Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Trinity Sunday: Imagine!


Sunday morning FaceBook Reflection
Trinity Sunday - June 4, 2023

Good Sunday morning, good people of the universe. It's a lovely, sunny-but-cool Spring morning, the first Sunday in June, and the early days of Pride Month.

In Christian circles, today is Trinity Sunday. I didn't go to church this morning. I watched it live-streaming. But, last night, I read a really good sermon on the Trinity written by a dear friend and colleague who is an octogenarian which really resonated with me. I've been "chewing" on it ever since - the mark of a good sermon, in my book.

I wish she had told a story - she's a good storyteller - but she had just enough of what I call "pragmatic mysticism" to be satisfying to my spirituality. I'm not going to get into a whole discussion of all the different kinds of mysticism practiced by various folk. Here's what I want to say about it:

A mysticism that is pragmatic deals with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations but not in the physical world. It deals with knowledge inaccessible to the intellect obtained through contemplation and meditation; it is not a system of beliefs or theoretical assumptions that are unreliable.

I think Jung described it best when he talked about things like "synchronicity" and "collective unconscious"- that place in the cosmos (or unconscious mind) that contains archetypes, or universal primordial images and ideas. It's a manifestation of the old saying, "There is no original thought."

In her sermon, my friend asked why we need a Doctrine of the Trinity. She answered it simply and honestly by saying that "we humans have to have an explanation for almost everything."

And thus we get not only one but two Creation stories in Genesis. And, the Virgin Birth. And, the Resurrection. And, of course, The Trinity.

I think the best explanation I've heard of the mysteries in life like The Trinity came from the character Neytiri in the epic film Avatar. Her student and Avatar, Jacke Sully, reports what she has taught him from her people, the Na’vi, who live on Pandora.

"There is a network of energy that flows through all living things. All energy is borrowed and one day you have to give it back."

That's it. Right there. The Resurrection and the Trinity explained in two simple sentences. We could bundle up all the theological doctrine and mysteries in those two sentences as well, including the Virgin Birth and Eternal Life.

It's pragmatic mysticism - something we 'know' to be true without needing an intellectual discussion or explanation. Or, perhaps, in spite of it.

I'm not preaching on The Trinity in a church today but if I were, I would begin by calling for a Spiritual Revolution, because that's what I think The Trinity does.

I think it begs for it. Insists on it. Practically demands it by continuing the Pentecost Effect and confounding everything we have carefully constructed to keep us separate: language, race, and now, creed and time.

God is no longer just a white-haired old man sitting high in the heavens, judging us. God is within us, revealed to us in Christ Jesus. And, God is around us and in all of creation, as revealed to us by The Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete.

God is not just one thing or one person. God is not even just The Trinity but more than that - dummied down so that we can pretend to understand how it all works.

But, we don't. We simply don't have the intellectual capacity and the language as humans to express the mystery that is at the center of every creature which lives and moves and has its being in all of the greater mystery of creation.

The closest we can come to understanding The Mysterium Grandum is that God is like a network of energy that flows through all things.

The Chinese call it Chi. In Sanskrit, it is called Prana. It is also called Ki or circulating energy in the practice of Asian acupuncture. In the Qur'an, it is called Ruh. In the Talmud, Ruach. In Greek, pneuma.

Among the indigenous people of the Algonquin, it is called Manitou. Among some Native Americans, there are nine spirit guides that sometimes appear on a Totem, calling their spirit energy to enlighten, enliven and protect the community (tribe). In some Native American cultures, the four winds are also called into being in the Medicine Wheel or Sacred Hoop to maintain health and healing.

There's more - much more - but I'll stop there.

Christians call it "Holy Spirit" which we say is part of The Trinity. And, in our arrogance, we think and act like we own the idea.

I think Trinity Sunday calls for a Spiritual Revolution to honor the network of energies - the Eywa - which connect us, everyone of every race, culture, language, age, and creed, and time to ourselves and to each other.

Imagine what would happen if we moved beyond the words on the dusty pages of doctrine and discipline and opened not just our minds but our hearts to be in relationships and interrelationships with each other and all creatures and creation.


I think that's exactly the Spiritual Revolution that The Trinity calls us to experience, deep in our souls. Imagine more than what's here. Imagine more than the limits of our intellect and the constructs of our time and place. Imagine relationships with some ones and some things vastly different from our selves.

Imagine what that would do to our world. Could war even be a possibility anymore? Might we be able to stop pollution, repair our climate, and heal our planet?

On this Trinity Sunday, were I in a pulpit, I just might challenge everyone to begin the Spiritual Revolution by eating an apple. I mean, eat it and really taste it - its skin and pulp and juices - and enjoy it as if it were a forbidden fruit.

Look at the Spiritual Revolution our ancestors tell us started when a man and a woman ate an apple in a garden and began to realize things they had never before imagined possible.

As Jake Sully says, "Sooner or later though, you always have to wake up."

Make it a great day, everybody.

Bom dia!

Sunday, May 28, 2023

PENTECOST: The Language of Love

St. Martha's Episcopal Church
Bethany Beach, DE
Pentecost - May 28, 2023 

I suppose I was about six years old. I don’t remember the exact age but I had started school, I know that. And, I was under the kitchen table in my grandmother’s kitchen. 


As I reflect on that time - that particular memory - I think I've come to understand a bit better at least some of what happened at Pentecost.

I was hiding there, under that kitchen table. I remember seeing legs – lots of legs. And shoes. Men’s legs. Men’s dress shoes and sneakers.

