Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mr. Big Stuff
I took this picture at Randall and Margaret Little's farm a couple of weeks ago. They have wonderful horses and lots of babies this spring. I love to visit there and smell the farm smells, watch Randall with the animals and look at Margaret's flowers. It's like a big petting zoo! The horses are particularly lovely to be around with their gentle velvet noses! This guy above is certainly picturesque! He turns to stone when you approach his fence. Even Margaret can't get him to budge. Well, I put his picture here this morning because this is how hungry I am!!! Even hay looks good!

I was reading the New Yorker magazine this morning and came across a poem by Philip Schultz called Bleecker Street. The poet is on his way down Bleecker Street to get a hazelnut espresso latte. It's June and the street is alive in a way that transcends time. He sees and describes the present day activities of stores, teenagers talking on cell phones, and a woman getting stopped by the police. All of this is in "real time." But he also sees the cellars of stores where runaway slaves were housed, the couple having their first kiss, victory parades with confetti; and so much more of the "inner life and hidden life" that cities have.

He is describing, I think, the way we are meant to experience the Eucharist on Sunday mornings. We see the priest standing behind the altar with silver Chalice and Paten gleaming in the morning light; and we also see the rough hewn wooden table covered with hand woven cloth. Around that table a group of disciples face the one person they love more than themselves. And he is offering them a cup of wine and a piece of bread. He calls it "his body and blood" and forever it will be that. It is meant to sustain them through the coming ordeals of life. Sustenance for life and death, real food for this present life and the life to come. I see the tears glinting in their eyes as they receive this bread and wine because they know that they will never be at this table together in the same way. Life is precariously drawn. And those drawn lines get blurred by jealousy, and frustration; by anger and self-pity. We turn away from each other as soon as we walk away from the table where we sat talking about the way we are "one." And so I loved these lines in Schultz's poem:

"Perhaps everyone secretly admires
something momentous about himself,
with the mass and “inner life” of a cathedral,
in the tradition of the Spanish saints and mystics
who cherished the bliss of infinite

We tend to cherish too much our sacrifices. So cherished are they for us that we beat each other over the head with them. Look at what I have given up for you. Look at what I have given up for God. Ah, the life of our inner cathedrals! And how that life goes on and on while we in "real time" walk down the streets of our lives.
It is a great meditation.

Monday, May 25, 2009


New Friends!
The Wabash River continues to rise and flood the field behind my house. It is a very pastoral scene. The geese above are our most recent visitors. There are fish jumping and snakes prowling. So far everyone is doing well at keeping good boundaries! Today, between thunderstorms and rain, I worked cleaning up the yard. I pulled overgrown ivy, pruned the roses and cleaned the patio and outdoor furniture. I enjoyed making the yard look a bit tidier.
I think holidays are hard without family around. I love my parishioners - they are wonderful, fun people. They have expectations about who I am as their priest...always, even on holidays! I'm spending this Memorial Day at home, however, not because I'm avoiding my parishioners; I am having a colonoscopy tomorrow and they don't make hamburgers and chips in a clear liquid form!! I wish!!
This past Sunday was the Sunday after Ascension. "God has gone up with a shout..." These are the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 47 and they are a good description of Jesus' Ascension. We are between Jesus' Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. It's an in between time of the year. Young people graduating from college are between school and jobs; those graduating from high school are "in between" waiting for the next thing to happen; and we are all waiting for summer to appear with its full blast of heat. Waiting is hard work. We have to slow down and figure things out as we wait. I wish slowing down came easier or more naturally. We do things so fast and expect instant results. The disciples must have wondered how it would all work without Jesus there with them. I wonder if they were close to giving up just as the Spirit filled them at Pentecost. I do still believe that waiting is important and that even when I get to the end of my rope I will be filled, but waiting is never easy. Being in between jobs or cars or houses or even in between projects is hard work. Even being in between sermons from one Sunday to the next has its tensions with plenty of "end of the rope" moments. Trusting God to "show up" is really at the heart of our faith....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Fifth and Sixth Sundays of Easter

Another Project

Last week I was going through my clothes to get some ready to go to Goodwill and I found an old pair of pajamas made of the lovely material above. After throwing them in the box a couple of times and taking them out - I decided to keep them. I took them apart and cut the fabric into 4 by 4 squares. It was fun to hand stitch the design on the square and I like the way it looks. I'm not sure what I will do with the squares when I finish but it will be fun to do them.

This is the Fifth Sunday of the Easter season. Last week Jesus proclaimed himself as the Good Shepherd and this week Jesus is the "true vine." This would be a common visual for the people of Palestine. In fact all through the Old Testament the people of Israel are referred to as the vine. Israel continues to produce wild grapes and now in this passage Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and we are the branches which will bear the fruit of good works. Being a branch is hard work. Staying connected to the vine is hard work and having all those other branches around me is not easy either.

May 15, 2009 - I'm not sure what happened to the post I started above. It's likely that I got involved in another project and forgot to finish it. The days slip by so quickly and I continue to find that there are not enough hours in each day. I worked on the piece below this morning and I think it is finished. I have been working on it for a couple of weeks. The photo does not do justice to the layers of newspaper, and oriental paper under the angel. I have loved this angel since I cut it off of a card someone sent me (never throw anything away!). I decided to give the angel a home. This is another of my "good news" series.

