plates in the kitchen. So, at our wedding, when our friends sat down at the tables, there were "family style" appetizers, and then dinner was served on plates, as it often is at weddings. We also pulled in our own traditions, and served good vegetarian fare as well as meat, made from locally grown produce. And, we made a point to sit down –even at our wedding –and enjoy dinner together. Our first dinner as a married couple started us out well for a well-fed marriage, in every sense of it.

Food is like that. It weaves itself into the important moments of our lives, and connects to more than our taste buds and our stomachs. There is a deep connection between our spiritual and emotional yearnings and the food that we eat, as well as how we eat it. Think of what we call “comfort food” – chicken soup when you’re feeling sick, a scoop of ice cream with your family on a hot summer night.

Sure, soup is good for you and ice cream will cool you down – but comfort foods feed us body and soul. Eating together nourishes us with more than vitamins too - according to a study cited in one of my cooking magazines, “regular family interaction at dinner can lead to better parenting, healthier children, and improved academic performance.”

Of course, Jesus already knew all this, and tried to teach us about feeding body and soul every chance he got – today’s Gospel reading is just one story from Jesus’ ministry where food connects people, and teaches us something about God and about the life of discipleship.

First, the miracle of feeding the multitudes is a story of God’s abundance: God abounds in compassion, in generosity, and in sustaining people. When Jesus prepares the meal, there is not just enough to go around, there are twelve baskets of leftovers. Twelve baskets! Everyone got to eat until they were satisfied. We are so amazed at God’s bounty that we call it a miracle – and it is indeed. But we shouldn’t be surprised. The feeding of the multitudes should serve as a reminder of God’s abundance that is all around us. Every meal we enjoy is a chance to remember God’s abundance working in our lives.

Think of the miracle of life, growth and abundance that we experience every time we enjoy fresh sweet corn or sweet red strawberries, or simply wander around the colorful produce section at the store? God has given us this amazing creation, capable of producing food enough to feed all six billion people that inhabit the earth – and it is freely given to us out of God’s love, just as Jesus gave loaves and fishes to the gathered crowd.

Yet, all around us, there are people who do not know the God of abundance that we see in Jesus’ ministry. This week, I have been following the BBC News coverage of the famine in Niger. The situation in this African country is incredibly desperate: one third of the children are malnourished. As is so often the case, the situation is complicated, produced by a combination of natural disaster, debt, corruption, poverty – and most recently, locusts and drought. It is the kind of human tragedy that overwhelms us, and makes us want to turn away in sadness. But a particular quote in one article caught my attention. A mother, waiting at a relief shelter with her starving infant son, told the reporter: “Our harvest failed and we have no food. It is the choice of God.”

Now, I don’t really know if this woman believes in the same God that you and I do, and I don’t know if this statement is her best attempt to keep faith in a horrible time of suffering. But I am pretty sure of this: God does not want children to go hungry- but it happens every day in the world, in our country, even in our community. When people go hungry, it is not a failure of God’s creation or of God’s abundance. It is a failure on our part – on the part of all the people in the world – to make sure that the abundance of that creation is passed around so that all may eat and be filled. Because isn’t that the second part of the miracle of the loaves and fishes? If the disciples had not been willing to share what they had, that meager portion of bread and fish, and the gathered people had not been willing to share these gifts with one another, they would not – and we would not – have seen just how powerful God’s abundance truly is.

We are called, each of us, as followers of Jesus to celebrate God’s abundance and goodness in every meal, and to share what we have so that others can also be satisfied. There is so much we can do – and even our meager offerings can help people beyond our imagination. We can give of our time to local soup kitchens and food pantries, we can give our money to organizations like the Heifer Project and Episcopal Relief and Development.

The youth have participated in the World Vision 30-Hour Famine, which raises money and awareness about the problem of hunger – and we plan on participating again in the coming year.

And, we can see each meal as a chance to celebrate and thanks for God’s goodness. That celebration begins here with the simplest of all meals: bread and wine. Here, we will do exactly what Jesus did on the mountains: we will take the food, give thanks and bless it, break it and share it. Simple yet powerful actions that have been done for centuries. So, the table will be set and you are invited. Come to God’s feast, be thankful, and then take the feast into the world.

*thanks to U2 for the title, lyrics from "Crumbs from Your Table"

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Hunger Site

Between Rachel Ray, my "Loaves and Fishes" show idea, catching up on old Cooking Light magazines, and tomorrow sermon on Matthew's version of the feeding of the five thousand men, I really have food on the brain. So, of course, this headline from the BBC news on relief aid for the famine in Niger has me thinking about hunger. I'll post my sermon for this week for more complete thoughts. But, for now, I just want to point out the new link in my side bar to the Hunger Site. There are so many things we can do - as individuals, as families, churches, and as a country - to help people who are hungry. This has got to be one of the simplest. I know I've mentioned it before on this blog, but its been a while. If you aren't familiar with the Hunger Site (or its five cousins: the Child Health, Literacy, Rainforest, Breast Cancer and Animal Sites) - click on over. If you are familiar, and haven't been there yet today, click on over. And keep clicking every day. Somewhere, a child will be glad that you did.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Loaves & Fishes

Those of you who know me well probably know of my love for Rachel Ray and her 30-Minute Meals show. My favorite way to de-compress at the end of a day is to come home, grab a snack and the remote, and watch the back-to-back episodes of Rachel Ray that are on every night. The show is truly inspirational: after watching her make two easy and healthy meals in under 30, I can't seem to find an excuse to eat a junk dinner out of a box.

