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, July 31, 2022

Paying attention


Good Sunday morning, good citizens of the cosmos. And, it's a be-YOU-tiful morning here on the Delmarva Peninsula. Right now, at 7 AM, it's an absolutely delightful 72 degrees, with a high expected only at 81, which, compared to other days this week, is almost downright chilly.

The air quality is actually good at 34, UV index is low at 0, and the wind, if it can be described at that, is coming from the West at 2 (that's T.W.O.) mph.

See also: Beautiful morning.

I don't know how I did it but I made an exceptional cup of coffee this morning. It's mild and silky on the tongue with a burst of strong coffee flavor on the back of the palate. I'm pretty sure that when I made it, my eyes were closed and I was sort of on automatic pilot, as I am most mornings, truth be told.

You know, there are certain routines one has when one gets up in the morning - a sure and certain defense against the drowsiness that those of us who aren't "Morning People" have - that guarantees that stuff gets done anyway.

I won't go into all the minutia of my routine but clearly, one of the first things I do is to put on the coffee. Then, while that's perking away, I do my morning ablutions, get dressed, make the bed, and get ready to throw back the first gulp of liquid gold before saying my prayers and meditating for a bit.

This morning, the coffee is especially good. And, I think, when that happens, you need to stop and sing a few praises for the amazing miracle of the coffee bean, and of cold, filtered water, and the wonders of electricity, and the engineering design of the coffee percolator, and the sound of coffee perking away while the laughing gulls sing their hosannas to the Lord and Creator of Life, which serves as a reminder to thank God again for this wee cottage on the back marshes of one of the many estuaries of the Delmarva Peninsula, which all combine to make the vibrant taste of a cup of hot coffee with its miraculous, restorative, and often medicinal powers.

It's important to do that, I think, especially in the morning when everything else for me is on autopilot and a whole day could go by without acknowledging the first miracle of the day: I'm up and, as the Jews pray, my soul has returned! And, after coffee, I've actually got most of my wits about me.

I think Cecily is right: I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. But I think it might also make God just a wee bit cranky not to notice the goodness of simple pleasures like a morning cup of coffee or tea or whatever your preferred morning beverage.

Meanwhile, over at the Lectionary Page, Jesus is telling the story about the Foolish Rich Man who thought he could store up all his riches on earth by building bigger storage bins. It's such a common human failing. We seem hot-wired to think that bigger really is better. That less is, well, less. And, that everything needs to be 'er' - stronger, better, faster.

Even more than that, we're conditioned to believe that if we don't want more, something is wrong with us. We're lazy ne'er-do-wells, who have no ambition. And, if we don't have more, we're less than and have no value as human beings.

Nothing brings this out more than the Lottery which, this week, was worth over a billion dollars. A. billion. Dollars.

I'll admit it: we bought a ticket. Yes, we did. Spent a whole five bucks. But first, we had to have a conversation about all the wonderful, noble things we'd do with the winnings You know, to justify throwing five whole dollars at the ridiculous odds of winning. I remember times - not so long ago -when we worried we would be $5 short to pay the rent.

It reminded me of something I read that Voltaire once said, "God is a comedian playing to an audience that is too afraid to laugh." And, Garrison Keillor, who probably actually read Voltaire, once said that "God writes a lot of comedy, but the trouble is that God is stuck with so many humans who are lousy comedy actors."

The preacher isn't preaching this morning. The Deacon is. It's hardly his first time in the pulpit but it is his first time up at bat at St. Paul's. He'll do that once a month, for which the preacher is deeply grateful. He's a good man and an experienced deacon. It will be fun to see what he has to say.

It's my last day in Facebook Time Out so if you want to catch the 10 AM service live, you'll have to watch it on Ms. Conroy's Facebook page. I'll post a link once we get home from church on Sirach 26:10 and St. Paul's Facebook page.

Please do take care. The COVID rate here in Delaware is now at 20% and the Public Health Officials are asking us to wear masks in crowded places. Ms. Conroy and I wore our masks to the movie theater yesterday. We'll be wearing them in church.

Yes, it's a pain but you know, if the choice is "Mask or Sick", I'm taking Mask every time. And, the third booster in September, before I leave for the Camino. Yes, I will.

Other than laughter and digestion, I think it's very important to take COVID seriously. This virus doesn't mess.

Make it a great day, everybody. There's never been a day quite like today ever before and there's never going to be one exactly like it ever again. So, get out there and enjoy!

And, as they say on the streets of Lisbon, Portugal, where I'll be on September 29th, “bom dia“ (good morning or hello - until 1 or 2 PM ), then it's “boa tarde“ (good afternoon), then, “boa noite”(good evening), or simply “olá“ (hi!).

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Success and accomplishment


Sometimes 'success' looks different to different people. So does 'accomplishment'. For me, accomplishment nearly always looks like success.

