St.Francis, Children and Adultery.

Oct 4, Pent 19, 2015

St Francis

The story tells about Brother Juniper one of the earliest followers of Francis. Juniper followed Francis’ ideal of poverty and had the habit of giving to the poor. He often returned to the monastery without sandals or hat or coat. The caretaker of the community property ordered Brother Juniper to give nothing away. When Juniper next went to town and he met a poor man, he told the man, “I have been ordered not to give anything away, but if you take anything, I will not resist.” Juniper returned to the monastery almost naked and happy.

Adultery and Divorce: Some reflections

Adultery has much to do with singleness of heart. If one is tempted, first look at what you are trying to re-capture and from what fear you are in flight. There’s opportunity in these temptations. So let them come. One doesn’t win through them by denial or self-mortification. One uses the temptations to let the deep consciousness know the work that needs to be done. And then they need to be let go, recognized for what they are, which is some imagined relationship without conflict like Dylan’s song: “I want a good woman who’ll do just what I say”, or if you’re a woman, some ideal man.  Then let the temptations go for a higher singleness of heart. What do you need to work on? What are those issues that as a couple you need to face? What in yourself needs to be explored, encountered and let go.

Clearly if there is abuse to yourself or to your children, you need to find safety. Jesus’ injunctions about adultery and divorce are in some ways the ironic response to those like me who want wiggle room. And yet at the heart of it all is to do all you can to hang in there. Do the work you need to do to grow into the heart of singleness. Which is to see with the eye of the heart, which is as St Francis de Sales said” where there is no love, put love and you will find love.”

As a divorced and remarried man, I’ve found there is no profit in assessing fault. To be able to love what you loved and be thankful for all that was given and a blessing will be its own door to the heart of the divine. Jesus, I suspect, will be the last one to judge. Perhaps he might ask, “do you remember those dark nights of the soul when the only one you could turn to was me?”

Cypress: Let the little ones come.

In the circle of this blog is a picture of Cypress in my arms as we celebrate the Eucharist. To my right is the new deacon and soon to be priest Susan Taylor, who is here in this two hundred year old Vermont Church as to new priest to be of St John’s in Randolph, VT.

Cypress came to church with her grandparents and was uninvolved with the service. I asked her grand-parents if Cypress would like to come with me and help me at the altar. For the next fifteen minutes she was fully attentive, curious, involved. She remained in my arm as I raised the cup and the bread. At the communion, I asked her if she wanted to return to her grandparents, which she did.

Cypress mother is a Lutheran minister and was on retreat that summer weekend. I thank her for lending her child to me to so perfectly illustrate the meaning of Jesus to let the little children come. Unless I become immersed in the mystery of what is happening around, in and through me, my spiritual leadership is diminished. In such a way children have been among my greatest teachers and inspirations.

Racism: Black Lives Matter

September 6, 2015: Pentecost 15

About fifty years ago Ed Rodman, my African American friend, mentor, prophet, said to me, “Racism can’t be solved by moving toward economic equality alone”.  When African American Youth and their parents and allies raise the cry “Black Lives Matter” it’s because the white system doesn’t see them, doesn’t know them or make attempts to know them and controls the systems and institutions that perpetuate racial misunderstanding and division. I believe their passionate confrontations with Bernie Sanders and others are an appropriate way to shake to consciousness the great Sin of our society: Racism.

Racism isn’t only prejudice. Prejudice is endemic in most societies and groups. Racism is different because it includes power and prejudice and mixes them in a lethal brew of Institutional discrimination, fear and dismissal of a Black person’s humanity.

Of course white lives matter too. So do police, so do other races and religions and nationalities, but sometimes you have to yell in the ear of the powerful for them to pay attention, or for us white folks to pay attention.

Black Lives Matter because there is systematic discrimination, different standards of behavior by our institutions. Written into the constitution was the perpetuation of Slavery. While a war was fought over slavery, the institutions of segregation and discrimination continue. As the Freedom song says:

“Those who believe in freedom shall not rest:

Until the killing of Black men, Black mother’s sons are the same as the killing of white men, white mother’s sons”

It seems to me the task before us for the sake of our souls is to see our black men as our brothers and sons and fathers, and our black women as our sisters and mothers and daughters.

We can work on changing our institutions, elect an African-American president, put in place an African American Attorney General, but unless at the local level, with our police, our elected leaders, our churches and schools and institutions and businesses we will re-create the great divide.

