Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Rublev's Icon of the Trinity
This is the welcoming table of God's presence. I hope that each of you get to spend some time there this weekend.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
In our sorrow, breathe hope;
In our hurts, breathe peace.
Spread the joy of your love in us,
to all the nations of the world.
Go forth in the blessing of God who is
the Creator of all,
our Redeemer and
our Sustaining power. Amen.
Peony Season in New Harmony
The peonies in New Harmony this year have been beautiful. This "old fashioned" flower has a lovely scent which is not overwhelming. There is a Peony Farm in New Harmony and they ship the peony buds all over the world. Once the buds bloom they are no longer able to ship them and they open the farms for picking. It is amazing to see the variety of peonies. Most of the peonies in town are white, pink, and deep purple. I have a parishioner who has a deep red peony which is beautiful. Next spring come to New Harmony to see the peonies!
The Parish House is coming along - some of the siding is up in the front. It will be painted white with blue trim. There are so many decisions to be made right now but everyone is getting excited. The contractor says we might be in by the end of July.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Tomorrow I am preaching at our SW Deanery Confirmation service in Washington, IN. I was doing some research for the sermon and came across this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
"There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed in. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”. But they went on with the conviction that they were a “colony of heaven,” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought to an end such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are."-- Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James Melvin Washington (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986), pg. 300.
This quote reminded me of some of the things that Philip Newell is teaching at the Benedictine Retreat this week. Newell teaches that the doctrine of creation was "watered down" (my word, Newell used the word, "neutralized") when Christianity was legalized by the Empire. Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyons, c. 202) wrote that creation is not ex nihilo (out of nothing); rather, God created all that is out of God's self. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. If all that is created is out of God then we bear the DNA of God in a particular way in our own DNA. This has serious implications for our interactions with each other - implications that go way beyond the current cultures of making war, terrorism, and fundamentalism. Of course the Roman Empire would not want people to believe that each person created bears God. How then could we separate ourselves into the exclusive groups or good and evil, believers and non-believers (infidels). What if we ALL honored this DNA of God in ourselves and others? This is very radical stuff but it resonates within me as the truth that will allow us to stop destroying each other and ourselves. Perhaps the greatest problem our world faces is "religious fundamentalism." Fundamentalists found among Christians, Muslims, or Jews (and many other sects) see the world and people in very exclusive ways. Certain people must be excluded so that we can know who we are.
Julian of Norwich, the 14th Century mystic and writer says that "we are made OF God." Being made of God has huge implications for my life and I am just beginning to reach into those implications as I write this...
This is the view from my backyard. This has been one of the most beautiful seasons of Spring that I have known in recent memory. The greens are particularly wonderful. This is a fallow (so far) field where wild mustard has grown up. They may plow it up to plant soybeans later but for now it is radiant! the Wabash River (the tiny slice of blue in the green) is now full to the edges from the rain we had last weekend. Katie and I ride the golf cart down to see it in the evenings.
Monday, May 3, 2010
We are now "under roof" and moving along. We are all beginning to get a sense of what the new Parish House will look like and how radically different it will be from the old one. There is so much space in the new building and we are getting excited. More pictures perhaps even tomorrow if they put the round windows in at the top of the hall!!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
It is so hard to believe that I just met Jesus, the teacher, last night. All afternoon yesterday I tried to think of something that I could take to the Passover meal. As I started out the door, the "ruined" white fabric was there where I had left it the day before. I grabbed it thinking it would be a perfect table covering for the meal. I met Mary of Bethany at the market and helped her finish the shopping for the meal. When she saw the cloth she was delighted.
We finished our preparations just in time. Jesus and his other followers came in. Everyone was talking and excited. I felt a bit out of place - I had just met most of the people and they seemed to know each other so well. Meeting Jesus was extraordinary! He was kind to me and when it came time to serve the meal, he seemed delighted with the white cloth. We all gathered together in the room to share the meal. Jesus was like a rabbi. He taught us, he served us and he washed the feet of some of his disciples! I have never been served by a man. I felt shy and somewhat bewildered. I didn't know whether to accept the bowl of food he gave me or give it to one of the men in the room. But it was clear from his eyes that he meant it for me and he served everyone.
The meal became quite somber after a while. Jesus began to talk about betrayal, and he talked about his death. I wanted to run to him and tell him that I would protect him. Mary seemed so peaceful. She told me about her brother who had died and been brought back to life by Jesus. Lazarus seemed fine to me, and so, I thought, perhaps this is the way it will happen with Jesus. But I was wrong.
The women cleaned up after Jesus and the disciples left. We were quite tired and so we pulled down the mats for sleeping. We talked a long time and I listened to the stories the women told about Jesus. Finally my eyes would no longer stay open. The next thing I knew Mary was shaking me awake. "They have arrested Jesus! Come on, we must go and find everyone else. We need to stay together. The authorities may come for us next." I was scared but I remember thinking that it would be okay...Jesus would save us. One of the women grabbed my cloth from the table where it had been left as we ran from the room. We found the other disciples and that was the beginning of the longest day of my life.
