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Found by Faith

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  I had noted the passage in my journal but seemed to move away from it as I headed out to drive the beautiful foothills of the Berkshires. “There are seasons when we hold onto our faith, and then there are seasons when our faith holds us.” Rachel Held Evans I thought mistakenly it was up to me… Suddenly I almost veered off the road when I noticed the floor of the now almost barren forest was glowing red. Faith had found me, grabbed me. Isn’t that what happened when Moses encountered the burning bush? I wonder whether taking off my shoes will sustain the hold. So I wrote this: I learned a lesson today Beyond the loss of foliage on the trees Is a gain of brilliance in the forest. The denuded arboretum Now opens to a spreading sprawling burning bush-like radiance And reveals a glory unconsumed. Take off your shoes You are witnesses to holy ground I had never paused before Assuming winter darkness had irrevocably descended Instead I had already resigned to wait for spring And resurrection

The Still Point of the Turning World

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  Blessed be God who animates our lives and calls us to be Kingdom bearers of the extraordinary kingdom of love and peace and justice. AMEN We gather together this morning to celebrate the end of one liturgical year as we anticipate the beginning of another with Advent Year C. We call this Sunday’s celebration the Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday. It is no ordinary Reign or Kingdom and no ordinary King. It is the still point of the turning world. Amidst the gathering time of Thanksgiving when all is safely gathered in before the winter storm begins, before the Christmas swarm begins, we as Christians pause on the arc of our liturgical year. Ordinary time comes to an end, paradox and irony abound. We are somewhat consoled at this arrival or at least in this pause; yet there is an anxiety still. Language of kingship and kingdom can be disconcerting. We know more than we did about divine power as contrasted with secular human power. In this non liturgical year the physical and th

Prayer for Your Weekend

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  A Prayer for Your Weekend by Ted Loder (Guerrillas for Grace) Oh God, gather me now to be with you as you are with me. Soothe my tiredness; quiet my fretfulness; curb my aimlessness; relieve my compulsiveness; let me be easy for a moment. O Lord, release me from the fears and guilts which grip me so tightly; from the expectations and opinions which I so tightly grip, that I may be open to receiving what you give, to risking something genuinely new, to learning something refreshingly different. Forgive me for claiming so much for myself that I leave no room for gratitude; for confusing exercises in self-importance with acceptance of self-worth; for complaining so much of my burdens that I become a burden; for competing against others so insidiously that I stifle celebrating them and receiving your blessing through their gifts. O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me. Amen. It is that time of year when the refrain “all is safely gathered in” becomes all important. It is not

Stories of Destiny

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  Helen Keller's is a favorite story “ I realized that story needs to be tended with truth, vulnerability, change, and inquiry in order to hold its integrity.” Padraig O’Tuama When I came across the quote above, something resounded in my soul. The “how” of story-telling can be as important as the “what”. Most of my life I have loved stories, especially biographical. I have loved unexpected courage and restorative justice. That passion has translated in many ways into preaching. That which shimmers for me in Scripture and the scripture of life, is often realization of identity in God, conversion from one way of being to another, dignity appreciated and honored, and kindness, always kindness. All stories tended with the kind of exquisite scrutiny O’Tuama describes radiate an underlying holiness which seems to be that which Creation intended. And there it is, the word “in-tended”. Perhaps our entire lives become more meaningful when tenderness soaks and drenches our life stories, our

The Worst Thing We Ever Did

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  The worst thing we ever did was put God in the sky out of reach pulling the divinity from the leaf, sifting out the holy from our bones, insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement through everything we’ve made a hard commitment to see as ordinary, stripping the sacred from everywhere to put in a cloud man elsewhere, prying closeness from your heart. The worst thing we ever did was take the dance and the song out of prayer made it sit up straight and cross its legs removed it of rejoicing wiped clean its hip sway, its questions, its ecstatic yowl, its tears. The worst thing we ever did is pretend God isn’t the easiest thing in this Universe available to every soul in every breath. by Chelan Harkin This poem was read during a weekly poetry group which has been meeting on Zoom since March 2020. We have been touched and healed, comforted and inspired, by now thousands of poems. But none more powerful than this, I think. I have been haunted, especially recently, by the institutionalization o

Not by Navigation

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  St. Augustine said: We come to God not by navigation, but by love. This seems very wise to me. Somehow we keep falling back on navigational charts, analytical spreadsheets, and datapoints! As the poet said: Old maps no longer work! at least not when journeying with God through life. And not when emerging from pandemics! Love is one of those invisible forces which does guide. Love is never wrong even though it can lead us into difficult places. Love sometimes feels to me like a radioactive isotope, tiny, radiant, powerful and magnetic. As we journey then we might pause and deeply breathe the love, in and out. It may just be a more reliable compass. May love be our guide.

Flickering Mind

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  I stumbled upon this poem by Denise Levertov the other day and then it appeared in another’s email. I decided to pay attention!   Flickering Mind Lord, not you, it is I who am absent. At first belief was a joy I kept in secret, stealing alone into sacred places: a quick glance, and away — and back, circling. I have long since uttered your name but now I elude your presence. I stop to think about you, and my mind at once like a minnow darts away, darts into the shadows, into gleams that fret unceasing over the river's purling and passing. Not for one second will my self hold still, but wanders anywhere, everywhere it can turn. Not you, it is I am absent. You are the stream, the fish, the light, the pulsing shadow, you the unchanging presence, in whom all moves and changes. How can I focus my flickering, perceive at the fountain's heart the sapphire I know is there? + Denise Levertov I had not considered the word “flickering” much before. It seems just right, hopeful, as much a

Overwhelmings

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  “Overwhelming” is a word which I may have heard daily over the last two years. At their worst, overwhelmings paralyze, injure, and confuse. They knock us off course or at least off the course we thought we ought be on. And yet as I take stock of some of the experiences and learnings from the last two years, I cannot help but feel that there is something valuable and formative in the overwhelmings of the pandemics. And I am trying to discern what they might be… In his book The Shape of Living, theologian David Ford introduces his theory of shapes of living as emerging from the overwhelmings of life: sex, money, war, crashes, disease, death…To his list I now add pandemics: viral and of social injustice.  What shapes are our lives taking now? Have we closed in on ourselves? Are we emerging with tentative stop and start like hyphenated fits? Are we racing to a “top” because we feel we must before the next “crisis” occurs? I am working on a slow gentle arc of a shape. One which feels like

Be the Glue

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  Blessed be God who animates our lives and calls us to question and to understand radically subversive ways of leadership. AMEN The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. These critical words come at the height of Jesus’ conversation with/lecture to the disciples who are grappling with greatness, letting go of their own notions of such and embracing or living into God’s greatness offered. In fact if we take a larger view of the last few weeks this is the third time the disciples have grossly misunderstood holy greatness! Yet we are somewhat consoled because three is a magic number in the Bible. Jesus has been very patient with their continued misunderstandings. In this Gospel passage He challenges them in the face of their selfish requests to dig deeper and enter a new understanding of what following Jesus means, what the implications of going to the cross are, and whose ultimate leadership and authority is at issue: not theirs or any

FOR CALLING THE SPIRIT BACK FROM WANDERING THE EARTH IN ITS HUMAN FEET

                        For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in its Human Feet Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop. Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control. Open the door, then close it behind you. Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean. Give it back with gratitude. If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back. Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire. Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time. Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters. Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you. Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them. Don