What am I talking about?
Well, see that large black bag there on the right? You probably see a garbage bag, right? That actually represents about 90 minutes of work, thinning out my closet and four sets of drawers of clothes that I've not worn in a long while and either no longer fit me or are no longer part of my style. They are all in perfect condition - all washed and folded (that was another chore) - and off they'll go to the Thrift Store on Monday.

The other two are of laundry - sweaters that were a bit stained so they got the SHOUT treatment before laundering and are now beautiful - and regular weekly laundry that needs to line dry rather than in the dryer.

Looks mundane and common - too much so to be called an accomplishment much less success. I admit it; you're not completely wrong. There are people around the world who have already accomplished three, maybe four times the work these chores represent, six times before breakfast. And, they don't even have 1/8 of a bag of clothes to their name, much less to give away.

But, you know what? I'm not them and they are not me. I am me and I was able to "make time" and get this stuff done this morning. Which, for me, is huge. There is actually something I've done with my morning (okay, besides making some ah-mazing coffee and am about to start a great breakfast) that I can look at and say, "Hey, look. I did that."

There aren't too many things in the life of a priest in ministry where one can actually point to something concrete and tangible and feel a sense of accomplishment and success.

Hear me: I'm not complaining. On the contrary, I am blessed to be able to do what I do. Hospice ministry is really my jam. When I come across a nurse's report of a patient who has died and she has written, "patient died peacefully, surrounded by his family," I feel enormous joy and a sense of accomplishment and success.

That's especially so when I remember some of the conversations and struggles we've had to work through together - that patient and his family and me - to find that peace. That may not seem like much to some but it means the world to me. I just can't bring it home and say, "Hey, look. I helped to do that."

Not that I need to. It's just that it would be nice, once in a while. It is pretty wonderful when one of my team members - a nurse, social worker, and/or CNA - sees me out somewhere and we talk about that patient and someone puts their hand on my shoulder and says, "We did some good work there, didn't we?" And, I feel such deep joy that it brings tears to my eyes.

Parish ministry? Well, accomplishment and success there are a bit more elusive. It's easy to often feel like a failure or at least, not up to snuff; at worse, an imposter.

These days, one has to be an expert in so many things that were not even discussed in seminary:

Finance - how to read and understand a simple P&L Balance sheet. How to spot upward and downward trends. How to inspire to use money as a means, not as an end; how to teach that a budget is a statement of priority as well as theology.

Fundraising (AKA "Stewardship") - how to tailor all the fancy-pants, slick programs out there for a struggling, small, decimated congregation.

HR/Personnel - how to write a Job Description and/or develop a Letter of Agreement, and conflict management between staff and/or parishioners. How to diagnose low-level bickering and pettiness and gossip so that they can be appropriately and more effectively addressed.

Buildings and Grounds - how to negotiate with a contractor or shop for the best locksmith or know a fair price for the services of a plumber or electrician or shop for a boiler or heating or air conditioning system.

Education/Christian Formation - how to organize and present engaging programs that edify and raise awareness while deepening faith that targets the spiritual development needs of specific age groups (See Fowler's Stages of Development).

Preaching and Liturgy - how to write and deliver sermons that are relevant and send people home inspired to put the Gospel message into some form of action in their lives. How to inspire faith on Sunday through the liturgical calendar and music and art that lasts at least until Thursday. How to use the liturgy as a pedagogical tool.

Infrastructure - how to rebuild it after it has been decimated by 3-5 years of scarce, inconsistent, or non-existed trained, skilled leadership of the laity or ordained, but which is particularly devastating when coupled with the lack of sacramental and pedagogical ministry of the ordained which edifies the Body of Christ.

And, not last and certainly not least: How to raise consciousness and action regarding Gospel Justice - especially when it presents itself in a local issue - and especially without scolding or shaming and finding a way to 'yes' while still helping people save face.

And, and, and, and, AND . . . how to do all that without support, without feeling like you're part of a team, like the Lone Ranger wearing the mask of an imposter, but without either Tonto or a silver bullet.

See what I mean? Yeah, I'm just going to leave all that there. Maybe I'll come back to it when I write that book. Maybe that will make me feel less of a complete and utter failure.

So, every now and again this weekend, I'm just going to pass by my big black garbage bag and laundry lines of accomplishment and success. And, smile.

It should also take my mind off the shenanigans across The Pond at the Lambeth Conference, with those who are so eager to "go along to get along" that they forget the cautionary words of James Baldwin:
"We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist."
Or, as Becca Ehrlich recently tweeted:
"Organizational decay: when the nature of an organization shifts from doing work in the real world to presenting a dramatization of its own perfection in a fantasy world. (Narcissistic Process and Corporate Decay by Howard Schwartz)."
Off I go then. Tying up loose ends of the morning so I can go off and see "Where the Crawdad Sing." Loved the book. Can't wait to see the film. I hear it's magnificent.

