29 October 2005

It is.... snowing. Weird. But pretty!

28 October 2005

Invited and Welcomed into Wholeness (working title)

Texts: Isaiah 35: 1-6, 10; 1 Peter 2:21-24; John 6:47-51.
Sermon given at the Seminary Chapel, 10/28/2005.

We are a broken people. Each and every one of us bears the wounds of our life in one way or another and to one degree or another. None of us are immune from the diseases and the harms and the hurts and the angers that infect our lives, and all of us are in need of healing.

Some of us carry wounds that are easily seen, that are visible and uncomfortably on display to the world. There is no hiding from people who will treat you differently, from the people who act as though you are somehow lessened by a disability, are defined by it, rather than enriched by the self-knowledge that grows from it. They are not deliberately harmful, but they are afraid that their bodies will grow older, that they will lose their strength, and that they will lose who they are. They aren’t afraid of the wounds others bear but of the potential that they too will be wounded in such a way. But strength comes from knowing yourself, not from the abilities we have. Our strength derives from embracing ourselves as we truly are, rather than how we would most like to be. Strength is in defining yourself rather than letting the world define you. In the ministry of Jesus, it was the wounded and the broken who knew how to fully embrace the renewal and healing offered by Christ. It is those who suffered and endured who truly knew themselves and who came to Jesus in hope. By becoming so emptied and humbled, they were opened to grace.

Others of us are wounded in deep, invisible ways: in our spirits, in our minds. We hide our woundedness, as if we were the only ones in all the world to experience pain. We hide our brokenness because we are ashamed… because we are too proud to admit our flaws exist, even to ourselves… because we care more about how people regard us and think well of us than about who and what we really are.

I have been to those dark places and moments, when I was so consumed by fear and pain that I didn’t know right from wrong, I didn’t know up from down, and I didn’t even know how to come up for air. I had lost my bearings. I know what a frightening place that can be, and how hard it is to open yourself up to the judgment of other people, to be vulnerable to the world.

We have been battered by life, by people we love, and by ourselves. We bear these afflictions, and they weigh us down. They burden our lives, and we carry them with us not because we want to, but because they’ve consumed us to the point where we have forgotten what life is like without them. We scarcely know what a child-like joy is like anymore. We’re leading busy, fractured lives. We’re worried about this paper, and that meeting, and we’ve lost sight of what it is like to be surprised by joy. Some of us have hidden our wounds so well that they appear healed but silently bubble and fester beneath the surface. In all the ways we are wounded, known and unknown, visible and invisible, I am here to tell you that you are not alone… remember that you are not alone, no matter how lonely you feel. We have all been torn by sadness and damaged by the thoughtless words and actions of others. We are a broken people.

We are broken, not just in our individual bodies and lives, but in our life together. Let’s be honest… churches can be among the most dysfunctional places, precisely because we think we’ve got it all together or because we’d like to think we’ve got it all together, or because we’d like everybody else to think we’ve got it all together. Because we say the peace, we think we’re really at peace.

But how many of us are angry at our brothers and sisters in Christ?
How many of us might be outwardly friendly but inwardly seething, nursing some deep-rooted anger or hurt, that we would be embarrassed to reveal?
How many churches today have taken up their banners and gone to war with one another?
How many denominations are torn and split apart?

It’s not a pretty picture. And it does not reflect the Gospel truth of reconciliation. How many of us have lost sight of the pivotal shared belief, the one from which everything else derives, the one which centers us as a community? We’re not a community because we like each other, because we live in the same city, or because we have the same beliefs. We are a community because we have faith in Jesus Christ. We are a community because we are oriented towards God, and it is because of that orientation to the One beyond ourselves that we know how to relate to one another. We have faith in the salvation offered for us by Christ crucified. That is the gathering place for us as Christians, for our communal life. When we gather at the table today, we are united with Christ and one another and we are healing the wounds that have divided us. We are united not just those around the table with us, with those we can see, but with the whole Church. Not just the Episcopal church, but the church universal and catholic. We are united into the body of Christ with people that I’ll admit I don’t really like all the time. And if I’m being honest, there are some I don’t like any of the time. I may not like what that woman wears to church, or how those people over there do their liturgy, or the theology of this group or that. I may not be friendly with them, but Christ invites all of us to the table. Being at the table together means learning to understand and love one another, not agreeing in every way.

I can’t begin to count how many times as I grew up in the Bible Belt that I heard, ‘Jesus died for your sins, to save you from eternal damnation.’ But that isn’t the entirety of the sacrifice on the cross. Jesus died to welcome us into wholeness, to welcome us into the fulfillment of the Word, into His death and resurrection.

In the Gospel today, Jesus is inviting us to partake of holy manna, the bread of heaven, his body. He tells us that the bread he will give for the life of the world is his flesh. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel just a little bit queasy. Jesus challenges us, challenges me, to move beyond our dis-ease, our discomfort. We are coming to the table of God, which can be and should be an uneasy place. Jesus wants us on our toes. He is challenging us to think here, to know that this is something fiercely important. This isn’t the bread of our ancestors, the manna that fed them in the wilderness. This is the Bread that feeds us in a deeper way. This is the Bread that nourishes us in the very depths of our heart. We feed on Jesus in our hearts by faith, and we are fed with spiritual food. This isn’t just your average everyday Wonder bread. No. This is the Wonder, enfleshed and crucified for us. This is the bread come down from heaven to invite us to reconcile and return to God. We are returning to God in remembering this moment of invitation, death, and resurrection, turning back to the One who made us and who embraced our humanness, our humanity.