Civil Rights leaders have said that a “change of heart” will be a long time coming. White privilege will not give up its place or power without confrontation. And yet it seems to me that the very way into the heart of love and the heart of the divine is, as white people, admit that we have been given a pass that our black brothers and sisters have not had. Admit it, look at it and let it go. For this privilege is not ours alone but belongs to every child of God.

I began as a white boy who wanted to be in the Black community. After many years of stumbling and confrontation, I was both tolerated and welcomed. I was at a Baptism at an African American Church in Roxbury. It was 1968. As the only white man in the large group I turned to Helen and blurted out, “Helen I feel uncomfortable.” “How do you think we feel”, Helen responded.

What an incredible invitation to enter a process of discovery. And it really helps with my racism, my white privilege, to try to see with another’s eyes, to put myself in the shoes of my Black brothers and sisters. I’m convinced that there is a massive shift of heart and mind that is required. The process now is to see that Black Lives Do Matter. That our institutions need to be held accountable for racial discrimination. That our police and public officials need to learn how the system of racism works in their own lives. How it works in our churches where still the most segregated hour in American as ML King said 50 years ago, is the 11 o’clock hour on a Sunday morning.

Let’s take a look at how we experience and behave as we encounter African-American men and women and children. Let us pledge to confront expressions of racial prejudice in our conversations with others and within ourselves. Let us begin or continue the process of opening our hearts to our Black brothers and sisters and to see them as children of God. I suspect that will mean we’ll have to see ourselves a children of God as well.

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Facing Race after Michael Curry’s election as Presiding Bishop


An excellent article and a profound insight in the reality in which we live in the USA and the church

Originally posted on The Episcopal Herald:

When President Obama was elected eight years ago as the first African American president, many in this country rushed to declare that America’s racial problems had been officially resolved. We had entered the post-racial society, they said. But then those same voices disparaged his office and his person. They created voter ID laws to discourage minorities from voting. They decried black leaders for not keeping their communities quiet in the face of violence and discrimination. Those same voices that would have us believe they could not see race showed us just how deep the racial prejudices and injustices of this land run.


Obama’s presidency did not absolve us of a racist past, but it did prove a catalyst for uncovering our racist present so that we might together begin the work of addressing it. God bless our president for his patience, self-differentiation, and wisdom in this painful process.

We celebrate…

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Storms: Pentecost 4b

Rembrandt’s, Storm on the Sea of Galilee: Peace, Be still.  Mk 4:31-41

Rembrandt’s Painting of the Storm on the Sea of Galilee pictures the artist as one of the crew in the tossed and imperiled ship. The red-headed Rembrandt looks in fear and bewilderment at the viewer who peers at the ship from above, Jesus peacefully asleep in the bow.

The painting was stolen some twenty-five or more years ago from the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum. In the days I went there on at least a monthly time table, the entrance was free. In the remarkable space, there’s a central garden. Its walls are faced with pink marble and the galleries are on the first three floors. Isabel and her family lived on the top floor. The garden is covered with glass and it allows for a controlled environment during Boston’s bitter winters. Thus there are always flowers growing and trees and bushes in leaf and bud. A fountain with two carved dolphins’ spills water into a pool at one end of the courtyard and benches are placed for guests to sit and be still in the usually quiet presence of running water and beauty all around any time of year.

When I go to Boston, these days, I don’t usually visit the museum. Yet when I do it is with a sense of loss and a prompt to be still, be peace. Over the years since I’ve been away my visits to the city and the nearby town of Dedham have been storm tossed. First it was the death of mystep-dad, then the struggle of my mother with early signs of dementia and efforts to keep the house so it was habitable and to pay the bills. There followed the sadness and guilt as we had to sell the house to pay the many outstanding bills and to move her to a nursing home. The loss of the family home was particularly hard on my sister who had been living there and taking care of my mother. Her death two years later from a stroke led to rifts in the family. There were also visits to my Godmother who never had children of her own and so my visits to her were a reminder that showing up is half or more of life. She took good physical, mental and spiritual care of herself. She not only attended the services in her Congregational Church, but she attended Rosary and Jewish services that visitors would bring to her nursing home.

I may not have had to return to Boston to see how the storms of life had seemed to batter so many. It made me more acutely aware at how privileged I am. I was able to go to college and find work that I loved to do. I have loving relationships and three children and two-step-children all healthy and giving back to the world. Sure the price paid for my education was dear. The benefit that would have gone to my father if he had survived WW II came to me after his death. Yet it was still privilege and white privilege at that. The women in my family had little of that.