Have a wonderful Saturday. Hope you are able to find a sense of accomplishment and success. It can happen if you look in unexpected places.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The "B" Committee


 St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Georgetown, DE

Pentecost VII - Proper XII - July 24, 2022


This is a sermon about persistence because these lessons from scripture – especially the Gospel lesson and the Lord’s Prayer – are about persistence.


So, I want to start with a story about persistence. I was still newly ordained when I moved to Baltimore, Maryland – the farthest south this New England girl had ever lived – and was getting used to the enormous culture shock of living below the Mason-Dixon line.


Up the street from my church was St. James, Lafayette Square, an Episcopal Church which was known as “the Black Church.” The Rector was one Michael Bruce Curry, who would go on to become Bishop of North Carolina and then Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church – a first for a Black person in both positions.


The first time I met Michael I asked him for advice, because I was newly ordained and he was wise, even then. He told me this story.


He said he came to St. James in June and by August, he was feeling like he knew most folk in the church. But, one Sunday, he came in and there, in the back of the church (narthex), was a man he had never seen before – just an itty-bitty old Black gentleman, dapper in a suit and tie, fillin’ up the space like he was six feet tall and owned it.


Michael said he went over to him, shook his and said, “Hey there, I’m Michael Curry. I’m the rector. I don’t believe we’ve met.”  The man introduced himself and said, “I’m on the ‘B’ Committee.”


“The B Committee?” asked Michael. Hmm . . . I been here since July. I thought I knew all the committees in the church, but I haven’t ever heard of The ‘B Committee. What is that?”


“Well,” said the man, “The motto of The B Committee is this: ‘I be here before you came, and I’ma be here after you leave.’ And, THAT, sir, is The B Committee.”


This is a sermon about persistence. This is a sermon about how life can be hard and life can be good but life can be worse if we give up.

Or, if we think one person can save us. 

Or, if we don’t understand that we are all part of something larger than ourselves and we are here because we are playing our part in it.

We are part of a covenant – a promise – between God and the people of God and God keeps up God’s part of the bargain and we must persist and keep up ours.


That first lesson from the prophet Hosea was a doozy, wasn’t it? Well, as I wrote in my Thursday reflection, it can sound really awful – well, more awful than it actually is, what with all the talk about whoredom – unless you understand it as prophetic poetry.

It’s metaphor and symbol and not to be taken literally. Please know that.


Hosea is reminding people of God’s covenant with us which had been broken. The people at that time professed loyalty to one God and yet they were praying to both Yahweh and Baal. Hosea says that is a form of adultery which, he compares to the infidelity of his spouse, Gomer. 


And, while he warns that there will be accountability – there will be consequences – there is always hope for reconciliation and renewal. We must be humble, he says, and we must be persistent.


In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus for a lesson in prayer. Teach us to pray, they ask. And, Jesus teaches them what has been described by many scholars – Christian and Jewish – as one of the most political prayers ever uttered by a religious person.

Political – meaning good government.

Not politics – meaning the representation of a contingency with a particular perspective on the meaning of good government.

I am not a political scientist and certainly no expert in forms of government or political process.  But in my lay understanding that the political always speaks to how the life of a people is ordered and organized, by whom and for whom it is ordered and organized, and importantly, how power and people interact within that order – specifically, who has the power and who does not.  


In teaching us how to pray, Jesus leads us to pray for the Kingdom of God to come, and for the kind of life that is normative for people who live in God’s Kingdom.  We will see what that kind of life entails, but I want first to note the “political” nature of praying in this way.


To pray for kingdom-come is to pray for a political reality, and that at least implicitly means – sometimes – to pray against other political realities. Wait! Just take that in for a moment.


We are praying FOR a political reality – the way the life of a people is ordered and organized, by whom and for whom it is ordered and organized, and how power and people interact within that order – because our life is not ordered and organized in that way, power is not shared, equality is not reached. YET. Stuff needs to happen. Things need to change. The status quo will probably have to be disturbed.


In the model Jesus has given us we pray for the Kingdom where God is Sovereign, as the alternate to other kingdoms and kings.  In fact, we are praying that God’s Kingdom would be established within the present world that is filled with and dominated by those other kingdoms and power structures.


In Jesus’ day that included the “kingdoms” of Herod and his family, of the Jewish Temple authorities, and, above all, of Caesar’s Household. 


So, not only is this a political prayer – it is a dangerous prayer. It was then, and it is now. Why is it dangerous? Well, I think we can clearly see why it was dangerous then. But, we have no “kingdoms like Herod” or “religious authorities” that rule our lives, do we? Really?


At the end of 2021, data show that 1% of the citizens of the United States of America owned almost 2/3 (32.3%) of the wealth. Indeed, by the end of 2021, the richest 1% gained $6.5 trillion in wealth.  


That’s not the image of the Kingdom of God that Jesus presents to us, is it? You could at least ruffle a few feathers if you tried to change that, couldn’t you? Might even be dangerous.