Women’s legs, every one of them clothed in what my mother always called “silk stockings” even when they were clearly no longer made of silk; but the kind favored by the women in my family still had the distinctive black seam up the back.

And, high heels. No square proper Episcopal heel for the Medeiros women, but not exactly stilettos either. And, they favored the open-toe style worn by their sheroes, Betty Davis and Rita Hayworth.


I loved these people – my uncles and aunts and cousins. They were my family. But, in that moment, I was ashamed of them. Because, I was ashamed of me. I was ashamed because they were all talking in a mixture of Portuguese and Azorean.

There was some English spoken by my younger cousins but it was discouraged so my grandmother could understand what was being said. Over in the corner, my uncle’s mother-in-law and his wife, were having a conversation in Syrian and then that was translated, back and forth, between Portuguese and Syrian and some English.


I was under the kitchen table not because I was afraid but because I had to be there – it was required, the 11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Miss a Family Gathering – but I was ashamed. Deeply, deeply ashamed.

I had just started school and my English was deemed to be insufficient for the comprehension necessary for the level of my classmates.

So, I was placed in a “special needs” class. No, that’s not what we called it back then. Back then, the school system used words like “low functioning” and “retarded” and they had been mandated to provide public education for that demographic of children.

Clearly, no one liked that new mandate. And, it showed.

The school system didn’t know what to do with immigrant kids like me so they placed us in the classroom with the kids who were otherwise functioning at levels on lower par than the rest of the kids.


I remember my parents being told about my class placement. I remember my parents being FURIOUS. I remember my parents being ashamed. My mother declared, right then and there, that even though we lived in the apartment above my grandmother, henceforth, furthermore and For Ever, in HER house, we were going to speak only English. No Portuguese speaking allowed.

And, so it was.

I was hiding under the kitchen table because I didn’t want to speak Portuguese, or have my Portuguese translated to Syrian. I didn’t want to talk because I was ashamed to speak. I knew my role was to live out The Great American Dream for my family and I felt deep shame that before it even began, my academic career was an enormous failure.

Remembering that time in my life has led to an insight about our reading this morning from the 20th chapter of the Gospel of St. John.

We are told that the apostles were hiding in that Upper Room with the door locked for fear of the religious leaders of Israel.

Oh, I’m sure they were afraid. Shocked. Stunned, no doubt, and they also wondered, I’m sure, if what had been done to their Lord might also be done to them. Never mind fear! Oh, the horror! Oh, the sheer terror.

But, I suspect that there was also some shame involved. I have a feeling they suspected that they had failed in their mission. They were supposed to be part of the building of a whole New World, one where the highest standards were love and peace. Instead, they had watched in horror as their leader was led to his death with intense hatred and violence.


Could they have done anything to stop it? Why, oh why, had they fallen asleep in The Garden? If they had had a clue, would someone have considered the betrayal of Judas and talked him out of it?  If they had been on guard, might they have seen the soldiers coming?


Fear, yes. Of course. But, more. Guilt. Shame.

So, when Jesus says, "Peace" to them, not once but twice, I’m sure he was saying that not directed so much at their fear as their shame.  I think this is why, after he breathed the Holy Spirit on them he said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”


And, there it is: Absolution. No guilt. No shame. No fear. Just the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I remember two moments of absolution for my shame and fear and guilt. The first was from my Aunt Jackie, the wife of my Uncle Gilbert who was the youngest and the shortest which led some of his brothers to call him “Runt” but everybody else called him “Shorty”. He was, affectionately, "Uncle Shorty".


My Aunt Jackie had been looking for me. She liked talking with me and I with her. She found me interesting. She liked my ideas. She liked the books I was reading, took the trouble to read them too, and took me to the library to get new books. She understood my sense of humor.

Suddenly, the table cloth swooped up and she came crawling in under the kitchen table and sat down next to me.

I said nothing.  Mercifully, neither did she.

Then, she leaned in and said to me in a low voice, “Hey, kiddo. Your mom told me what happened to you in school. Well, you are going to think I’m crazy for saying this but, when you are older – not too old, maybe even before you are my age – you are going to see that this may have been the best thing that ever happened to you.


I raised my eyebrows and my mouth opened in disbelief.

“I know, I know,” she said. It doesn’t seem that way right now, but I’m telling you that right now you feel sad and I understand that. But, listen to me.  You haven’t let anyone down. We know you are smart. The teachers at your school are not smart enough to figure out just how smart you are. They will. You wait and see. Because of this, you are going to be kinder and will work harder to be smarter. Your family is very proud of you. I am very proud of you. You’ll see. This will all work out just fine.”


And then she put her arm around me while I wept. When I stopped, she got up and left and returned with a plate full of all my favorite foods. She and I sat under the kitchen table in my grandmother’s house and ate all of her Portuguese delicacies and spoke only English.

I felt forgiven and understood and ready to face school on Monday.


And, that’s when I got my second absolution.

My teacher’s name was Miss Kelleher. I can still see her kind face and sparkling eyes in front of me. She had silver-gray hair which she wore in the style of Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower. She always wore silky shirts with a loose bow that fell on her chest.


She pulled me aside and said, “Listen, I know you feel bad for being in here, but I’m going to help you. And, you are going to help me to help these kids. So, I’m going to work with you at every break and, if you want, after school. By the end of this quarter, you’ll be back in your regular class. I promise you. Until then, you will help me with some of these kids who need extra attention. Is that a deal?”

Oh, boy, was it ever!


Miss Kelleher was absolutely right. I did pick up correct English and comprehension very quickly and I was ready, actually, by mid-quarter to go to the regular classroom. But, beside English I had learned a few other languages and I wanted more time to practice.