Jesus is dead now - crucified by the Romans. The emotions of this day have been a turmoil. We thought surely Pilate would release him and when that did not happen something inside of me broke apart. How could this man, who I had just come to know, be put to death? I saw him come out with the cross over his shoulder. He had been beaten and thorns woven into a crown were stuck into his brow. The woman with my cloth ran to him and wiped the blood from his eyes with the cloth. I thought of the woman in my store who refused the cloth because a drop of my Jewish blood had contaminated it. A Roman soldier shoved her away from Jesus and she fell but we ran to help her up. Her eyes found mine in sorrow. She said, "I'm so sorry, I have ruined your cloth." I held her as I told her it was alright. Some day I will tell her the story of the cloth.
Jesus is dead. Joseph, a friend of the disciples is going to Pilate to ask for Jesus' body. The sun is getting ready to set and we must get his body down from the cross and into the tomb before sundown. I don't know where the disciples are, but I am here at the cross with the other women. Jesus' mother is here too. Why did this happen? What will we do now? I do not want to leave these friends...
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Yesterday I worked at my loom finishing a piece of cloth for a customer. The cloth is for the wedding dress of a rich gentile woman. My cloth is soft and fine, made from cotton grown in the Galilee. As I took the cloth off of the loom so I could finish the edge, I caught my hand on one of the hooks. I didn't know it was bleeding until I saw the bright red drops on the fine fabric. I cried out and covered my hand with my apron. I caught the fabric and carried it to the bucket of water slipping the part with blood on it into the water. As I bandaged my hand, tears came to my eyes. It wasn't that my hand hurt or that I had soiled the fabric; I realized that the tears have been close to my eyes since I saw the man Jesus. I know he is going to die and I want to meet him. But I am a foolish woman!
I wiped the tears on my apron and finished bandaging my hand. I then carefully washed the corner of the fabric as best I could. The blood left the slightest stain which was very obvious to me, but then, I knew it was there. I finished the edge of the fabric and folded it. I had hardly put it down when the door to my shop opened and the gentile woman came in. I hoped she would buy the fabric quickly and leave, but instead she talked incessantly about her daughter's wedding - the food and wine they were going to serve; the flowers that would adorn her hair...on and on. Then she picked up the fabric allowing it to unfold. "What's this?" she asked looking at the still damp edge. "Oh, I replied, a bit of water..." "But," she continued, hardly giving me a chance to explain, "it's got a stain on it." "Oh," I replied, "but it's very small." And then the truth came out of my mouth, "I pricked my hand on a hook and just a drop of blood fell on the edge..." The woman dropped the cloth as if it were poison. "Your blood is on this cloth? The cloth for my daughter's wedding? I cannot possibly take it with a Jew's blood on it! You will have to weave another piece." I stepped back as if the woman had hit me. The woman continued in anger demanding that I weave another piece but I simply said, "No." After several more difficult exchanges she left the shop. I refolded the fabric and sat down. Why did I tell her the truth? Why not a lie?
I left the shop quickly and went back to the gathering place at the city gate where I had been the day before. There were even more people than before. As I sat watching the pilgrims come into the city for Passover, a woman sat down beside me. "It's getting crowded." "Yes," I replied, "I wish it were over." The woman looked at me and said, "You sound sad." "Yes," I replied, "I suppose I am. I don't like the festivals. I have no family here and I'm not very religious." We sat in silence for awhile. She touched my arm and said, "My friends and I are going to celebrate Passover together, will you come and join us?" Perhaps she saw the surprise in my eyes. "It's quite alright, we're from Bethany and we wish to gather with our teacher to celebrate the feast. There's always room for another and besides we will mostly be in the kitchen." "Your teacher?" "Yes, his name is Jesus and we...." I grabbed her arm before she could finish. "Jesus! Your teacher is Jesus?" She was calm as if she were used to such exclamations. And then she began to tell me about him. Soon she stopped herself: "Why don't you come for Passover to hear him?" I don't even remember going back to my shop, but soon I was at my loom, the events of the morning far away. I am going to get to meet Jesus...
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
In the square near the gate to the city I found some friends who were full of news about this man Jesus. They said he went into the temple and, well, it sounds like he gave them a piece of his mind. I think I heard them say that he called the temple priests thieves! Oh, I would have loved to hear that! He made a mess by turning over the tables of the money changers and people were jumping to pick up their coins! I need to know more about this man.
Last night I went back to the square hoping that Jesus would be there with his group of followers so I could meet him but I learned that he had left the city to go back to Bethany. I heard rumors that he was staying with a family there. The story I heard then was phenomenal! One of the members of that family died and Jesus brought him back to life after he had been dead for 4 days! Rumors are so unpredictable... I'm sure that didn't happen, but it has everyone talking. I was standing not too far away from one of the temple guards who was speaking so loudly that anyone could hear him. He was saying that if Jesus tried to enter the temple again they would run him through with their swords! There is so much anger against Jesus. I wonder what the government could fear from this one gentle eyed man? But anger is everywhere - people are tired of the Roman oppression and they are tired of not having enough work and money. The air is electric with fear...Something bad is going to happen.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
From the "holy" to the very, very ordinary things of life: I finished the rag rug I crocheted for my bathroom. It turned out pretty good and is nice and thick under my feet. This is a picture of the finished product:
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Julia Betz deciding which necklace to wear!