And, thank goodness, we don’t have a religious authority who tells us that we can’t eat bacon, or we can’t have a cream sauce on our salmon - or, tartar sauce on our fried fish or shrimp - or we can’t tattoo our bodies, or we must contribute the outer edges of our crop to the poor, or we can’t collect interest on money saved, or that seizure disorder is caused by demon-possession, or that the world is flat, or disease is caused by something your ancestors did, even though all those things are right there in the Bible!


Whew! Good thing we also don’t have religious authorities with political power to tell us how many children we can have, or define our families, or have a say in who we can love and marry.


And yet we pray – or sing sweetly, every Sunday – these words of the Lord’s prayer: “YOUR kingdom come. YOUR will be done on EARTH as it is in heaven.” Heaven – the place of GOD’S kingdom which we want to come here on earth. That is decidedly bad news for the 1% - or for those who want to impose their particular religious views on the rest of us.


We pray humbly to just give us what we all need – our daily bread – no more, no less. 


Forgive us our sins of envying what others have and we don’t. 


Forgive what we don’t do to make sure that no one goes to bed hungry at night, no person has to sleep on the hard ground without a pillow for their head blanket for their bodies, and every person has access to food for their minds as well as their bodies and has access to quality medical care for their bodies, minds and spirits.


Jesus says that, when we pray, we can be assured that God will answer our prayers. God will not give us a snake if we ask for a loaf of bread.

But, we have to humble ourselves and ask.


Ask, and it will be given to you, he says.


Jesus says, knock, and the door will be opened to you.


Seek, he says, and you will find.


What will it take, we ask? Persistence, answers Jesus. Keep asking in your prayers. But, it’s also important to get up off your knees and knock on a few doors.


Get up on your feet and seek out those places where God’s kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven.


Prayer is not just about a lovely little stroll down Primrose Lane with Sweet Baby Jesus Meek and Mild.


It is also a prayer to get up off your bed, dry your eyes, wipe your nose, put on your boots, roll up your sleeves and work for the change you seek.


Which is why this is a sermon about persistence. It’s about knowing that although there will be consequences and we will be accountable for the things we have done, we ask God to save us from the time of that trial and help us always choose the good.


It’s about getting our poor, tired, raggedy, broke bodies out of bed every morning and, even when we don’t want to and don’t feel like it’s even true, we choose to say, “Good morning!” – and then get up and do something to actually make a good morning – and afternoon and evening – become reality.


I once heard author Anne Lamott say that about the most authentic prayer we can make at the beginning of the day is, “Please. Please. Please.” And, at the end of the day, saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” I think Jesus would like that prayer. Very much.


I was listening to an On Being interview with Collette Pichon Battle, founder and Co-Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, an agency she founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina of 2005, which she has described as “a crack in the universe.”


She was talking about the persistence it takes to work to bring about change which starts, she says, “when you find the courage to admit that we have taken too much.”


Just take that in for a moment.


Now say to yourself the words from the Lord’s prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not the whole loaf. Please just provide what I need.

And then, “save us from the time of trial,” and help me share because that’s what it’s going to take to live out “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”


Share, just like Mama said. 


So, here’s what Ms. Battle says is her practice of persistence. She asks, “What’s the line between the blame that stops you from action and the acknowledgement that catapults you into doing the right thing? You’ve got to practice that,” she says, “You’ve got to practice that one every day.”


Ultimately, it’s about God saying to us, in the voice of that itty-bitty Black man in the back of the sanctuary of St. James, Lafayette Square in Baltimore, Maryland,


“I be here before you came and I’ma be here after you leave.”


That’s the ‘B Committee’ kind of persistence we need on earth as it is in heaven if we even have a prayer of bringing in God’s kingdom and living out what Jesus wants for us in The Lord’s Prayer.                    



Thursday, July 21, 2022


I am always startled and then shaken when I run into this quote by James Baldwin. It's especially poignant since James was a Black man in the Civil Rights Movement and a Gay Man when it was even more dangerous than being a Black man.

One of the most revolutionary things to happen to me was knowing this kind of love - personally, emotionally, spiritually, intimately - that picked me up, twirled me around, and set my life on a completely different path from the one I was on and the one I could never have imagined.

Years later, and after lots of reflection, I understood that this love was to prepare me to experience the unconditional love of God that gives you the courage to take all the masks off in public, with impunity.

This maskless love gives you the strength to accept the consequences of such radical, self-love which can only come from knowing that no matter what you do or who you think you are or where you think you're going, God loves you because God has seen you and knows you without all the masks you have created for yourself, and loves you still.

It's not that you don't care anymore. It's that you care more deeply about God's love than the approval of others.

So, g'won. Take off the mask(s). Just for today.

It's too hot, anyway.

Rest secure in the knowledge that God loves you far beyond the limits of the eyes in your head, even deeper than the eyes of the heart beating in your chest, and more than the eyes of your imagination which yearn to break free from behind the very masks it has created.