The kids I worked with were great teachers. They taught me the language of compassion. They taught me the language of kindness. Thing of it is, while there were a few words to the language of kindness and compassion, none were really required. The fewer the better, in fact. Better a squeeze of the hand, a pat on the shoulder, a warm, authentic smile.

As I worked with kids who were compromised intellectually and/or physically, I also learned the language of patience. I’ve never really mastered that one, though. I’m much more patient with others than I am with myself, but that’s another story for another time.

My Pentecost moment, like that of the apostles, came when I was able to feel forgiveness, not just from others, but able to forgive myself for all my shortcomings and perceived failures.

That moment of Pentecost has come to revisit me and that has inspired other moments of forgiveness and unity as well as compassion and kindness, understanding and peace.

The history of the world, like the history of the church, is filled with stories of people who refuse to listen to strange tongues, Christians who refuse to learn from different ways of being.

Pentecost offers us a different way, where the Spirit affirms our differences, speaking in ways that each of us can understand—and yet drawing us together, around the same table, into communion.

That’s how the day of Pentecost ends, with all these strangers eating together. “So those who welcomed [the] message were baptized, [and] they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:41-42); “they broke bread from home to home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46).

The miracle of communication that happened on Pentecost birthed a miracle of communion, to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and hope for the miracle of knowing God in a meal, in each other – just as I knew God in my Aunt Jackie bringing me a plate of my favorite food for our own picnic under my grandmother’s table, and the way Miss Kelleher helped me to learn English during snack break at the lunch table in first grade.

Communion is an invitation to come together around a table and to let Jesus stretch us into relationships with one another, with people who are the same and different, as we struggle to understand God, as we struggle to understand each other.

In Luke’s reporting of Pentecost, red tongues of flame landed on everyone’s head and although different languages were spoken, everyone understood. That’s because the language of God is the language taught to us by Jesus and that language is the language of love.

The love of God, in the words of the poet Angi Sullens, which “comes to collect your failures, one by one, making honey from the bitter/making music in the void / making wings where there were wounds.”

I hope you commit to learning a new language this Pentecost – the language of the Love of God which can cross any barrier of culture, dissolve any wall built by fear, open any door locked by shame, melt any heart frozen by guilt, and lead us to that peace of God which surpasses all human understanding.   





Sunday, May 21, 2023

"As we are one"


“Protect them . . .  so that they may be one, as we are one."

 A Sermon for Easter VII - May 21, 2023

St. Martha's Episcopal Church - Bethany Beach, DE

Long ago, in another galaxy, far, far away, I was asked to lead a retreat for clergy of another denomination that shall go nameless ‘lest someone be tempted to make this story about that – or, them.


I arrived in plenty of time to set up and settle in and then found my way into the line for the obligatory morning coffee/tea and pastry AKA “Continental breakfast” AKA “Carbohydrate Overload”.

As I looked around the room, I was pleased to see that all the clergy had come in their casual clothes – lots of jeans, a few baggy sweatpants, and not a clergy collar or black shirt in sight. I turned to the person just behind me in line and said, “Good morning.” He returned the greeting in a rather perfunctory manner.


Pursued by the unrelenting enthusiasm with which I am normally blessed, I pressed on, “And where do you serve?” I asked cheerily. He pulled himself up as he took a deep breath and said, “I . . . . am the bishop.”


My inner child yelped, “Yikes!” but the theme song of my teen years drowned her out and I heard Diana Ross and the Supremes sing, “I’m gonna make you love me.” I mean, we were going to be together for two and a half days. I had to redeem this stumble at the start line.


More importantly, the whole theme of my retreat was an emphasis on “the oneness of the One we serve”. I was not about to let that be blocked by the barrier of a piece of clothing of a particular color.


I said to the bishop, “Well, son of a gun! I guess that’s what the purple shirt is all about, right?”


Silence. Stone cold. Not even a crooked little smile that might indicate some entertainment value, just a condescending glance that, to me, also communicated shame.

I mean, just who did I think I was? This is the church where some of us, at least, do things that are, “meet, right and proper so to do.” There are customs to be observed, traditions to follow, canons and rubrics and resolutions, oh my!

Silly me! I had this idea that when we are called together as religious leaders, the idea is to open our hearts and lives to what God might have to say to us in a particular space in time so that we might receive a blessing or at least be “entertained by angels unaware”. The spiritual and emotional space between the two of us in the lengthening continental breakfast line did not feel like much of a blessing.

As I spent some time reading and reflecting on today’s gospel, the memory of this incident came rushing back to me. As I recall, the retreat was held around this time of year, after Easter, before Pentecost and around the time of the Ascension.


We were studying what is known as “The Farewell Discourses” which may be a little confusing for those of you who are paying close attention. If you were thinking to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t Jesus say these words BEFORE the Crucifixion and BEFORE the Resurrection? Why are we hearing these words now? It’s after Easter! After the Resurrection! And, in fact, the Ascension.”

 Well, as my friend and rector, Jeff Ross notes, “There are only so many post resurrection stories to tell and there are 50 days or 7 Sundays before Pentecost.” As is sometimes true in the church, pragmatics trump theology.

These words are part of what is known as The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. The passage is introduced by these words: “Jesus looked up to heaven . . .,” which puts Jesus in the posture of prayer.  

It’s hard to miss the consistent theme of his prayer: Unity. Jesus wants us to be one, even as he and God and the Holy Spirit are one.