New Harmony had an arts festival two weekends ago and although it was rainy and cool it was well attended. The artists had their booths set up on a wonderful grassy space on Main Street. Live music was provided by a number of New Harmony's talented folks. On Sunday after church I took my Katie over to have one of our local artists (and member of St. Stephen's) do her portrait. Jill Baker is such a fine artist. Jill has been in New Harmony for about 3 years. This is the portrait of Katie that Jill did:

Katie Scarlett O'Hara Honaker

For those of you who don't know Katie, she is my 11 year old golden retriever. I adopted her when she was 1 year old and she came with the name Katie Scarlett O'Hara. Her brother's name was Casey Rhett Butler! Katie is a dear companion along the way of life and I am thrilled to have his portrait of her.

I am preaching about loving one another on this coming Sunday. The title of my sermon is "Loving One Another 101." I wanted to title it "Loving One Another for Dummies" but was afraid I would offend folks. In truth we are all "dummies" when it comes to loving each other. I find my own heart betrays me all the time in this task. I judge the motives of others when I have no right to do so. Last week's epistle (1 John 4:7-21) has for me one of the most evocative verses in scripture: "We love because he (God) first loved us." (vs 19) I don't love my brother or sister because they are lovable... I don't love my parishioners because they love me... I don't even love my family because they are my family... I love others because I have been loved by One who knows me through and through (and still loves me). If God can love me then I can love others. It seems like such a no-brainer, but I struggle so against this call to love...

New Harmony Iris
The Irises have been spectacular this year in New Harmony. My backyard is literally "abloom" with irises and roses. It must be the enormous amounts of rain that we have had. I only wish we could figure out how to have flowers in abundance without the abundant mosquitoes...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Easter IV - Good Shepherd and Other Sheep

Honoring Bob Gregg
This week I drove down to Harrisburg, Illinois to be present when Southeastern Illinois College dedicated their newly renovated Technology building to one of St. Stephen's parishioners, Robert Gregg. Bob and his family (Rennie, his wife is in the wheelchair on the right side of the painting) were there to celebrate with him. It was a lovely and touching program. Bob's achievements at SIC go a long way in providing technical education for people of all ages. I sat next to the retired dean of the nursing program at SIC and she told me that there were only 2 technical programs at SIC when Bob came and when he retired they had 16+ technical programs.

Bob and Rennie came to St. Stephen's (they drive an hour to get there) in 2003. They had been members before when they lived just across the Wabash in Crossville, Ill. Their children were small then and they eventually moved to Harrisburg where they helped start an Episcopal Church - St. Stephen's! But as we all know in 2003 the Episcopal Church changed forever. We began to recognize the gifts for ministry that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire. Bob and Rennie found themselves in an awkward place, living in the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield under the rigidly conservative leadership of Bishop Beckwith. They came home to us at New Harmony and brought with them a wonderful woman named Patty Sayers. Patty was diagnosed just a year later with cancer and we were given the privilege of taking care of her over the last year of her life. Bob and Rennie continue to enrich our lives and I am so grateful for their presence among us.

The gospel this week is from John 10 - Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd..." He talks about laying down his life for the sheep - he is the Shepherd who never leaves us, never runs away no matter how fierce the wolves are; nor does he walk away when we are behaving like sheep - getting into trouble and being stubborn. Jesus does not give up on us. He is good. I love the picture from "The Chronicles of Narnia" when Lucy and the others have just arrived at the Beaver's house after running from the White Witch. The Beavers begin to talk about Aslan, who is a lion; and is the Christ figure created by C.S. Lewis. The more they talk about him the more frightened the children become. Finally, Lucy tells Mr. Beaver that she would be very afraid to meet a lion. And Mr. Beaver affirms her fear telling her that of course she would be afraid - if she were not she would be silly! Then, says a confused Lucy, "Is he safe?" "Safe," says Mr. Beaver, "No, he's not safe but he's good, I tell you. He's good." It is not safe to encounter the Good Shepherd. We don't know where he will lead us, or the ways he will change our lives; but as Mr. Beaver says, "He's good." He does not give up on us or run away in times of trouble.

This week the mother of one of our parishioners died. She was 95 and such a lovely woman. She had the countenance of a person who is at peace with her life. No matter if she was staying in the Nursing Home recovering from an illness or at her daughter's home with her dedicated caregivers, she was at home in herself. She will go home to Kansas to be buried but on Wednesday morning we gathered at the funeral home for a service honoring her life. It was an incredible service. There were about 40 people there who shared so many lovely things about the woman we were remembering, but also about our own mothers. Losing a parent is like losing an anchor. The feeling of loss is always there. We survive and move on but there is a place of longing in us... sometimes it is a longing for what we wished we had done; and sometimes it is a longing for what we did not receive from that person. Either way we still have to move forward with the pieces of what we have. Making a picture we can live with from those pieces is often challenging and may take us the rest of our lives to accomplish.

It's still spring here although the weather is very funky... we may all grow mildewed after the next several many days of rain that are predicted! Something about leftover April showers...