Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why I Haven't Posted Anything for Two Days

I have finally completed the Famous Red Scarf. I stayed up really late last night to do "one last cable" and to bind off (something I haven't done for -- well -- awhile.) I know we're about two weeks from summer here in Minnesota, but I had to try it on. What do you think?

The braided cable was the "learning curve" skill. I am not an accomplished knitter; I know some basic stitches, but have never made anything really complicated. I learned to do a basic cable in high school, but the braided cable was new to me and a challenge.
I will admit the cables make it look impressive.

Do you think I'll ever be able to learn to knit socks?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Small Things

During the last two weeks my life has been full of small things. I have been sweeping and vacuuming, cooking and wiping countertops, taking my mother-in-law to the bank, making oatmeal, and being present to people: my husband, his family, others in my congregation. It seems that I have not had so much time to juggle all of the many responsibilities of my work; I haven't had so much time to ponder the big things, the important things -- the flourishing of our community life, urging and organizing people to do justice.

In the past, women, for the most part, were not allowed to do the "big" things, the "important" things -- we were relegated to private life: wiping countertops, wiping faces, cooking and cleaning and being present to people. We were relegated to working in private spaces and told that they were Not Important.

In the meantime, men were, for the most part, out in the public arena, changing the world: sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. They were making their voices heard.

I want to change the world. In the world now, women, and not just men can do that.

But I also want to live in a world where wiping countertops, wiping faces, and being present to people is acknowledged as important, whether it's called "women's work" or "human work." These everyday activities need to be done, and they are holy too.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Sermon

"In the Name of Jesus"

Today is the third Sunday of Easter (the 15th day of Easter, if we’re counting) in the 50 day celebration we have every year at this time of year, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. And today is the last of the resurrection appearances, at least as far as our Gospel readings. After today we have no more stories of Jesus meeting his disciples in a locked room or on a dusty road, no stories about him calling a name or inviting us to touch his wounds, no more spooky stories of him walking into locked rooms or comforting stories of hearing him say, "Peace be with you." After today we don’t hear of him sharing a meal of bread and wine – and then disappearing, and we don’t have any more stories like today’s gospel, where he asks for a piece of broiled fish and eats it. After today, no more resurrection appearance stories. This is the last one.

But even with no appearances, it’s still Easter, we still have many days and weeks more before the 50 day celebration is over. Still more days to say, if we want to, "The Lord is risen!" and reply, He is risen indeed." Still more days to ponder what it means for us today to say these words, and to mean them, still more days to wonder what it would be like for us to live as though Jesus really rose from the dead, not a ghost, not a spirit, but somehow a person who stood before us, in our community, forgiving us, eating with us, teaching us. It was important for those early gospel writers to affirm that Jesus was not a ghost, not somehow still dead but haunting them, but in fact alive again, and with them in a way that they could see and hear and touch. "The Lord is Risen!" – He is risen indeed .... but what difference did that make for them? What difference does it mean for us? Do we live our lives as if we believed that Jesus really rose from the dead?

Which brings me to the story we heard from Acts today – not a resurrection appearance story, but a story of two disciples, Peter and John, living as if Jesus really rose from the dead. It might be confusing at first to hear this piece of scripture, because we have come to it, really, in the middle. We might begin by wondering at the occasion, why Peter is saying these words, why people have gathered – what has just happened? Peter and John had come to the temple to pray that afternoon as was their custom. But of course everything was different already.
Jesus had risen from the dead, and not many days before the Holy Spirit had made a dramatic entrance into the disciples’ lives. So as they approached the temple, they noticed a lame man who was begging, asking for help, asking for a little charity. But Peter and John did not offer charity. They changed his life. They healed the man. That is the source of the commotion outside the temple and the occasion for Peter to preach his second sermon, ever. He knew that the mighty act they did was pretty impressive, but he took the opportunity to point to Jesus as the source of their power.