Be blessed!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

One thing necessary

St. Paul's Episcopal Church - July 17, 2022
Pentecost VI - Proper 10
Sirach 26:10 on Facebook 

The story of Mary and Martha of Bethany is one that is probably familiar to even the more casual of church attenders. Sibling squabbles are infamous in scripture, beginning with Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve.

If you remember that story in
Genesis, Abel, a shepherd, offered the Lord the firstborn of his flock. The Lord respected Abel's sacrifice but did not respect that offered by Cain. In a jealous rage, Cain murdered Abel.


Then there’s Jacob and Esau – twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah – who were estranged for over 20 years because Jacob stole Esau’s birthright. We all know about Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers who were jealous of his coat of many colors. And, of course, we all know the parable of the Prodigal Son – one squandered his inheritance and the other did not.


There was also rivalry among the “band of brothers” known as the Apostles. James and John were brothers who were known as “The Sons of Thunder” and argued for a seat of honor at the right or left hand of Jesus when he entered into his Kingdom.


The rivalry among Peter and Paul is well known, and while Paul had his issues with Barnabas, John had issues with Peter also. It is John who very carefully mentions in HIS version of the story that it was he who beat Peter to the tomb in their foot race to see the Risen Lord. And then, there’s the whole matter of the exact identity of “the disciple Jesus loved” in John’s gospel – which John would like us to believe was li’l ole him, but some scholars say was Judas.


So, actually, the squabble between Mary and Martha seem to pale in comparison to these boys who have serious, heated, violent, jealous arguments about who has status and power and influence – some of the consequences of which range from abandonment and alienation to being sold into slavery and murder.


For goodness’ sake! Who among us hasn’t had an argument with their sibling over who is or is not doing the assigned chores? That’s probably why the Smother’s Brothers routine was so popular. Remember them? Remember Tommy’s outrage: “Mom always liked you best!”


My father used to sing a lot of songs as he worked around the house. One of them was this: “You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all. You always take the sweetest rose and crush it till the petals fall.” And then came the lame excuse: “So if I broke your heart last night it’s because I love you most of all.”


So, here’s my question: what is it about love that can lead us to hurt others? How is it that we get so easily distracted that we can fall into a meaningless squabble that has nothing to do with what is important? Or, to use the words of Jesus, what is the “one thing necessary” on which we need to stay focused and not get distracted?


I have been in church communities which have been torn apart by the most senseless things. Like? Like, the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. No way! Yes, way! Like? Like the specific color red of the outside door of the church. Oh, I remember that one – several people left the church and never came back. Yes, way.


I was helping out in one church that was having a very heated discussion about the times of the service. They had two services: 7:30 AM and 10 AM. There were a small handful of faithful people who attended at 7:30 AM. They were having a hard time getting supply clergy to come that early in the morning and they were also having financial difficulty paying for two services.


One person said to the bishop, “If you take away my service, I will leave the church.” The bishop said, “If you are coming to church because of the time of the service, maybe you should consider why it is you are coming to church.”  


What is the one necessary thing? It’s a great question. It’s a question I often ask myself when I find myself in conflict with someone or I’m anxious about a project and having internal conflict. What is the one thing necessary here?


Let me give you a very recent example. On Thursday night, six of us gathered together to talk about developing a plan for Church Safety. It was a good group and a great discussion. After less than the 90 minutes we had scheduled, we left with a draft procedure, a preliminary plan to secure the building while still looking toward hospitality and welcoming the stranger, a task list with assignments and a date for our next meeting.


Still, my wheels were spinning about safety needs of our church members and still welcome the strange.

You may have noticed that about me. My wheels are pretty much always in spin mode. One staff person told me once that he could usually hear my wheels spinning across the room. He said I would get “a look on my face” and then ask, “What if . . .?” And then, he said, it was time to run very fast in the opposite direction.


I was helping Deacon Pete unload his car of equipment for today. We were at the back kitchen door entrance. He was taking the last load downstairs and I was standing on the step, looking out at the small grove of trees near the cemetery when suddenly I saw them: Fireflies! 




I haven’t seen fireflies in years . . . decades, maybe. I live on the water and, apparently, because there aren’t many trees around me, there aren’t any fireflies. Suddenly, I felt all my wheels stop. I felt my heart get lighter. I started to get that excited feeling I used to get when I was a kid and we’d run to get the Mason jar to catch fireflies and keep them with us on the porch until it was time for bed and then we’d set them free.


The palms of my hands actually got sweaty with excitement as I remembered my first sense of the magic of our world and my small place in it – and yet I am precious in the sight of God.


As I watched the fireflies I began thinking of the images we’ve been seeing from NASA’s brand new James Webb telescope. Because of the speed of light, the images we are now seeing actually happened 13.8 billion years ago.

Let me say that again: That’s 13.8 billion years ago, or just about the time that the sun and planet earth were being formed.


I was instantly flooded with a memory of, less than a year ago, standing in front of one of the Pyramids in Egypt and realizing that Moses stood before them in his time. I mean, I was astounded by the passage of a couple hundred centuries.  The images we're seeing from outer space are millions and millions – 13.8 billion – years old.