Unity is the constant prayer on the lips of Jesus. It’s in the New Commandment he gave us in that Upper Room when he washed their feet. “Love one another,” he said, “as I have loved you.” And, now he prays, “ . . . protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

My favorite religious cartoon about this is from “Man Overboard” which pictures Jesus ascending into heaven, waving and saying, “Buh-Bye boys, remember everything I told you.”

And the disciples are saying, “Buh-Bye boss, we will.”

And, as just the feet of Jesus can be seen at the top of the cartoon, they look at each other and say, “What did he teach us?”

And, someone says, “Love one another. Stay together. Be one.”

“Right,” they say, “that shouldn’t be hard.”

And then they see a group of men in academic robes and hoods coming toward them and one of the disciples says, “Uh-oh, here come the theologians.”

You know, that cartoon has got a point. Maybe we do overthink things. I mean, if we can let the color of a clergy shirt – or even just a clergy shirt – get in the way of our relationships and define the status of our oneness, as it were,  it’s no wonder so much ministry for so much of the world’s needs goes wanting.   

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that we, as a nation, are so sharply divided. Oh, there have been times, even in my lifetime, when it was worse, but that was then and this is now and now feels pretty bad. The hypocrisy of some of our leadership – political, religious and secular – is thick enough to cut clean through with a butter knife.

Jesus says, “Protect them . . .  so that they may be one, as we are one.” Protection. Perhaps that’s what we need. Protection – maybe mostly, we need protection. from ourselves. Turns out, we are, in fact, our own worst enemies.

It will come as no surprise to a few people in this church that when I pray for protection, I often turn to my grandmother for wisdom.


My grandmother was an immigrant from Portugal who married an immigrant from the Azores. Large families were typical in those days but they had 20 pregnancies and 22 children, fifteen of whom lived to adulthood.

My memory of my early years growing up in the midst of that family could be summed up in one word: Loud. People in my family always seemed to be shouting – even when they were happy. You’ve heard the expression: Laugh out loud. That was the only way my family knew how to laugh. The knob on the volume always seemed to be set on 11.

Several of my aunts and uncles moved as far away as they could. My Aunt Alice eloped and moved across country to Seattle, Washington. My uncle Manuel married a woman older than my grandmother and lived with her in Jacksonville, FL. My uncle John married a Syrian woman and became subsumed in that immigrant family. My grandmother grieved all of these losses as deeply as she mourned the loss of her son, August, who died in a factory explosion.


As one would imagine in a family that size, there were always squabbles and disagreements – and, as I recall – it particularly involved one of the girls. Her name was Deolinda and she was tall and thin and scrappy. She had two boys from a marriage marked by domestic violence that ended in divorce.

She always seemed to be picking a fight with one of her siblings. My mother always walked away, refusing to engage with her. But, my aunt Hilda. Now, there was a different story.

When Hilda and Deolinda were in the same room – or outside in the back yard – you could see people begin to slowly move away like steel shavings at the wrong end of a magnet.


I once got brave enough to asked my grandmother why she never stepped in, why she never made them stop. She said two things I’ll never forget.

First she said that Deolinda had decided, somewhere in her life, that the proof of love was that she could use her words to push you far away, but if you stayed with her – if you came back – well, you must love her.


I remember saying to my grandmother, but that’s messed up. You shouldn’t have to prove love over and over again. And, my grandmother said that it was her fault. That, Deolinda was born at a time when one of her other babies had just died and another was sick and she hadn’t been able to pay much attention to her.

Her words of wisdom were once I’ll never forget, “Baby your babies when they are babies so they won’t act like babies when they’re adults.”

Listen to that again. Explains the behavior of some adults, doesn’t it?

And then she held up her hand and, with tears in her eyes, said, “A family is like a hand. Each finger is different. Each finger does something different. If you cut one off, the hand never functions quite the same ever again. But, if they stay together (wrapping her fingers around an invisible handle), they can work any tool, (putting her closed hands, one in front of the other) they can lift any burden, (making a fist), they can beat any adversary that comes their way.”

Jesus, in his High Priestly Prayer, looked up to heaven and said, “Protect them . . .  so that they may be one, as we are one.” That protection is never farther away than our own hands, which, with God’s guidance, can help us work together and lift each other up and defend ourselves.


In these troubled times in our nation, in the world, in our church or in our family, I hope you remember the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. Hold your hand up when you say it “ . . . that we may be one . . .” and remember the wisdom of my grandmother.

We all have our differences, but if we work together as one, if we keep in mind the mission and ministry of Christ Jesus into which we were baptized, there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish together.

And, let the church say, “Amen.”

(the Rev Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Emmanuel, Don't Do It!

Good Saturday morning, good citizens of the cosmos. It's the day before the First Sunday in Lent and, in anticipation of enduring the annual visitation of the dreaded Great Litany (Spare us, Good Lord), and the dirges that pass for Lenten hymns,

I've decided to turn my attention to the latest picture from Knucklebump Farm and giggle at the sweet faces of Taylor Blake and her emu, auspiciously named Emmanuel Todd Lopez.

Knucklebump Farm is a small "hobby farm", located in sizzling south Florida, "where animals wreak havoc on their caretakers and revolt against education".

They specialize in miniature cattle but there are emus like ETL who loves to peck on Taylor's iPhone while she's trying to teach a class, a deer who just loves the taste of human flesh, and a black swan who chooses violence "faster than Tristan Thompson chooses a new baby mama."

Lately, Taylor and her fiance, Kristian, have taken in an old dog, a cow herder, who was starved and emaciated with large open sores on his haunches, is crippled by arthritis, and was abandoned on the side of the road. They named him Old George, gave him food and a bed and toys and lots and lots of love - oh, and treatment by a Vet - and well, by gosh, Old George is walking and living his best life.