"It wasn’t us," he explained to the people gathered. "Not our power, and not our piety that healed this man." In other words, it wasn’t because they were so strong and it wasn’t because we were so holy. It was "in the name of Jesus" that they healed this man. They urged everyone to "repent" – which really means to turn toward Jesus, to turn toward the one who makes the lame walk, to turn toward the one who was crucified, but lives. Peter and John were living their ordinary lives that day, but they were living as if Jesus really had risen from the dead.

What does that mean? What does it mean to live our lives as if Jesus really has risen from the dead? – (even though he is no longer ‘making physical appearances’). It means that, first of all, that whatever we do, we do it "in the name of Jesus." We don’t just pray in the name of Jesus or worship in the name of Jesus. But, like Peter and John, we also live our daily lives in the name of Jesus, never knowing who we might encounter that might need healing, or where we might go where we will be called to share life, hope, bread. We live our daily lives believing that, since Jesus is risen, there is a new creation begun and growing somehow, here, in the world, and among us: a world where the poor are fed, where justice is done, where people are healed and raised.We live our daily lives in the hope and promise that somehow we are a part of this new creation. That’s what it means to live "in the name of Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead not simply or only give us the hope of eternal life at some other time and place, but Jesus rose to live in us each and every day and right now. In other words, Jesus’ Resurrection is not just important for our future, but for our present lives.

Pastor Barbara Brown Taylor writes about her experience teaching college students an introduction to religion course. She is often surprised to read comments like these from her students, when they read about Buddhism or another religious tradition, "they have so much in them about how to live. This is different from Christianity, which is about going to heaven when you die." I don’t know about you, but it seems to me, reading this story from Acts, that Peter and John were not simply interested in what was going to happen to the lame man after he died. They were not interested only in what would happen to the people at the temple after they died. They were interested in the lives of the people right now, and so they offered healing and hope to them, "in the name of Jesus." What do you do "in the name of Jesus?" What do you do in your daily life because you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and even more than that, lives in you? (I’d like you to think about that for a few moments, and then I’d like to share a story with you.)

I know someone who works with small children at an elementary school. She works with the youngest ones, those in Kindergarten and in 1st grade, and she works with children who are the most at risk, the most behind, who are poor, who are immigrants, who might not have much going for them. She reads with them, and helps them learn to read, she encourages them; she does whatever she can to help them to catch up. She reports he satisfaction in small things: a young child who wasn’t literate in either English or in his first language reading his first halting words; watching some child blossom and really excel. And she told me about a young boy, one she had trouble reaching. He was angry and lashed out at everyone who tried to help him. She was tempted to give up on him. But she found out a little about him, and that he had had a hard life in his home country, had been abused, and had come here with a family member to escape that abuse. When she learned this she also noticed scars, and she made a decision. She decided that she would begin by giving this child a hug every day. That’s what she did.

"In the name of Jesus." Now she didn’t tell me that she gave the child a hug "in the name of Jesus" – but that’s what she did. And I know that she did it, because I believe that, whether she remembers it in every moment or whether she doesn’t, the risen Christ lives in her.
The risen Christ lives in you, too. It’s true, you aren’t Peter or John, but think about Peter and John for a moment. Especially, think about Peter. Here he is, preaching in front of thousands, telling everyone that Jesus is risen and alive. He was crucified but he lives. Think about Peter for a moment, and how it wasn’t that long ago that Peter had turned his back on Jesus, and denied that he ever knew him. Even so, Peter had experienced reconciliation, forgiveness and life from his friend. He knew his own failure, his frailty, how he fell short, and yet he knew as well, that the risen Christ lived in him. He knew that he was both a sinner, and a bearer of life and grace.

An old saint once wrote:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
yours are the only hands with which he can do his work
yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world,
yours are the only eyes through which his compassion
Can shine forth upon a troubled world.
Christ has no body on earth now but yours.

So "In the name of Jesus" what do you do? Ask yourself that question again. What do you do in the name of Jesus? Maybe that’s a scary question because you know all too well your flaws, faults, frailties. But know that as you set about doing justice, caring for creation, sharing bread with the hungry – know that the risen Christ goes with you and in you. What Peter said long ago is still true
it is not by our power or piety
but by God’s love and grace
that we are able to live and serve
do justice
care for creation
do whatever we do – large things or small things
in the name of Jesus

I said there were no more resurrection appearance. But of course there are many – your life and mine – because Jesus lives in us.