As I was driving home, I remember that line in the Eucharistic Prayer we’ll say in a short while, the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile Earth, our island home”. And I remembered that the composition of 97 percent of our bodies are made up of the same kinds of atoms and molecules as those baby pictures we’re seeing of those far away distant places.


Just take that in for a second. 


I could hear the refrain from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's song, "By the time I got to Woodstock:

We are stardust, we are golden 
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the Garden. 


When you think about it, we are really no different than any other small, insignificant specks of dust in the cosmos. Which is why I think we, in our own way and from time to time, light up and sparkle and twinkle. It's in our DNA. We have magic in our bodies. You know, it just may be part of the Creator’s design to send fireflies here one season every year to remind us of that.


If we don’t remember that, we might remember that Jesus told his disciples that their names were written in the heavens. I suspect he had that fact on good authority.


So, the next time you are tempted to get into a squabble with “the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all,” try to remember “the one thing necessary” that keeps you balanced. 


The next time you get into a squabble with a neighbor or a coworker or a friend, remember that “you are dust and to dust you shall return” and focus in on “the one thing necessary” to live out the promises made for you at baptism which you took for yourself at confirmation.


Remember that while you are made of the same stuff of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, and The Prodigal Sons, as well as James and John, Peter and Paul, and Martha and Mary, and even though your mom loved you best, we are – all of us, each and every one of us – made of the same magical stuff of fireflies and stars.


And, when you get angry enough to cross someone off your list, remember that their names and yours are written in the heavens. Maybe even side by each.


In these days of political unrest and national turmoil, when courtesy and politeness seem to have taken a back seat to what someone thinks is their entitlement and kindness and safety seem secondary to what someone thinks is their right, I ask you to remember this story of two sisters, Martha and Mary of the ancient town of Bethany who lived thousands of years ago but struggled with the very same issues you and I do today.


I ask you to ask yourself the same question Jesus asked of them: What is the one thing necessary for you to remain faithful to the promises you made to God and to keep your head up and your back straight as you walk this life with Jesus? 


And, because I'm still just a self-avowed, unrepentant, hippie, I'll leave you with these words from that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song:

And maybe it's the time of year
Yes and maybe its the time of man
And I don't know who I am
But life is for learning.

And I dreamed I saw the bomber jet planes
Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion-year-old carbon
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.



Friday, July 15, 2022

Twinkle, twinkle little star


What with 10-year-old girls being raped and the POTUS talking to a man he called a "pariah" and text messages being deleted by the Secret Service on 1/6, I have to step away and be really intentional about considering beauty.

I've never had to look too far to find beauty in this world. Last night as I was leaving the church after a Parish Security Team Meeting, I looked over at a grove of trees next to the cemetery and saw fireflies in the dusk.

I'm still not quite sure what has delighted me about them but they always cause me to gasp with awe and wonder, which is followed by sensations around my heart of pure delight.

They are magical, no? I don't know why they light up like that or what causes them to light up light that. And, honestly? I don't want to know. I want to believe there's magic somewhere in their bodies and they were created to remind us that life is beautiful and magical and thoroughly delightful.

And then, there are the images that have been coming to us from the James Webb telescope. Have you seen them?

It's just magnificent. Breathtaking. Amazing. Magical.

Jane Rigby, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the telescope’s operations manager said that they've always been out there. We just had to build a telescope to go see what was there.

Okay, it cost $10 BILLION. Over time. Totally worth it.

Because of the speed of light, she said that we are seeing these clusters of galaxies and nebula rings and possible water vapor as they were seen 13 billion years ago - about the same time that the sun and the earth formed.

And, I thought it was pretty amazing to stand in front of the Pyramid in Egypt and realize that Moses stood before them in his time. I mean, think about THAT and then think about the age of the images we're seeing from outer space.

The picture I've chosen to show fascinates me the most. It is the star-forming region of the Carina Nebula, one of the largest stellar nurseries.

Now, I'm going to pause right there because I sound like I know what I'm talking about and I don't. So, I looked up some stuff.

A nebula is a distinct body of interstellar clouds. A stellar nursery is a place in the cosmos where star formation takes place.

Star formation? Yes, star formation. Star formation is the process by which dense regions within molecular clouds in interstellar space, collapse and form stars.

I didn't know any of that even existed or happened, did you?

For all I know, we could be talking about fireflies.

Which we could be, actually, because human, animal, and plant life on planet earth where we live have about 97 percent of the same kind of atoms.

Just take that in for a second.

When you think about it, we are really no different than any other small, insignificant specks of dust in the cosmos. In fact, what we're seeing - these amazing sparkling images - are more than 13 billion years old.

Which is why we, in our own way and from time to time, light up and sparkle and twinkle. It's in our DNA.

We have magic in our bodies and I think fireflies are sent here one season every year to remind us of that.