Sometimes, they even put a blanket down on the grass for him so he can visit with the cattle that look very much like the cows he's herded most of his life.

They've also taken in Axel, a teeny-tiny newborn German Shepherd pup who, for some unknown reason, was bitten by his mother and had his skull crushed in the process.

Axel has also gotten expert Vet care and, for a while, we didn't think he'd make it but he's doing okay now - walking a little wobbly, and his head tilts to the side but looks like Axel gonna make it, after all.

The sad news the other day was that Tiny Norman, a Berkshire pig who was born about 3/4 of the weight he was supposed to, and after a really strong rally and after Taylor spent 6 hours at the Vet on only 2 hours of sleep, lost his battle and died.

We almost lost Emmanuel just 5 months ago when a strain of Avian Flu came to Knucklebump Farm and killed off hundreds of their chicks, hens, and roosters.

Taylor spent four months sleeping in the barn with this emu, nursing him round the clock back to health. For a while there, he couldn't walk and couldn't lift his head to feed himself, but all of that is just past history now.

You may have seen clips of Taylor and Emmanuel on Twitter or Instagram or FaceBook (search: eco sister). The setup is that Taylor is broadcasting a lesson on one of the farm animals on her iPhone and Emmanual comes by, at first very curious about the iPhone and then, not at all happy that this ... thing... is getting more of Taylor's attention than he is.

The video is hilarious documentation of Taylor saying, "Emmanuel Todd Lopez, don't do it. Don't. Do. It. EMMANUEL TODD LOPEZ! Don't. Do. It!! Do NOT choose violence today."

All the while, ETL is pecking away and then, the iPhone topples over and Taylor expresses her distress while ETL looks down at the iPhone and we get an up-close and personal "inside look" at the nostrils on Emmanuel's beak.

Emmanuel has sisters, Ellen and Regina, who also disrupt the videos, but not with the same frequency as Emmanuel.

Here, you can watch this clip and get all caught up on their antics:

Personally? I think this is a brilliant (if not Great) Litany to start Lent. It's the story of the Garden of Eden. All of God's creatures are cursed and blessed with curiosity. We're all tempted. We all fall short of the mark. It's in our nature.

I think, "Emmanuel Don't Do It" has a much nicer sound than the stiffly British refrain of "Spare us, Good Lord."

But, that's just me. I'm sure many of my devoted Anglo-Catholic brothers (and, it's mostly the brothers) are holding their heads in both hands and sighing deeply.

It's okay. We differ on this every year, but we still love one another.

Tomorrow, also in my branch of Christianity (Jesus said he is the vine, we are the branches John 15), we will be reading the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness right after his baptism in the Jordan by John. (Mt 4:1-11). The passage ends with "Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him."

I take great hope in the fact that even after we have endured the tedious, outdated solemn antiquity of The Great Litany, we will be ministered to by an angel or two, sent to wait on us and revive us.

So, I join Taylor in wishing you a wonderful Saturday, filled with hope and love and promise and good deeds done well.

And, as my people in Portugal, the Azores, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, & São Tomé and Príncipe are of't wont to say. . . .

"Bom dia, meus amigos!"

Lent I: Great Expectations

The First Sunday in Lent - February 26,2023
St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Millsboro, DE
(the Rev Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

Was anyone else required to read Great Expectations in high school?

It’s been a while so let me briefly refresh your memory in the “Cliff Notes” version:
Charles Dickens's Great Expectations tells the story of Pip, an English orphan who rises to wealth, deserts his true friends, and becomes humbled by his own arrogance.

The moral theme of Great Expectations is quite simple: affection, loyalty, and conscience are more important than social advancement, wealth, and class.


Every couple of years, I think about that book – or, at least, the title – as we enter the Season of Lent. I have often set Great Expectations for myself, only to fail miserably. Oh, I’m sure you’ve done the same.

I’m going to give up chocolate, I say on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. Right! Sure, I am! In my mind, I’m a real champion of sacrifice. A veritable paragon of virtue.


Sometimes I even last to mid-Lent. And then come a Sunday when someone brings brownies to Coffee Hour and I can resist anything but temptation. Oh, I play neat tricks on myself. Sundays are not counted in Lent. Did you know that? Or, am I telling you something new?


If you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Ends Holy Saturday, you’ll find there are 46 days, including Lent. You have to back Sundays out of the equation to get to 40.

Wait. Did I just bring you to the near occasion of sin? Did you just figure out, as I did, that on Sundays, you can have whatever it is you’ve given up because Sundays are the Lords’ Day and never part of Lent?


Oopsie! You’re already drooling for sweets at Coffee Hour aren’t you? Or, tonight, you’re going to have that class of wine you’ve given up, aren’t you? Sorry. It was the snake made me do it. Which gets me to why it is I think of the theme of Great Expectations.


I think it started with God. In the Garden. God certainly had Great Expectations for Adam and Eve. They were great because they were simple: Just stay away from the tree in the center of the garden. Do not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. That’s it. Easy, right? Apparently not when there’s a snake and a woman involved.  

Great Expectations continues with Jesus, out there in the wilderness. He is tempted not by a snively old snake but the Devil himself. And, he gets tested three kinds of ways on three issues that are central to the enterprise of being human: Hunger, Power and Glory.

The difference in the temptations in Eden vs the temptations in The Wilderness is like the difference between playing Chutes and Ladders vs. 3-dimensional Chess.