Christ has Risen
He has risen indeed. Alleluia.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Bucket List Friday Five

Singing Owl over at Revgalblogpals gives us this fun Friday Five:

Four days of being mostly in bed with a really bad case of flu (do not worry--I will give no detail) has me pondering the fragility of life. LOL! Death, however, has been cheated in my case and I am up and taking nourishment. In that vein of thought, do you have a "Bucket List"? In other words, from the movie of the same name, five things you want to see, do, accomplish, etc. before you kick the bucket?

1. travel more -- I've always wanted to go to Scandinavia, where my family is from (and I still do, actually), but since Paris last year, I would like to go back to Paris again. It was magic. Actually, let's just make this a three-month tour of all of the places I have wanted to see (Paris, London, Stockholm, Amsterdam, etc.) but never thought I would have the time/money/ability. Also, I would keep a travel diary.

2. actually take time out to write every day. a large chunk of time. See what comes out.

3. publish. My dream is to publish some of my reflections with illustrations by my sister. I would love to publish an "art book" of some kind.

4. Learn to play that expensive recorder that has been sitting by my bed for the last ten years or so.

5. simplify my life, get rid of the things I don't need, and learn to live with just the things that are important, ao that I have time to do the things that are most important: creating things instead of mostly consuming (making hand-made gifts, writing stories, growing vegetables to share.)

......and though it's supposed to be only five, I have one more thing in the back of my mind, a wild dream of mine: a dream that someday people would flock to hear me speak or preach -- about the wildness of grace, about the "hint half guessed, the gift half understood" -- the way that God is incarnate in the world, and in us -- in hidden, small and powerful ways.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sometimes Interpreting the Bible Can Be Like This Too

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to water-ski
across the surface of a poem
waving ath the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

--Billy Collins
The Apple that Astonished Paris

What are some scripture passages you (or others) have tried to torture a confession out of?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reflections on a Short Get-Away

Last Saturday, on a beautiful blue afternoon, we headed east, past St. Paul (where we stopped briefly to look at model trains), to the old Minnesota town of Stillwater. We got into town in mid-afternoon, dropped off our bags at the historic Lowell Inn, and walked down the hill to the St. Croix River and the myriad old bookshops and antique stores that line the main street. After I made a brief neurotic phone call to the church ("Are you sure I'm not doing the Saturday service tonight?"), we window-shopped for antique glass and old books (I was especially taken with one book called Elin's Amerika, about a young Swedish girl in Philadelphia in the 1600s). We ended up munching burgers at a cafe on the river before heading back to our inn for the evening. My husband was gratified to find TCM a cable channel choice; I tried to read but found my eyelids heavy.

In the morning we woke early, but with nowhere in particular we had to go. At some point the 1938 movie The Young in Heart was on; a family of crooks and cardsharks meets a sweet old lady on a train and plans to cheat her so that she will leave them her fortune; in the end, as they live with her and lead honest lives, they are transformed by her love and faith in them. When the old lady falls ill, her lawyer tells them that she has indeed left her estate to them; however, it is not worth much any more. One by one, they each say, "We don't care about the money." When the lawyer also tells them that if the old lady lives, he will not even be able to save her house, they declare that she will always have a home with them. Then the daughter exclaims, "She saved us."

Often when we speak about salvation, it ends up sounding like a transaction. Especially this sounds true when "heaven after we die" is the only goal of being saved. But in the movie salvation is transformation; the family, through their encounter, are transformed from selfish people focused on their own survival, into people who live loving and caring about others.

This is the kind of preacher I want to be: not someone giving out tools to help people hang on to their same old lives, but encouraging people to let go and let God transform them, continually, daily, through the love of the Son.