Michael Betz loving Katie!
Sunday, March 14, 2010
For the love of God is broader
Monday, March 8, 2010
The gospel lesson for yesterday was so provocative (Luke 13:1-9). It is a lesson that easily fits into our contemporary situation. Jesus is teaching and someone brings up a disaster that happened in Jerusalem. Some folks from Galilee have gone into the temple to make a sacrifice and Pilate takes soldiers into the temple and slaughters them. It was of course illegal for anyone but the priests of the temple to make sacrifices, but Pilate's action is really an over reaction - this brutal slaughter was unnecessary. The people in the crown want to know why these people had to suffer in this way. Isn't that our question when we read about the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and so many other violent situations in the news? Jesus is quick to point out that these Galileans were NOT being punished by God for their sin. They were no more guilty of sin than we are. Jesus uses another contemporary picture - a tower in Siloam falls on 18 people and kills them. They were not being punished for sin...it was an accident which resulted in tragic deaths. There is a quote from Frederick Buechner that I love: "God does not reveal his grand design to us. God reveals himself." Suffering happens and it comes into our lives in so many ways. Blaming our suffering or someone else's suffering on God as punishment for our sin is not helpful, nor is it a part of Jesus' teaching. Of course suffering can be a result of sinful actions, but it is our actions and not God's desire to punish.
The parable Jesus tells at the end of this lesson is one of grace. The owner of the fig orchard inspects his trees and finds one that is barren - it does not bear fruit. This owner instructs the gardener to cut the tree down - it is taking up good ground and doing nothing. The gardener asks the owner to give him one more year with the tree - he will feed it and fertilize it and perhaps next year it will bear fruit. I can hear Jesus' voice whispering into God's ear: I know the struggles of living in the world Father, give me time with your people. I will feed them and care for them and they will bear fruit. It is a picture of Jesus' participation in our suffering. There is no suffering Jesus has not experienced and he knows our hurt so well. This is comfort in the midst of so much misery in the world.
Yummy Colors in Ruth's Store!
The beginnings of a "Felted Easter Egg"
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
A friend sent me a news report from the Church of England Synod today saying that the conservative priests in the C of E are threatening a mass exodus to Rome if the Synod approves a resolution to allow women priests in England to become bishops. I have several feelings about this. It seems to me that they are holding the C of E hostage to get their way in a matter that was really decided when they chose to ordain women priests. If a woman priest is gifted and called to the episcopate is it impossible that it can be God's call? I know that those priests who are making this demand base it on scripture's witness of a male dominated church and some of Paul's statements about women. I hope that we have come further in both our understanding of Middle Eastern culture and the interpretation of scripture than this. When I was in Rome last year we went to the Catacombs of Pricillia just outside of Rome. We went there because one of the paintings on the wall (which date from the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE) is of a woman in the "orans" posture. This is the posture one assumes when celebrating Eucharist - arms outstretched. It is thought to be an early picture of a woman presbyter. So, I think Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury should tell the men who are threatening to leave that he will not negotiate on this matter. I know that Pope Benedict will joyfully receive those priests...and their wives!
Friday, February 5, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
My head aches with this word which vibrates. More lives will be lost. More pain. More anger. Where does it end? And so I ask, God comfort us with the balm of Gilead. Oh how I have come to love the comfort of the desert and the wildness of God's creation. It was raining this morning when Katie and I ventured out. Out into the sand and mud in search of treasures and bunnies and good smells. I love to watch Katie as she scares a bunny out of hiding and it flies across the desert to safety with Katie in pursuit. And I am thinking, 'Fear not bunny, Katie is a slow footed lover who only wants the chase.' I laugh at her, but I know she is serious in escorting bunnies to their homes. She is puzzled by their tiny homes and the crevices that they squeeze into. She lingers, sniffing, waiting for an invitation in. But even though she is fluffy, she will not fit. I love her innocent face - 'Where did they go Mama?' And so we go home to have coffee and wonder about a time when lions and lambs, and bunnies and golden retrievers will lie down together in peace."
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Window on the West Wall of St. Stephen's
This window at St. Stephen's really lights up in the late afternoons. The gospel lesson tomorrow is about Jesus teaching in the synagogue. He comes home to Nazareth and attends Sabbath services with his family. During the worship he is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He reads Isaiah's words: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then Jesus preaches a sermon of one sentence: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Luke's telling of this incident is dramatic. I think Luke wants us to gasp with incredulity at Jesus' words. "Who is this guy and how can he say this?" Of course there are no surprises for us - we know who he is and we know the end of the story. It must have been quite an epiphany for the people gathered in the synagogue. If you had been there would you have followed this man? Sometimes I still wonder if we (including myself) who know the whole story are ready to follow Jesus? The purpose Jesus has set before us (bringing good news to the poor, etc...) is an enormous task. Only with God's help can I make even the first step towards following; only with God's help...