Unlike Adam, Jesus passes with flying colors. Just as we expect him to. As St. Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome, For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”


I used to have a coffee mug my kids gave me. On the outside it said, “If you want me to live up to your expectations,” and on the inside it said, “lower your expectations.” Good advice for any parent. I find that I say that to God with some frequency. “Sorry I disappointed, God. Better lower those expectations a tad.”


From time to time, we all miss the mark. That’s just baked into our DNA as humans. We fail. We just do. We fail, we miss the mark, I think, because we forget what the mark is. We forget what it is this life is all about. Why we are here.


Let me give you an example. I want to tell you a story about Hank and Rhoda. Hank was a Hospice patient of mine. That’s not their names, of course, but Hank and Rhoda could be any couple in the rural area of Sussex County.

Of all the stories I heard about Hank these two about Hank and Rhoda became the bookends of all the stories of their 57 years of married life together.

Hank met Rhoda when he was 19 and she was 12. Rhoda was on vacation with her family in DE and when she and her two sisters walked to the dance hall they went by Hank's house where he was outside washing his car. That’s when he first laid eyes on her and was totally smitten.

At the end of her vacation, Rhoda went back home to PA and Hank went into the Navy. At the end of his Navy career, he was stationed in Philadelphia and decided, just on a whim, to look up Rhoda.

He went to the addresses he had for her only to find that her family had moved. Hank started calling everyone with her last name that was listed in the phone book (remember those?), asking them if they had a daughter Rhoda. He called and called and called all day and into the evening until he found her.

He surprised her one night when she was leaving her job at the A&P store and showed up in his Navy uniform and instantly won Rhoda's heart. At the time Rhoda was already sorta-kinda "engaged" to someone else, but once she saw Hank in his Navy uniform, she broke off her relationship with the other guy and "Hank and Rhoda have been together ever since".

The second story is one that is more recent. A few years ago, Rhoda need to be admitted to a local skilled nursing facility for a few weeks of IV antibiotics. Once she had the dose of medicine, she was allowed to come home for a few hours and had to be back to the facility by bedtime.

Hank was always used to Rhoda taking care of him, so when she came home he still expected her to clean the house, do the laundry and cook his meals. One day, while she was home, they had a disagreement and he was fussing and she decided that she was not coming home for the day anymore until she was discharged because she was just not able to do the regular housework and he just did not understand.

That night, he called his daughter and daughter in law and wanted a family meeting. He wanted an explanation of what exactly was wrong with Rhoda and why she was mad with him and then, his family told me, he cried. His "girls" told him that maybe he needed to do something special for Rhoda to show her he loved her and they suggested flowers.

Hank became very upset. "She knows I love her and I have never bought flowers in fifty some years and I am not going to start now," he thundered. Well, Rhoda wasn't going to give in either. She wasn't going to come home until Hank apologized.

The next morning, Hank called the florist and ordered "a dozen of their prettiest roses and he said he didn't care what the cost was". Then, he took the roses and his cane and went unsteady to the second floor of the Skilled Nursing Facility where Rhoda was staying.

The story was that no one was certain who cried more - Hank or Rhoda - but Rhoda called the girls that evening, crying happy tears and saying "in 50 plus years he's never given me flowers, much less roses." The girls said, "This story just goes to prove that it's never too late to give flowers and tell someone that you love them."

Well, yes. That is one thing that story just goes to prove. It also proves that it’s not so much the great expectations we have but the comfort we feel in the assumptions we have made.

And, it also true that life often tests us and finds us wanting but it’s never too late to rise to the challenge and exceed everyone’s expectations, even our own.


Lent is such a time. It doesn’t have to be grand and glorious or dramatic and tested on the battlefield. Forgiveness and redemption can be held in a simple bouquet of roses, brought by an aging, fragile body, to a spouse of over 50 years, and contained in a contrite heart.


I have learned that the most powerful three-word sentence in the English language – after “I love you,” is “I am sorry.” That one small sentence – said with truth and oftentimes courage – can melt a wall of ice built by anger and heal a heart broken by disappointment or betrayal.


Lent is such a time to examine our assumptions about our relationships, to take another look at the priorities in our life, to ask “What’s really important to me? What do I value most and how do I demonstrate that in how I live my life?”


Lent is a time to take out our household budget and see it as a statement of our theology – of what we believe about God. How we spend our money, where we place our treasurer, is a statement of our great expectations about ourselves and our family and God.


Lent is a time to admit our flaws and faults and those times we have trespassed against others and seek forgiveness for our trespasses and to forgive those who have trespassed against us.


Those are the great expectations of Lent, which are no less and no greater than Jesus has for us, which is to love ourselves and others as he loves us and sacrificed his life for the love of us.

And, to love wildly, generously, lavishly, and wastefully, the way God loves us. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ash Wednesday 2023

Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.

Later on today, I will impose ashes on the foreheads of those who are ancient of days and live in what used to be known as "Nursing Homes" but are now called "Extended Care Facilities" (ECF) or "Long Term Care Facilities" (LTCF).

They have long ago moved from - and some have forgotten - the homes they once lived in, and loved in, and made love in, and birthed and raised children in, and cooked fabulous meals in, and celebrated holidays and holy days in, and wept in and laughed in and cursed in and sang in.

And now, they share a room no bigger than their former living room with another who is also ancient of days, who cries out in the middle of the night for her children, or his comrades on the battlefield, or just simply, "Help me. Help me. Help me." until their voices are hoarse, yet they continue on in a whisper until the light of a new day filters in their room.

Maybe that's not so much the cry of the demented. Maybe they have seen something and know something we don't yet know and haven't yet seen.