Later on we ended up at a large church in town; the late service is the contemporary one, as it seems is true of many ELCA congregations these days. The church was beautiful; the narthex inviting; I was impressed by the many offerings throughout the weeks in education and community involvement, also their statement that they are "open and affirming."

I didn't know any of the songs at the contemporary service. I am behind, it seems, and perhaps getting old and cranky. The preacher gave a good sermon on the prodigal son, full of gospel, but didn't read the text before he started, which was disorienting to me. It's good just to hear it, to see what wonders the Word itself can work, before the interpretation starts.

I also thought: I've always had a problem visiting other churches. Even when I was a little kid, I didn't like it when we visited another church, even my grandparents' church. To me it seems, true worship has always had to do not just with the hymns and the preaching and the prayers, but the community. I know that a community of strangers is still God's community, worshiping together, but there's something about knowing the people, the struggles, the faith, the doubts, and bearing with each other, and encouraging each other, that is also an important part of worship for me.

There are many reasons it's good to visit other places, to get ideas for worship, find out how another community does things; and there are many reasons to worship with strangers, and to remember that, as well as we think we know each other, we remain, in some ways, strangers, united by God's claim on our lives and nothing else.

It rained all day Sunday, a soft soaking April rain that we needed to feed the young spring buds, to make the earth come alive again, to make us come alive again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book #14: The Shack

I keep miscounting books; the last one, The Last Week, was really #14, and this one is #15. I can't keep blaming Lent for my confusion!

I read The Shack for our monthly church Book Club meeting, which will take place later this week. I look forward to the conversation we'll have, as the story and the concepts about God are intriguing. Radical trust and forgiveness; unconventional images of God; a terribly horrific experience that needs to be healed.

That being said, for some reason I didn't find The Shack as compelling as I thought I would. The central metaphor of The Shack -- the place where God meets us as the place of our deepest pain -- is exactly right, I think. But something seemed a little too facile about it, for me. And, in the midst of deep pain, as many people experience God's absence as God's presence, I believe.

As we discuss this book, there will be more conversation, discoveries and deeper insights. I look forward to sharing them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Early Sunday Morning: A Thought

When I was in 5th grade, my grandpa Folke, my dad's father, died. He died of skin cancer at 79 years old. I remember my grandmother sneaking me up to the hospital room once, because they did not allow children then. It's hard to explain, exactly: she hid me under her coat. I'm pretty sure that some people did see me.

But this is not about that.

When my grandpa Folke died, and even later when my grandma Judy died, I didn't really think about, as sad as I was, how much sadder my father must be, because these were his parents who had died.

When my neice was about three, I told her that my her dad was my brother, and that my uncle was grandma's brother, and that grandma was her dad's mother, and she threw her hands up in the air and said, "You mean everybody has a family?"

It seems like it takes our whole lives to figure that out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Regret to Inform you....

....I'm putting comment moderation up for awhile, because I'm getting a repeat spam commentor. He has left three comments (in Chinese) on my last post.

I'm hoping that I will only have to do it for a short while.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You Say It's Your Birthday

.... well, actually, it is my birthday today. I'm 39 -- oh all right. I'm 52.

My husband took me out to breakfast this morning. I had Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries (one of my favorite breakfasts that I don't make). I got a beautiful new bracelet and necklace, and a funny card.

Yesterday a member of the congregation came by with a small potted flower. Someone else sent a card with a gift certificate for a cup of coffee. I also got the book The Daily Coyote, which, for some inexplicable reason, I enjoy reading more than I'm enjoying The Shack. (And I am not meaning this as a slam on The Shack; I'm just not as drawn to it as I thought I would be.)

I went to a meeting and conversation this afternoon with john powell. It's hard to explain, except that we are trying to enter into deep relationships with one another across racial and economic lines. It's pretty hard, as it entails being honest with ourselves and one another. As I recall, the incarnation cost Jesus some, too.

Right now I'm taking a break from dishes, laundry, and other last minute clean-ups. Pretty soon we will be going to the visitation for my father-in-law.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Today is the 4th anniversary of the day we brought Scout home.