Anyway, that's what I'm thinking right now before I turn my thoughts back to what to do about the really awful ways we creatures on this Planet Earth have and continue to screw things up so badly, that we cast darkness over each other and the whole planet.

I invite you to look at the stars and look for fireflies in the night. Let the healing powers of awe and amazement and wonder and delight soothe your soul and lighten your broken heart.

Maybe, so healed, we will be able to begin to heal ourselves and the world - or maybe, just stop hurting each other and the planet. Just for a few moments in time, anyway.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

One necessary thing


There were many moments in yesterday's 1/6 Select Committee hearing that were deeply disturbing and alarming. And then, after the gavel had sounded adjournment and the microphones were off, this happened.

This is Stephen Ayres, a young man, a self-described blue-collar worker, who felt called by his (then) President to defend democracy and got caught up in the crowd that gathered at the capitol. He was arrested in Ohio and pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. His sentencing is scheduled for September.

Ayres told the committee that the trust he placed in the former president had derailed his life and ruined his reputation. He described himself as a family man with a home and a job at a cabinet company.

As his wife sat behind him, he testified that he lost his job and sold his home and that his entire life had been disrupted by his response to the President's tweet. Once he was at the rally, he was stirred by what the then President said and, even though he hadn't planned on it, he followed the crowd to the Capitol and that decision changed his life forever.

But, it was what came at the end of his testimony that changed me.

This is a picture of Stephen Ayres who, after his testimony, came up to each officer in attendance.

“I’m really sorry,” he said to each and every one of them, some of whom are now totally disabled due to their injuries and will never be able to work at their jobs as Capitol Police again.

This is a picture of Ayres hugging Capitol Police Officer, Harry Dunn, a 13-year veteran of the force, who had testified on July 21, 2021, to the House Select Committee.

At that time, he reported that he had warned the insurrectionists who were headed to the Speaker's lobby to turn back and go home to which they said, "'No, man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We're here to stop the steal. Joe Biden is not the president. Nobody voted for Joe Biden.'"

Officer Dunn reported, "I'm a law enforcement officer, and I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded, 'Well, I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?'"

"That prompted a torrent of racial epithets. One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, 'You hear that guys? This n****r voted for Joe Biden.' Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming, 'Boo, fucking n****r.' No one had ever, ever called me a n****r while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer."

I think it's important to know all this as you look at this picture of these two men.

I don't know how Officer Dunn responded to Mr. Ayres. Hear me: I'm not saying that Mr. Ayres is now a hero and that Officer Dunn should automatically forgive him for whatever part he played.

I don't think Mr. Ayres was apologizing on behalf of all the insurrectionists. I think he was genuinely, sincerely, apologizing for his part in that awful day in our nation.

This Sunday, we hear Jesus telling Martha and Mary that there was only "one necessary thing". Jesus seemed to be saying that Mary had chosen the "once necessary thing" which was to stay focused and not be distracted.

It's so easy to be swept up by the Media Outrage Machine on the Right and on the Left. I hear Jesus calling me to find the "one necessary thing" and not be distracted by my anxiety or busyness.

So, just for today, I'm going to use this image, this picture, as an icon of sorts - as a way into the heart of God to know the unconditional love that is there.

In the midst of being distracted by many things in this life - in my life - in this nation, and in this world, I invite you into a similar spiritual discipline.

I think this "one necessary thing" has the potential to change lives.

Stefani and the Purple Scarf

See this picture above, of this vibrant, joyful woman? That is Stefani Schatz, Episcopal priest and one-time Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of California and spouse of the love of her life, Joseph Duggan.

See all those women, some of whom are in various shades of purple, pictured under Stefani's picture? They are all bishops in The Episcopal Church. These are not even all the bishops who are women, but that's most of them.

How many, you ask? Well, I did a very quick study of the list of women who are bishops. The first woman to be consecrated bishop in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion was, of course, Barbara Clementine Harris, the 834th bishop consecrated in The Episcopal Church, in 1989.

The first bishop consecrated in The Episcopal Church was, of course, Samuel Seabury in 1784. So, it took us a mere 205 years to ordain a woman to the episcopacy.

At least we made up for lost time and ordained an African American woman that first time. But, because it was still a firmly held belief that while a woman's place was in the house, she still had to know her place.

So, we elected her Bishops Suffragan, not Bishop Diocesan.

The going was slow after that. It took another three years before we ordained Jane Holmes Dixon as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of D.C. in 1992.

The next year, in 1993, Mary Adelia Rosemond McLeod was elected the first woman to be Bishop Diocesan in the Diocese of Vermont.

She was the 887th Bishop in The Episcopal Church. There had been another 53 bishops in the 4 years since we elected and ordained Barbara Clementine Harris. That looks like a mere blip on the timeline of history. It didn't feel that way, I assure you.

During that time we also elected the very bishops who would lead their dioceses out of The Episcopal Church because of the ordination of women and queer people.