Maybe asking for help is the most courageous thing they've ever said in the whole of their lives.

Maybe they are finally free to say it. Out loud.

All of their earthly possessions have been reduced and are now contained in one small closet and one four-drawer dresser, a bedside table, and a hospital bed.

And, implausible as it seems to ones who are younger than them, it is enough.

When I impose ashes on their foreheads and say the ancient words of this day, some will look away, others will look bored, but a few will look me right in the eye, silently accusing me of redundancy.

But there's always one - one ancient soul, whose memory has been replaced with wisdom (which may be the wisest thing), whose watery eyes will dance with some happiness, deeply hidden in the wrinkles and crevices of her face.

I will say, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return," and he will pat my hand and say, "Yes, yes, child," as if I am singing a freedom song.

And, perhaps I am. Perhaps that is the greatest wisdom scattered and hidden in the ashes I carry.

This pilgrimage we are on has a destination which is contained within itself. When we come to know that the journey is our home while we are here, there is a wonderful liberation. Or, so it seems.

All caution and disturbing memories and soul-wracking anxieties are thrown to the wind where it will be carried and scattered and somewhere, mingled with the light feathers of hope.

Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.

Scattered amidst the song of the limits of our mortality is the song of our liberation as children of God.

If you quiet yourself and still your wildly beating heart, you will hear it and then you will know the freedom to love wildly, generously,  lavishly, and wastefully, the way God loves us.

And you will find forgiveness for yourself and others.

And your soul will be free.

May that be your prayer as you being this Lenten Journey.

Friday, February 17, 2023

He Gets us


He gets us.

That's the message of the $100 million dollar campaign to "re-brand" Jesus. The target audience of this effort is young people and those who are skeptical about organized religion.

I've seen a couple of TV ads. You probably have, too. I didn't watch The Super Bowl, but I understand $17 Million was spent to air two He Gets Us ads during the game.

Which doesn't surprise me. The campaign is a natural fit with the NFL. Players often pray on the field and point to the heavens after touchdowns. Fans often hold up signs with "John 3:16" written on them.

A little bit of poking around on some of the research that has been done by those who have followed the money shows ties with all the usual suspects: Right-wing Evangelical Groups.

More specifically, the campaign is a subsidiary of The Servant Foundation, also known as the Signatry.

According to research compiled by Jacobin, a left-leaning news outlet, The Servant Foundation has donated tens of millions to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group. The ADF has been involved in several legislative pushes to curtail LGBTQ rights and quash non-discrimination legislation in the Supreme Court.

Surprised? I'm not. I'm sure you're not, either, not if you've been paying attention (or to use a word loathed by the Right: "woke").

Although most donors choose to remain anonymous, no one will be surprised to see that some of the big money comes from Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-a. Indeed, Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green claims to be a big contributor to the campaign’s multi-million-dollar coffers.

Hobby Lobby, of course, has famously been at the center of several legal controversies, including the support of anti-LGBTQ legislation and a successful years-long legal fight that eventually led to the Supreme Court allowing companies to deny medical coverage for contraception on the basis of religious beliefs.

So, they would know best that the Jesus they have hijacked and whose reputation they've tarnished now needs some "rebranding".

This quote from Green is so thick with irony you could choke on it. So, warning: Put down your beverage before reading it:

“We are wanting to say — ‘we’ being a lot of different people — that he gets us,” Green said. “[Jesus] understands us. He loves who we hate. I think we have to let the public know and create a movement.”

I mean . . . . seriously? "Jesus loves who we hate"? Do you think he even knows what he's saying or is he preaching mostly to himself?

“Be assured … we’re not ‘left’ or ‘right’ or a political organization of any kind,” the “He Gets Us” site reads. “We’re also not affiliated with any particular church or denomination.”

What they do have in common is the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, which is an important unifying document in evangelical Christian churches.

The Lausanne movement itself was started by evangelical Christian leader Billy Graham. Documents and decisions that have come out of the movement’s summits have decried the “idolatry of disordered sexuality” and focused heavily on the impact of the devil and sin on national cultures.

But, you know, He Gets us.

In my experience, the churches in the Lausanne Movement all adhere to pretty much the same theology. I call this theology "King Jesus" AKA "He who must be obeyed."

King Jesus has his own "Princes" (AKA "ministers," "pastors" and "reverends") and other members of His Royal Court (*His* church) who enforce all his "rules".

You know, like the 10 Commandments. And, every single last one of the 613 laws in Leviticus. Well, except the ones we don't pay attention to like touching pig skin, or tattoos, or mixing fabrics in clothing, or holding back the wages of an employee overnight, or . . . .

But, wait, you say. Jesus didn't say any of those things. Yes, the argument goes, but *His Father* did. And, besides, it's right there in Matthew where Jesus said, "I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose."

None of that is the point of the movement; it's the defense of the movement. And, the point? From where I sit, this is the second iteration of Mary Daley's logic. Daley famously posited:

If God is male, then male is god.

In this manifestation, the working hypothesis is: If Jesus is King, then Christians are sovereign.

And, if Christians are sovereign, then Christians rule the world.

And, if Christians rule the world, everyone has to follow Christian rules. See also: The 10 Commandments, the 163 Rules of Leviticus (well, the ones we like), The Five Fundamentals of Christianity (biblical inerrancy, nature divine of Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, resurrection of Christ, and his return), and the Lausanne Covenant.

So, with one, simple, three-word slogan campaign, the downward slide of Christian membership can be reversed, women brought under control, LGBTQ people abolished, and no more Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Ba'hi's, etc.