I met her at a nursing home where I had been visiting residents. She cost $35.00 (a lot more, later, but that's another story.)

She was 6 and 1/2 weeks old when I brought her home in a cardboard box in the back seat of my car. It was a Friday afternoon, the day before my birthday. She howled and yowled pitifully the whole drive home.

We have had our moments, but, I think we'll keep her, now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In Sure and Certain Hope of the Resurrection to Eternal Life

1922 - 2009

My father-in-law died tonight.

Here he is about four years ago with our (then) puppy.

Thank you for your prayers

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Because You are My Friends....

It has been a long Easter Day. After the three services at the church, we found some lunch and headed over to the CICU at the hospital to see my father-in-law. I brought my hymnal because I promised him we would sing him some of the Easter hymns. He used to play the organ and direct church choirs, and he loves church music.

When we got to the hospital, we found out that they had been trying to reach us. He has taken a turn for the worse. He is not responding, just sleeping. The pneumonia is not getting better.

My husband's boys came over and stayed for a long time. We prayed and did sing some Easter songs anyway, and waited for my husband's sister to arrive from out-of-town.

I called the other pastor from the church and asked him to come for a little while, too. I was feeling a little overwhelmed.

My in-laws are also members of the congregation I serve.

We stayed at the hospital most of the afternoon, came home and returned to the hospital again. We are home now. Tomorrow I will probably be looking into cancelling all the arrangements for the retreat I was planning to go to this weekend. But tonight we are all exhausted.

Please pray for us. Because even though I haven't met most of you, I think of you as my friends.

P.S. My father-in-law died tonight (Monday) at 7:45 p.m.

In sure and certain hope of the resurrection .....


Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Today, the Resurrection of our Lord, is also the 2nd Anniversary of my blog.

Last evening at Vigil I chanted the Easter Proclamation. I find it haunting and mysterious: and almost impossible. My favorite lines:

This is the night in which heaven and earth are joined -- things human and things divine.
We therefore, pray to you, O God, that this candle, burning to the honor of your name,
will continue to vanquish the darkness of night
and be mingled with the lights of heaven.

Today I am presiding at three services, but not preaching. Also not having family over, although we will go out to eat and visit my husband's father in Intensive Care. I promised him we would sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" if he could possibly stand to listen to us.

I hope he is better.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Good Friday image that has stayed with me

"Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases."

Many years ago now,I taught school in southern Japan. I taught junior and senior high at a Boys' School. I was the only woman teacher there, and many of the boys in high school were taller than I. There were big strong strapping boys and they all wore black uniforms and they all loved to play sports.

One day one of these big strong boys fell ill. He had been complaining of headaches, I remembered -- and we found out that he had those headaches because he had developed a brain tumor. He ha a very complicated operation to remove the tumor, and then he came back to school. He seemed to be all right, except that the operation had left him blind. I remember seeing him day after day, putting his hand on the shoulder of one of his classmates and following him to his classes. But he would still joke around and he seemed to be in good spirits.

But he wasn't really all right. The operation removed most of his tumor, but not all of it. And after awhile it began to grow again. This time there was nothing they could do, and he began to weaken. He saw many of his dreams for the future disappear. He always spoke about wanting to travel (he wanted to go to America), and now it seemed that he would never have the opportunity. He would never go to college. He would never have a family. The only dream he had left was to graduate from high school. But as he grew weaker, even that dream seemed to fade. He was too weak even to walk up the stairs to his classes.

It was about this time that I began to see a sight that I will never forget. A car would drive up to the front of the school. He and his mother would get out. She would help him and support him as he walked through the front door. When they got to the bottom of the stairs, she put him on her back, and she carried him. She was much smaller and much shorter than he, a tiny Japanese woman, and she carried her big strong 17-year-old son on her back.

"Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases."