I often tend to talk about the good memories, where there is a sense of the presence of the holy. Yet when I’m caught in these storms, I identify with Rembrandt looking at me from the painting with bewilderment and pain and fear. And a sense that I’m soon going to be over my head in a sea of troubles.

It’s those trips to Boston to visit mother, dying step-dad, god-mother and family that may actually be the real living into the nature of the divine life. I usually don’t know it at the time, but in those times of death and struggle and storm the words of Jesus to the disciples, “peace, be still” carry most meaning.

That movement into the storm, letting go of any easy peace of self- satisfaction, that I’m not going to solve anyone’s problem, and my purpose is to simply be here with these loved ones in the storm and in the stillness, that is the path and the flow of Jesus.

And to  keep reminding myself that in the midst of the storm, the holy lamb of God, says to the storm, “Peace, be still”, and know the waves will subside and the sea becalmed and the stars of night will appear. And in their time the storms will reveal their meaning.

Thoreau, Jesus and Civil Disobedience

Pentecost 3b  “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.” Mark 7: 23-28

Henry David Thoreau may have taken a page from scripture as inspiration for his Civil Disobedience?  As much as he had stepped out from under his strict New England Puritanism, by its very nature the culture had been steeped in these old scriptures. By extension, Jesus and much later Thoreau, is saying that the law must serve humankind, not the other way around. That sometimes disobedience to a rule or a law that is unjust is required of the disciple. A law that meets the needs of the hungry, that raises up the powerless and poor, that heals on any day that healing is needed, Sabbath or not, contains the qualities of compassion and mercy that meet real human need.

The injunction to “Keep Holy the Sabbath” came to Moses in the wilderness because the enslaved Hebrews never had a day to themselves. Every day was a day of work and struggle and day proceeded into monotonous day. The Sabbath became the one day out of the week that there’d be no work. A day of rest. A day sit by the fire and to eat left-overs, and to read the Sunday Times. Oh, and also to worship God. In a time when we struggle to find such a clearing in our crowded lives, Jesus and Thoreau would probably advocate a return to times of rest and reflection. Certainly Thoreau’s two years two months and two days at Walden Pond may be instructive for many of us.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

— Henry David Thoreau[4]


It may be an unwritten but eternal truth as the Dalai Lama said: “You need to know the rules very well, before you can break them.”

And sometimes the rules are made to keep us too safe, to complacent, too stuck in our own little worlds. There is a universe out there that may not be about you and me. It is the world of crying desperate need of painful suffering and wonder. Too often the laws are written to protect our property, our boundaries and our vaunted sense of superiority. Jesus knew that we have to draw the circle to include the poor, the hungry, mourners, the meek, the pure of heart and the peacemakers. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns the law inside out. To Jesus, the law followed to is ultimate meaning is to place no barrier in the way of God’s love and mercy and abounding generosity of heart.

If memory serves, Thoreau wrote his pamphlet “Civil Disobedience” as a protest to the war with Mexico. Since he was an active Abolitionist, his active opposition to slavery was also influential. Thoreau was imprisoned when he refused to pay taxes to support what he believed was the illegal war against Mexico. In a play written about Thoreau’s sojourn in the Concord jail, he is visited by Emerson:

“Emerson asks, “Henry what are you doing in there?”

Thoreau replies, “Ralph, what a YOU doing Out there?”

Faithfulness to justice and compassion require living by the consequences of the unjust law.

Jesus, Thoreau, Gandhi and Dr. King   were arrested because they wouldn’t bow to what they believed was an unjust law.

Thoreau supported John Brown in his bloody raid on Harper’s Ferry. Such actions were out of sync with Jesus, Gandhi, and Dr King. Instead the other three said to “love your enemy”. We discover in the enemy some of our own brokenness, that they often have the same exclusive loves and jealousies, that they want only a peaceful life undisturbed by outsiders. And they will fight to defend their little piece of turf and their families.

Jesus goes deeper. The law is not only for those who have power, property and wealth. The Higher law needs to include those on the margins.

Then, as we have seen in the last generations, human need itself has to bow to an even higher law which is to protect the rights of the creation to exist and to not be exploited by human greed. Human beings must learn to live in peace and in creative dialogue with each other and with all creatures and elements. We must all perish eventually, but while we have life humankind might call a time of Sabbath rest that brings life and does not destroy it.