We'll all be one, even as Jesus and *the Father* are one. It's an answer to the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.

Brilliant, no? Um, no. I think young people are pretty savvy about the difference between slick marketing and authenticity. And skeptics are, well, skeptics for a reason, this being a good reason to continue to be skeptical.

There are lots of articles about He Gets Us that you can google for yourself. I hear lots of alarm bells going off about this movement - especially when I read that the campaign has a goal of raising one billion dollars to "rebrand" the name of Jesus that they, themselves, have tarnished.

The irony is almost overwhelming when it's not laughable.

I have more to say about the theology of this movement which I will address in another piece. Much of my thinking has come out of a conversation I had earlier this week with a gathering of clergy who were talking about The Transfiguration - which we'll be observing this Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent.

There's something about the emphasis on the humanity of Jesus in this "He Gets Us" Campaign that is in stark contrast with the mystery of the divinity of Jesus into which we are invited in The Transfiguration. I need to sit a bit more with this thought - maybe a long walk when it stops raining - to find the right words.

There are lots of videos you can watch from He Gets Us. This one "The Rebel" has netted 122 million views on YouTube in 11 months

Their web page is pretty slick, too. Check it out. It's pretty slick.

I don't think there's any question that Jesus gets us. The question is: Will this campaign really lead people to Jesus and, if it does, what path they will be encouraged to take?

I'll try to answer that question in my next reflection.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

A Red Letter Day in Black History Month for TEC

Today is a pretty amazing day on the calendar. Indeed, it is a Red Letter Day in Black History Month for The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.

Let me explain:

On February 11, 1989, Barbara Clementine Harris was consecrated as Bishop Suffragan of The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. I can’t even begin to explain what a monumental event this was in the life of the church.

I mean, she was the first woman in “God’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” to be elected and consecrated a bishop. And, that woman was also Black.

That made two major cracks in the Stained Glass Ceiling, and the shock waves reverberated around the Anglican Communion and the world. I remember flags with the symbol of the Episcopal Church being flown upside down, the international distress symbol.

There were anxious discussions at coffee hour and angry protests in front of churches and “Chicken Little” sermons preached from pulpits that declared that The Theological Sky Was Falling and the Anglican Communion would be no more.

You know, the way that was predicted in 1974 at the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven. And again, when Marriage Equality 2015 was finally achieved in our country and in our church. And, now, even now, in the UK as the Church of England approves the Rites of Blessings for Marriage (but not marriage) of LGBTQ people.

It was ever thus.

I remember that Bishop Barbara had received several death threats, but, in Barbara’s way, she refused to wear a Kevlar vest. “I don’t take this personally,” I remember her saying.

But it was. Personal. Very personal. You can’t get more personal than gender and race. And, the personal is, in fact, political. Which, turns out, is a very dangerous combination.

To wit: On February 11, 1990, one year after Bishop Barbara’s consecration, Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island prison. He had been incarcerated for 27 years for the political crime of leading the movement to end South African apartheid. Apartheid, of course, is the policy and system of segregation and discrimination on grounds of race – specifically, Black. Or, mixed race.

It doesn’t get more personal than that.

A decade later, on February 11, 2000, Michael Bruce Curry was elected Bishop of North Carolina on the 11th ballot. He wasn’t the first Black man ever to be elected bishop. There had been Bishops Suffragans, of course, who were Black. Indeed, in The Episcopal Church the office of Suffragan is inextricably linked with the struggle of Black Episcopalians for equality and recognition. "

See also: Harold Lewis “The History of Bishops Suffragan in TEC”

As Edward Rodman observed:
"The office of Suffragan Bishop grew out of the controversy of how to deal with "colored work." For in fact, there were those who believed that black suffragans under the authority of white diocesans would be a more effective missionary strategy for managing the growing number of small and primarily rural congregations that were developing in the south after the end of slavery."
Accordingly, at the 1874 General Convention, a proposal was put forward by the Diocese of Texas. requesting the Convention "to appoint a suffragan bishop for the supervision of the freedmen."

However, it would take until 1918 until two Black men, Edward Thomas Demby in Arkansas and Henry Beard Delaney in North Carolina, were consecrated suffragan bishops “for colored work”.

See also: “The Church Archives: Episcopal Passage: The First African American Bishops”

Michael Bruce Curry was the first African American Diocesan Bishop elected in the American South. His election also marked the first time the great-grandson of enslaved people was elected by the great-grandchildren of some slave owners.

Just stop, take a deep breath and wrap your head around that fact for a few minutes and let it sink in.

If you're not a person of color and you’ve been watching The 1619 Project you have some sense of that achievement and the incredible nature of that landmark in time.

In 2015, Michael Curry would become the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate in the Episcopal Church and the first Black man – indeed, the first person of color – to be elected to that high office.

And so it is that February 11th is a Red Letter Day in Black History Month. On this 11th day of the second and shortest month on the calendar, The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion hit a trifecta of notable achievements.

Black History Month, for us, is very personal. 
And so, yes, it is political. If you are one of those Episcopalians who likes your religion 'pure' and free from politics, well, deal with it.

One of my favorite Nelson Mandela quotes is this: “Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front.”

Or, as I once heard Ed Rodman say, “I want my fingerprints on everything and my name on nothing.”

That “strategy of the humility of the activist” seems to be the thread of wisdom that ties these three people to each other and to the achievement of the service of sacrificial distinction.

Today, let us take personally and remember and be inspired by their courage and bravery and boldness to be obedient to the call of God to leadership. The world is – we are – better for the gift of their lives and their service.

I can hear all three saying, "To God be the glory."