I couldn't help it. When I saw her, I thought of Jesus, and she has remained in my mind and my heart, a picture of his strength -- the strength of God. When I think of Jesus at his arrest, telling his captors, "Take me, but let these men go," I think of this woman, willingly bearing the burden of her son, who would do anything to make his one last dream come true. When I think of Jesus, bent over from the weight of the cross, I think of this woman, bent over with the weight of her son on her back. When I think of Jesus, sagging under the weight of our sins, I think of this woman, slowly trudging up the stairs, stronger than she looks, with the strength of love. When I think of Jesus, who looked so small and weak at his crucifixion, I think of this woman, and I know that his weakness is stronger than my strength. Thirsty, he offers us the water of life. Abandoned, he reunites us with one another and with God. Bruised and broken, he heals us. Dying, he gives us life. There is no burden he cannot bear. There is no weight he cannot carry.

"Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Book #15: The Last Week

I'm only a week late finishing this book, which was one of the Revgals' book discussion books. I had read bits of it last year, but not the whole thing. I'm glad I did.

I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. I have read other things by both Borg and Crossan (my husband is a Crossan fan, actually more than I am). So I thought the book would be treading old ground for me. There was a little of that, but I found some really insightful discussions. The chapter on Holy Saturday and the "harrowing of hell" was especially intriguing to me.

One of my favorite quotations, from the chapter, "Thursday": "the point of Jesus meals -- from the loaves-and-fishes ones to the bread-and-wine one -- is to insist on shared meals as the mandate of divine justice in a world not our own. if, as God asserts in Levitucus 25:23, "The land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants," then or course the food the land produces belongs likewise to God. If we are all tenant farmers and resident aliens on an earth not our own, then we are also invitees and guests at a table not our own." (p. 118.)

As for me, Jesus is more than a personal Savior, but also more than a political Messsiah to me. Neither the therapeutic model or the political model of Jesus' salvation quite does it.

I'm also trying to figure out how a passion for God's justice fits together with a passion for and a recognition of the need for overflowing, abundant mercy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy Week Update: Life Intrudes

Last Wednesday, I tentatively and quietly returned to church. Part of me wanted to stay home another day, but I couldn't bear to miss my favorite Lenten activity: Holden Evening Prayer. I was scheduled to lead it that evening, and I was looking forward to it desperately. I found however, as I sang, that I could not reach the high notes, did not have the necessary breath support. Once or twice I actually opened my mouth and nothing came out.
After services, my husband called to ask if I would come over to the hospital. His father had fallen again, while they were at the grocery store. While he was not injured, everyone thought it might be a good idea for him to spend a few days in a nursing home, trying to strengthen his legs, which seemed quite weak.

Late Saturday night, we got another phone call. My husband's dad was being taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital, as he had suddenly become quite ill.

It turns out that he has pneumonia: a lot of pneumonia, one doctor said.

He has been in Intensive Care since Saturday night.

One of my husband's sisters flew in on Sunday afternoon. She has been visiting and helping his mom, which is great. It does seem that his dad is slowly gaining more strength, although he is still in Intensive Care.

In the meantime, I am thinking about Good Friday, and preaching about Jesus' crucifixion. The story overwhelms, with its terror and suffering, with blood and death. Where to focus to find our savior's love, to find a piece of hope to lift up to the light and share?

In the meantime, life overwhelms too. Sometimes I open my mouth and no sound comes out, but O Sacred Head, Now Wounded With Grief and Shame Weighed Down, and there is the little piece of hope to lift up to the light and share.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sunday Sermon

Passion Sunday 2009: "Which Procession are you in? – A Monologue"

It was the time of the Festival: the Festival of the Passover, and everyone was going up to Jerusalem. I come up for the Festival every year. I suppose you would call me a pilgrim, journeying with a purpose. But this year it was special, because I came up with Jesus. You see, I’m one of his disciples. You probably wouldn’t consider me a very important disciple; if your look in your Bible, you won’t find my name written down anywhere. You see, I’m one of the women, and nobody knows most of our names. We usually end up staying in the background, too. The men are always reminding us that it’s our job to serve, that we shouldn’t get in the way – we get the message, believe me! Sometimes, though, I think that, even though I’m not one of the twelve, and even though I don’t get to be in on all of the secret conversations, that Jesus still considers me important, a part of his plan.