We didn't elect another woman of color until Carol Joy Gallagher was elected Bishop Suffragan of Southern VA in 2002. She was the first indigenous woman to be consecrated bishop, her Cherokee heritage is derived from her mother, Betty WalkingStick Theobald. (Her great-great-great-grandmother walked the Trail of Tears from North Carolina to Oklahoma in the 1830s.)

In total, I count 46 bishops in The Episcopal Church who have been women. I'll have to go over that list again and count carefully, but I came up with 46 twice so I'm going with it for this reflection. If anyone has a more accurate number, please, do correct me.

And, if anyone wants to do the math about the percentage we've reached of the "active" bishops, I'd be happy to add that to this reflection and give proper attribution.

Several bishops are now retired and several have, of course, gone home to Jesus, including the first two trailblazers, Barbara Harris and Jane Dixon.

We've also had our lows and highs. One bishop has been deposed and one bishop has been Presiding Bishop.

What does this have to do with Stefani? Well, In 2015, of the 160 bishops active in the House of Bishops, only 21 —or 13 percent—were women. Stefani knew that the tipping point - that point when enough change has happened that more change can happen - is 25 %. So, it was clear we had some work to do in order to get to 25%.

She had a simple idea: Why not make visible what we already knew was reality? She knew what we all knew: that there was already a great deal of support for the election and consecration of women as bishops. We just needed the will to make that happen.

So, she approached The Episcopal Women's Caucus with her idea. What if, at the Triennial Caucus Breakfast, we launched Purple Scarf Sunday? We could ask people to bring a purple scarf to General Convention and also prepare lots of simple purple scarves and have them ready at our Booth and at The Breakfast, for people to wear.

Well, long story short, it was a huge hit. Everywhere you looked, people were wearing Purple Scarves.

She also started a Facebook page "Breaking the Episcopal Glass Ceiling" where ordained women could work with other ordained women to help identify and support the vocational discernment of women to the episcopacy as well as other, visible offices of leadership and authority in the institutional church.

That was 2015. In September of that year, we consecrated Audrey Scanlon Bishop Diocesan of Central Pennsylvania. In the first seven years after Purple Scarf Sunday, we have elected and ordained 25 women as bishops in The Episcopal Church.

Let me put that into perspective for you: In the first seven years after Barbara Harris was elected, we elected and ordained 5 women: Barbara Harris, Jane Dixon, Mary Adelia McLeod, Catherine Roskam, and Geralyn Wolf.

(I can name that list with my eyes closed, so many nights did I fall asleep saying their names in prayer.)

Never doubt that small, outward acts of a revolutionary idea make a difference, especially when they reveal great inward acts of revolutionary love.

It should be noted that on July 12th, 2017, Stefani Schatz lost her battle with ovarian cancer and changed from glory into glory. She passed from this life into the loving arms of Jesus.

I am quite certain that she is wearing purple scarves and handing them out to all the angels who are singing great Alleluias at all the amazing, radical changes and healing and truth-telling that is happening in The Episcopal Church because this is what happens when you begin to reach the tipping point of change.

This is what happens when you believe that prayer happens on your feet as well as on your knees.

This is what happens when, as George Regas said, “We are called to set audacious goals and celebrate incremental victories.”

This is what happens when you believe that outward and visible signs are just as important as inward and spiritual grace.

This is what happens when you heed the words of Walter Wink who said, "History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being.”

Thanks, Stefani. The Episcopal Church remains in your debt. You may never make it to the Calendar of Saints, but you remain an inspiration.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

New Beatitudes



Bless you for your anger,
It's a sign of rising energy. 
Transform the energy to versatility and it will bring you prosperity.

Bless you for your sorrow,

It's a sign of vulnerability. 
Transform the energy to sympathy and it will bring you love.

Bless you for your greed,

It's a sign of great capacity. 
Transform the energy to giving,
Give as much as you wish to take and you will receive satisfaction.

Bless you for your jealousy,

It's a sign of empathy. 
Transform the energy to admiration
And what you admire will become part of your life.

Bless you for your fear,

It's a sign of wisdom.
Do not hold yourself in fear.  
Transform the energy to flexibility and you will be free 
from what you fear.

Bless you for your search of direction,
For it is a sign of aspiration.  
Transform the energy to receptivity and the direction 
will come to you.

Bless you for the times you see evil.
Evil is energy mishandled and feeds on your support. 
Feed not and it will self-destruct.
Shed light and it will cease to be.

Bless you for the times you feel no love.

Open your heart to life anyway
In time you will find love in you.

Bless you, bless you, bless you,
Bless you for what you are.
You are a sea of goodness,
You are a sea of love.
Count your blessings every day for they are your protection
Which stand between you and what you wish not.

Count your curses and there will be a wall

Which stand between you and what you wish.

The world has all that you need.

You have the power 
To attract what you wish.
Wish for health, wish for joy,
Remember, you are loved.
I love you
©1994 Yoko Ono