This week though, I found a different kind of inspiration - maybe even a new excercise for my vocation. I want to have a lectionary-based cooking show! It would run once per week, and the recipies would tie into the upcoming lectionary. An hour long episode would include cooking a meal (duh, thats why it's called a cooking show) as well as commentary on the upcoming lessons - highlighting themes, that sort of thing. So, for example this week's lectionary might include a recipe like this Sicilian Fish Stew, and some quick dinner rolls. In the midst of chopping, we could talk about abundance, about hospitality, about physical needs and spiritual hunger. I just think it would be so much fun! And yes, Tripp, you could be a guest one week.

Micah though I should shoot an episode and podcast it - but I have a galley style kitchen, which would never work for a show. Maybe Rachel will let me borrow her kitchen?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I'm preachin' in the rain, just preachin' in the rain

What a glorious feeling, I'm... oh, wait. Nope. It turns out that when you get into a pulpit, and the congregation is looking up and around and at each other instead of listening to your sermon, well, its not actually a glorious feeling.

This past Sunday, I thought I had a decent sermon - telling the whole story of Solomon, and talking about our need to nurture and cultivate spiritual gifts over our whole lives. I even began by talking about Aladdin and some of the similarities, in order to get at the distinctly non-happy-ever-after part of the Solomon story. It wasn't my best sermon ever, but I thought it was at least vaguely interesting. Only a couple sentences in however, I noticed that the congregation was clearly not paying any attention.

Now, to be fair, there was a huge thunderstorm going on overhead. The thunder made it hard to hear, and the PA system tended to crackle when there was lightning - so I was willing to cut them a little slack. But c'mon - at least listen the first paragraph before checking out!

Then, the ink on my page started to smear, and I realized what was happening. My church is a beautiful, traditional looking church - wooden pews, lots of stained glass, choir stalls in the chancel - and absolutely no air conditioning. We do have overhead fans, by pulling on these long ropes, you can open the highest row of stained glass windows - and together, it makes the church almost bearable in summer. Of course - open windows in a thunderstorm are less helpful: the poor congregation was getting rained on!! Since I had been sitting up in the chancel, I hadn't realized it. Thankfully, my ever-ready husband and another man got up and started closing the windows. But as I mentioned before, this requires pulling on long ropes - and you need to stand in the center aisle of the church. Distracting, to say the least, but it did put a stop to the spontaneous baptisms going on! Maybe next time, we'll just stop what we're doing, stand up, and reaffirm our Baptismal covenant.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Lost In Thought

You would think, wouldn't you, that the state which is home to the Big 3 car companies and the Motor City, this state where public transportation is about as common as the actual wolverine - that we, of all places, could manage to have a highway system that is driver-friendly. The kind of highway system where you don't get lost - twice- at the same interchange. Apparently, we are not so far evolved. On my way to, and on my way back from a monthly gathering of my ordination "class" I got lost. At the same stupid interchange! Well, misplaced is probably better - I knew where I was, it just wasn't where I was trying to be.

Anyway - with all that extra time, I got to hear to great radio programs. The first was the Diane Rehm show. They were talking about "The Study of Happiness" and some recent scientific research into the brain. I found it absolutely fascinating, and I recommend it to you. I'm pretty sure you can get it online. The second was an interview with Jon Stewart (of Daily Show fame) on Fresh Air. He is just so darn funny. I loved it. But, what caught my attention was his take on being in comedy. He noted that being funny - the way his brain just always goes to a joke - is a gift, but one that has to be cultivated. He had to learn (sometimes the hard way) that there are ways and times to use his wit.

Isn't that the way of it with all our spiritual gifts? Sometimes it feels like God hands us some awfully raw materials that we use to build our faith. Thank goodness Jesus has some carpentry experience, because some days, I just don't feel up to the task. But its great fun to learn how to use the tools, and find some materials I didn't know I had.

So: a new tool in this work is the RevGalBlogPals blog ring. I haven't joined one of these before, but I'm now a part of this one. Its a group of "women in various stages of their lives who are living out a call to ordained ministry" and friends. Thanks to Jane for the set up!

later edit: woot! got the code, and the ring is there for your enjoyment. thanks jane!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Home Cookin'

So, one of my idiosyncracies in today's mobile society is that I am only living in my third town ever. I lived in the same town until I left for Chicago to go to seminary, and as much as I loved Chicago and seminary, the transition was pretty rough. I hated not knowing where to find a drugstore, what restaurants to eat at, and getting lost on the way home from the airport. Well, actually, that one time getting lost with Stephanie was kinda fun... but I digress. Last night was a great triumph in the area of adjusting-to-the-new-city. While looking in the phone book for a pizza place, I discovered that my favorite Ann Arbor restaurant - Pizza House - has a branch up here! So, I looked up the address online, and I even knew how to find it without getting mapquest directions! Within the hour, Luke and I were eating chapatis and discussing the new Harry Potter. I couldn't have done better if I'd made it myself.