Let me tell you a little bit about how I became one of Jesus’ followers. He is very popular in Galilee, where I am from. He tells stories and says things that make people think – like "no one puts new wine into old wineskins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskines" – what do you think he meant by that? – we’re still talking about it! And oh! – he heals people, too. I remember one day that we were in the synagogue and he healed a man with a withered hand. I remember it so well, because he said two things, "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath or to kill?" He said this because some people said he shouldn’t do a healing on the sabbath, in the synagogue. Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand!" I’ll always remember seeing that withered hand stretch out. I don’t even remember his face – the man’s, I mean. I just remember his hand, withered and then whole.

That’s not why I followed him though. I followed Jesus because – for a lot of reasons. I think I followed because of his Voice, his confidence, the way he called to people, and the message about the "Kingdom of God". I wanted to be a part of that Kingdom! And he said that somehow, it was here! It seems like he can see it, even when I can’t. And it seems that his kingdom has to do with peace, with servanthood, with healing – not like the other Kingdoms I know. There’s Caesar’s kingdom, first of all. That Kingdom is all about power over other people. We’re an occupied people, and they like to take every opportunity to remind us. You see the poles that line the main street out of Jerusalem? Those are for crosses, for crucifixions.

They always leave the poles in the ground to remind people what it means to go against the Roman Empire. That’s one kingdom. And then there is Herod’s kingdom. They are the Jewish leaders, and they’re in Rome’s pockets. They aren’t much better than Rome, in my opinion. They are supposed to keep us safe, but they keep most of us poor and in debt. That’s another Kingdom. Jesus’ Kingdom is different, it’s hard to explain. Let me give you an example: when Jesus has a dinner, he will invite anybody – poor, rich, Pharisee, sinner, even me. And he takes what we have: even a few crumby loaves and fish, and makes it into something. If I can just stay with Jesus, maybe I can see what he sees, even if just for a little while.

So, I followed him to Jerusalem, where there was a grand procession as he entered the town. Well, you know what it was like! People were putting palm branches on the ground, and they were shouting, "Hosanna!" He came in riding on a donkey, which might seem odd to you. It might not seem very "Royal" – but that’s the point. Jesus is going to be a humble King. This procession, as grand and exciting as it was to me, I fully admit was nothing compared to what was happening in another part of town. You see, everyone knew that Someone Else was coming into town as well. Pontius Pilate, our Roman governor, was coming to town; he always did, for the festival.

There are always some who like to make trouble at this time of year, and he hopes to prevent a riot. Pontius Pilate’s procession would have been splendid and awe-inspiring, the full force of Rome behind him. I’m sure there were many people watching that parade. Maybe some of them were even shouting out to him, the way we shouted out to Jesus, "Hosanna!" (Save us!)
I stayed with Jesus throughout the week, listening to him as the religious leaders argued with him and tried to trick him and trap him. He won every time, and I could tell they were getting angrier and angrier. But they couldn’t do anything, because there were so many people who followed him.

I heard they had to arrest him in the dead of night. One of the twelve – one of those who had heard the secret conversations and been with him always – was the one who betrayed him. And everyone else ran away. Where were all of those who cried "O Save us!" now? Where were the people waving palm branches? They were gone, afraid of the power of the Roman Empire, their power to kill and destroy. Maybe they were afraid that Rome would find out that they had been in that procession, naming Jesus as the true King. Instead, the only people there were soldiers, and mockers, and a few bystanders, not taking sides. And me.

A few of us women watched too, but from a distance. We stayed in the distance. I suppose we were afraid too. We heard the people laugh and mock him, say, "If you are – the son of God, come down from the cross." But he didn’t. He cried a terrible cry, and he died. The one who healed the withered hand, the one who fed so many people with so little, the one who invited everyone – died. Rome won. That’s how it looks.

I’m not sure what to do now. I can go back home, I suppose. It’s no use hanging around here, dreaming of things that are never going to happen, hoping for changes in the world and in my life. And yet – somehow I think that Jesus was right, that his vision was right, that his Kingdom is the one I want to live in. Even so, I want to be in his procession, even though it led him – and me – here, to the cross, to death.