Jesus is inviting us to the table, inviting each and every one of us into wholeness. We are a broken people, and Jesus is here today and in this moment of remembrance, inviting all the broken and wounded to the table, to eat of the bread that was given for us. For us, the damaged and dejected, the ones who have no hope but who can find hope in God. Jesus isn’t saying we can come if we shape up. He isn’t saying that we can come to the table if we’ve got our life in order.

Jesus is inviting us to the table as we are. He is welcoming us as the people of God to take and eat, not to take and be perfect. We are bid, when we participate in the Eucharist to remember, not only Jesus’ sacrifice, but who we really are. When we join in the remembrance feast, we come before God, as the paralytic and the possessed in the Gospel stories came to Jesus, knowing our flaws, knowing our need for healing and reconciliation, and knowing that God loves us anyway.

Jesus has invited us to the table, welcomed us into His wholeness, and enfolded us, broken and lost, in His loving embrace. By His wounds we are welcomed into the healing Isaiah wrote of: to see and hear clearly, to leap as a deer and to sing out joyously. By His sacrifice, we are renewed and restored, invited to fully realize our potential as the people of God. As we gather at the table today, remember that we are loved, embraced, and welcomed by God.

preacher girl!

I preached today! It went so, so very well. It's always nice that just when the nervousness starts to bubble, the Spirit shows up and helps out. My homily was on the theme of we are a broken people invited to the table. I heard from many people that I spoke well and that this was the message they needed to hear today, or that they were deeply moved by what I said. So yay! I did good work for God today, and I had a great time.. although maybe next time I won't be the preacher, cantor, and chalice bearer. It was a bit of a juggle.

But, yeah... just yay! Should I post my sermon?

21 October 2005

revgalblogpals Friday Five!

  1. What was the last CD you purchased? I couldn't tell you -- I haven't bought a CD in probably 4.5 years. If I had to guess, the last CD I bought was the Corrs...
  2. Did you like it?...and I loved it.
  3. Is it the kind of music you would call your favorite? I listen to everything, from Billie Holiday, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, through the 80s to now. I probably listen less to country and rap than rock and pop though.
  4. What was the first album (CD for you youngsters) you ever owned? Ummm... Faith Hill.. which I still listen to.
  5. And what was your favorite cut from that recording? Bed of Roses.

19 October 2005

singing after katrina

One of my favorite hymns is Eternal Father, Strong to Save. I've begun to wonder how I can sing this realistically and with compassion, given the destructive power of the waters... Of course, this hymn has its origin as a message of hope for those who labored on the sea, so it comes out of the knowledge those men and their families had of the great dangers they faced. Thoughts?

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ, Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit, Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
They children shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

18 October 2005

sermon time!

I'll be preaching at the Friday Healing Eucharist in the Seminary Chapel next week. I get to choose my texts from the healing propers, choose the hymns, and choose the eucharistic prayers even. So I'm really excited and also reeeeeally overwhelmed. I have preached once before, but that was over 2 years ago, and I don't know how nervous I'll be as it approaches. I'm hoping that it goes well, and at the moment I'm urgently picking out music and hoping that will be ok.

A glutton for a busy life, am I. I probably shouldn't have offered myself up as a substitute, but here goes leaping into the whirlwind!

Readings, from the healing propers:
Isaiah 35 or Isaiah 49:14-16 (I'm debating)
Ps. 23
1 Peter 2:21-24
John 6:47-51

Hymns/etc are still completely unknown at this point, but I do know that I'm preaching on a theme of 'we are a broken people,' and the redemption and healing we are offered through the sacrifice of Christ. I'll need a song of praise, an offertory, a communion hymn, and a post-communion hymn. (I selected S169 as the fraction anthem for those of the Episcopalians out there.) Soooo many choices. Our chapel uses the 1982 Hymnal, LEVAS, WLP, Gather, and about 5 other hymnodies, so it's really hard to narrow it down.

So now I turn to my music choices....

12 October 2005

cpe dilemmas

I'm applying to CPE programs for next summer and I am much undecided about where I want to be and such.

(1) Cleveland, in a hospital. Benefits: near my parish, so I can connect with people and stay in touch; less expensive. Negatives: away from the Certain Someone.
(2) Near the Seminary, in a hospital. Benefits: continue to live in my space. Negatives: not in Cleveland; most expensive.
(3) New Hampshire, residential elder care facility. Benefits: continuity of relationships and pastoral work; not in a hospital/acute care center; I like the supervisor. Negatives: away from the Certain Someone; not in Cleveland; more expensive.

Guidance anyone?

The real kicker is that all of this is bound up in the wedding plans for next summer, which hinge in part of where I am and when I'm not bound to the CPE program.