In my book - as long as it reminds you of home, its home cookin.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wheat and Weeds - Sermon for July 17, 2005

Luke and I have been spending some of our free time trying to get to know our new community. So, last weekend, we went to the Lansing City Market with a friend of mine from college who was visiting her folks in Mason. My friend, Adrienne, is a great person to go to the farmer’s market with. She just loves produce, and loves to wander around and look at all the fruits and vegetables, and chat with the people selling their crops. She majored in natural resources in college, and has worked in outdoor education since then – she just knows a lot about plants, especially compared to this city girl. So, after we were about done shopping, we went to the center of the market where there is an outdoor area with displays of flowers and plants. The flowers were blooming, it was a beautiful day, so we spent some time wandering around and just enjoying the displays. Adrienne and her mom, who had joined us, would stop and say things to each other like “oh, did you see the ones over there” and they would use all the names for the plants, because they knew them. Of course, my level of appreciating flowers and plants is at the level of “I like the purple ones” or “I don’t like the spiky ones.” As much as I like the idea of gardening, I wouldn’t be very good at it – I just can’t tell any of the plants apart!

While this may be out of place here in the shadow of one of the best agricultural schools in the country, I am thankfully right at home in today’s Gospel story. On its face, the parable of “the wheat and the tares”, as our lesson is often called, seems to be about sorting things out – separating the good from the bad. But in the story, it is only the servants who want to separate out the weeds from the wheat, while it is the master of the garden who lets the weeds grow. Why would the master do that? Because tares are a particular kind of weed. Today they are known as darnel, and it still grows in the Mediterranean region. It is a particular nasty and poisonous weed. The roots of the weed tangle into whatever plant it grows with, so that as the parable says, pulling up the weeds would mean pulling up the good plant along with it. Even worse that that, it is very difficult to tell the young weeds apart from wheat until they are fully grown and the seeds have developed. The slaves in the story then reveal themselves as the unskilled laborers that they are. Despite their good intentions, their plan to gather the weeds would destroy the crops.

Even with two thousand years of experience, we are no more skilled at sorting out the weeds than these servants – and this parable comes around in the lectionary every three years to remind us of that fact. Have you noticed how our Gospel lessons for last week and this week have both included explanations of the parables? Now, Jesus doesn’t normally do that for us. Part of the gift of a parable is the layers of meaning available to us as we explore and interpret the stories and metaphors. But Jesus explains these to us – perhaps because today’s story so easily leads us into the temptation of casting those Other People – whoever that may be – into the starring role of the tares, and by doing so, we cast ourselves as the wrong character too – we make ourselves the one who sorts. But Jesus makes it very clear who the master gardener is – and it is not us. The job of judging the weeds, of gathering and sorting is reserved for Jesus, and for Jesus alone.
And, my friends, that is an absolute blessing! Really, none of us are quite as skilled in this area as we sometimes like to think. I am all too aware of the times when my own judgment – even with the best of intentions – has failed me. I am simply not always right about who or what will help me grow, and who or what will bring me down. And, I suspect, that I am not the only one here who can recall times of mistaken judgment and the inevitable problems that follow close behind.

So, Jesus gives us this parable – and its explanation – to show us a better way. We are to leave the sorting to God, because it is God’s job. And God cares so much about the wheat, that God allows the tares to grow right along with the wheat, rather than risk the potential crop. And what good news that is! We are in the hands of a loving God, who will not give up on us – even on those days, weeks or years when our lives look more like weeds instead of good grain. What would it look like if, in our efforts to imitators and followers of Jesus, we tried to imitate God’s patience and care, rather than God’s ability to judge?

So, here we are in the summer. And while the heat in here shows that I mean that quite literally, I also mean it in a spiritual sense. Seeds of all kinds have already been planted, and the springtime promise of new life has begun but not yet been fulfilled and the harvest has not yet come. Summer is the time for watering and feeding crops, and waiting for the harvest. Christians are forever living in these in-between times, tending the crops as best we can. And while there is plenty of work to be done as laborers in the fields, we still have a choice. We could spend our time and energy pulling up what seem to be the weeds in our fields – but in doing so we run the risk of destroying what might have turned out to be wheat. Instead, we could tend to and care for all that might become wheat. – even if this means doing our best to care for the plants that we think are harmful – because we could be wrong. And if some do grow up to be weeds, then so be it. A gardener far more skilled than ourselves will sort those failures out in the end.

Because when it comes down to it, our hope is not – and cannot ever – be in our own ability to sort the weeds and wheat, and the good from the bad. Writer Sarah Dylan Breuer comments that “The mature know that they are not the judge of the nations because they know the judge personally. It's Jesus. And we're not Jesus, as we know when we're following him.” We are invited – called – by this parable to do just that. To follow Jesus into the harvest, to devote our energies to helping the wheat thrive in the world, and to rest in the true hope – and the promise of Jesus – that God is in control of the harvest – the weeds, the wheat and everything in between.