What about you? Whose procession are you in? Are you in Pilate’s procession? I’ll admit, it has its advantages. He’s powerful, he’s successful: I suppose that if you are on your way up, you can’t ignore him. Or are you in Jesus’ procession? "He saved others," they said. Why couldn’t he save himself? I wonder about that. And it makes me, honestly, afraid to follow him, sometimes. But it also makes me wonder: Maybe, in some strange way, that is the way it is in Jesus’ kingdom. "He saved others." Who else can say that?

I suppose I’m still a pilgrim, even though I’m not sure where I’m going next. I’ll wait here, for a little while. But what about you? Whose procession are you in? Who are you following – really?

Unbearable Grief

Please go here and here, and keep all of the people in Binghamton in your prayers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Five: time out edition

Sally over at Revgalblogpals writes this Friday Five:

Holy Week is almost upon us, I suspect that ordained or not, other revgal/pals calendars look a bit like mine, FULL, FULL, FULL.....Jesus was great at teaching us to take time out, even in that last week, right up to Maunday Thursday he withdrew, John's gospel tells us he hid! He hid not because he was afraid, but because he knew that he needed physical, mental and spiritual strength to get through...So faced with a busy week:

1. What restores you physically?
Long, brisk walks (preferably with my dog), and short, sweet naps. I also find that a good swim can be very restorative, although I don't have much opportunity for swimming these days. Finally, the luxury of a good massage restores me.

2. What strengthens you emotionally/ mentally?
I love being around good music, good books and beautiful art. In fact, just being in a library and touching books (without even going so far as reading one) somehow helps. Hearing a good story from a friend or parish member, a story of something hopeful in their life, is also strengthening, emotionally -- and spiritually.

3. What encourages you spiritually?
A friend shared a story from her work. She works with young children at a local elementary school. Mostly, it is her responsibility to deal with those who are the farthest behind in school. One boy, a 5 year old from Mexico, was a big behavior problem for everyone. She said she was ready to give up when she heard a little about his background, and learned that he had been abused back in his home country, by a family member. Then she saw the scars. So she decided to handle him differently. Every day, no matter what, she was going to give him a big hug. It wasn't many days before he began to turn around, and change his behavior.

Things like that encourage me spiritually.

4. Share a favourite poem or piece of music from the coming week.
It's not particularly for this week, but for some reason I always associate this song with Maundy Thursday:

Lord, whose love in humble service bore the weight of human need
who upon the cross forsaken, worked your mercy's perfect deed:
we your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart;
consecrating to your purpose ev'ry gift which you impart.

5.There may be many services for you to attend/ lead over the next week, which one are you most looking forward to and why? If there aren't do you have a favourite day in Holy week if so which one is it?
I think I like our Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil. Even though it is small, and not very elaborate, I like the candles and the mystery of "this is the night."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cool, Clear Water

I had never had an IV before.
I was fascinated by the drip drip drip
of the salty water
into my arm
and how it was saving me
making me alive

how thirsty I was!
how much I wanted a drink!
it was the one thing I needed most
but the one thing that my body rejected

there's a lesson in here somewhere
you tell me what it is

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

To the participant at our Lenten lunch this noon, I still looked "a little peekid." (If that's the right spelling.)

To the hospital patient who had just had surgery, I was looking "pretty spry."

I'm tired. In the middle of Holden Evening Prayer, I realized I could not sing the high notes. I just totally lost them. At one point I opened my mouth and nothing came out.

I love Holden Evening Prayer. And there are other things that I want to come out. They are sitting inside me, but I'm a little too tired to get them to come out right now.

--watching the IV drip and realizing how important water really is, in ways I hadn't even thought of
-- how our health is related to our sense of connection with one another, and how deeply alienated most of us our from each other, and especially those outside of our own ethnic group, class or race
-- why Jesus REALLY challenges me....
-- and then there are a couple of family challenges that I can't talk about, but would like you to pray for.