“Forgive Them”, Luke 23, Last Pentecost

“Forgive them….” Luke 23: For Christ the King Sunday

Father Michael Daly* served as priest at Sacred Heart Parish in Camden New Jersey. What attracted one to Michael and some of his
contemporaries in Camden such as Martin Gutwein, was their willingness and commitment to work and live in the poorest city in the eastern US.

Michael said of the city where he served for at least 25 years, “Those with wings have flown over the wall, all who are left have broken wings and cannot fly”. Still there were some who could fly and chose to stay. Those were among the great ones.

Michael said about the passage for this day that the words of Jesus
“Father, forgive them” is at the heart of the faith in which many of
us call our own. Certainly the words of Jesus from the cross placed forgiveness where it can’t be ignored. I know people who have been abused who cannot hear those words without tears and anger. I met a man who survived the death camps of Poland. He does not believe in God and does not forgive. I respect his fierce refusal to be consoled.

In the face of such deep hurt and suffering, one whispers forgiveness.Maybe forgiveness cannot come for some unless there is justice. And yet even when justice comes, for some forgiveness seems impossible and unwanted. Sometimes the sense of moral superiority and outrage keeps one going. Who is not outraged at the abuse of children, the concentration camps of Europe, the slaughter of innocents here in this
land, our history of racism. Who would not be outraged? Who could tell the parents of Trayvon Martin to forgive. It can’t bring back the lost innocence, or the murdered innocent. It can’t return the beloved who dies too young or too soon. To many forgiveness seems to white-wash injustice and cruelty
.
And still forgiveness sits with them like a maiden aunt at an Irish wake while they toss and churn. Forgiveness sits and keens and waits. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us, not primarily for the perpetrator. If we forgive the one who causes the harm, we act out of a sense of self preservation, freedom from the urge for revenge or to inflict similar punishment.

The wheels of God’s justice turn. It may not be on our schedule, and yet when we can forgive, when we are able to let go, we are doing the work God desires for us so that we can be merciful to ourselves as well as those who trouble us.

To forgive is not to forget. Forgetting is to sweep under the rug the memory of the hurt. The memory of the hurt of the act or acts returns. Again and again they will come and visit. Yet they come in for a few minutes. They never stay long enough for tea. Unless they begin to fester and the memory of the act is played again and again. That’s why forgiveness is central to faith, to protect us from playing the hurt over and over until it festers and becomes an infection to the life of the spirit.

More to come.

*Michael had been involved in one of the seminal trials of the
generation with his actions with the Camden 28. The group attempted to destroy the draft files of those young men classified I-A during the end of the Vietnam War. Michael and the rest of the Camden 28 were found not guilty. Howard Zinn, by the way, testified at their trial.

I’d Like to See with the Eyes the Holy: Pentecost 25,

I’d Like to See with the Eyes of the Holy

I’d like to see with the eyes of the Holy,
To witness the whole tapestry of ancestors,
Their angels and demons,
Through the eyes of God.

Then, maybe, I’d understand
Their whys and oughts and shoulds.
I’d see their captivity to old wounds
I’d love them for their ugliness as for their beauty.

I’d see a procession
From the beginning, extending to now
And to the great-great grandchildren
Of the lame and the crippled,
Addicts and those who ran from reality,
The abused and the abusers.

I’d look into the eyes of the great-souled ones,
The workers, the mothers
The warriors and healers,
The fighters for freedom,
The humble righteous, the kind and
Generous.

Maybe I’d know how they were all
Enclosed and Included into God’s great heart
Simply as they were,
“Warts and all”.

The Sadducees are the One-Percenters, establishment people. They, as many in the church, are charged with protecting the institution and the hegemony of an all male establishment.  Sound familiar? The contest they put before Jesus is laughable. The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection. So they put a riddle to Jesus hoping to catch him. Tradition said that if a husband died, the widow of that man would become the responsibility of the next brother on down the line. “To which one”, they challenge Jesus, “will she be married in the resurrection?”

Jesus is not tied to protect the establishment. His focus is on the Great and generous heart of God. The Sadducees and their riddles work from a system in which widows are protected by being “given” in marriage to the next surviving brother in the family. There was a certain security for the widow and the orphan in this situation. And yet women were still seen as property.

Jesus as usual turns the debate on its head and argues that in the life to come women will not be “given” in marriage. There will be no ownership because we are all, both the living and the dead, “possessions” of God.

That’s what struck me from the reading: “All are alive, the living and the dead, are all alive in God.” What a way to see life and death, as a continuum. We know what it is like to live with the ghosts of the ancestors. Families and political systems live the legacy of their gifts and their weaknesses, their good will and their wickedness. Now, Jesus seems to me to be saying is that we all, living and dead, live within the circle of God’s compassion and mercy. Here in this realm, forgiveness abounds, giving and owning do not exist, because we are all connected to the great heart of God and to the Holy. There is no slave or free, no male or female, no division, we are all One in the heart of God. In this space, even the ancient wounds are staunched. The blood flow of pain, anger, resentment, confusion and hate find resolution.

Those who are now alive have the power to make choices that free them to live outside imposed structures to grow into the mind and heart of God. We are now free to imagine and create a more loving and hopeful place for all beings and creatures.

Read the poem again and see what comes up for you.

Peace and Shalom, Bob

 

Prayer: To Beat On the Breast of God, Sept. 20, 2013

Pentecost 22.

Prayer: A Poem
It doesn’t matter how you pray
Or if you pray.
What matters is to see the leaf turn
And the last rose of summer.

Or that your eyes are filled with the night sky
Or the chipmunk in the rock wall.
To hear the sound of the chickadee
To smell the mown grass

Taste an apple from the tree
Or a grape fresh from the vine

To hold a dying woman’s hand and
Weep with the orphan and widow of war.

To let your heart and breath and senses
And your pure and confused mind be
Filled with wonder and compassion
Imagination and gratitude,
And humility for the gift you have been given.

That would be prayer enough.

But to see everyone and everything
Through the eyes of God and Jesus
Or Siddartha or a holy woman, some
Eastern and ancient saint or goddess,

To see with God’s eyes
Experience with God’s beating heart
One would open to the wonder,
The reality And pain
Of the other and of you

And you would never hate again

Or turn away.

Prayer someone said is like going to a dance or going off to war. It is being in such a close relationship with the divine that you can beat on God’s breast for justice or redemption, or claw ones way to God’s feet to beg for healing or forgiveness or both. Prayer is a cry of the heart. It is not something nice and well worded, it is not necessarily the kind of elegant words that come from a book.

There is no nice guy or girl here. You can rail at God for the injustice of the world, the loss of innocent life, the stupidity and its resultant consequences for the poor and powerless by leaders of the world. I yell to God in my car while driving on the highway. God hears the cries of the widow and orphan, of the afflicted and those suffering in pain or from injustice. We should in our prayers never give up pounding on the door and the heart of God. God can take a beating. Look at the sorrow of the world, it is over that world that God sheds tears.

We are universally timid in our Prayers of the People. Maybe we need to shout out our grief more; our sorrow, our thanksgivings, our cries for justice and against injustice and killing and the horror of war. Our voices together raised in a shout of praise or petition, unafraid to beat on the very doors of heaven to hear us. We need our prayer to be courageous, outrageous, outspoken. This kind of prayer is called petition and intercession, asking God for something or for someone or something else. It’s the kind of prayer we tend to do most in church and in the quiet of our rooms. It is what the widow is doing before the unjust judge, petitioning the judge to give her a hearing.

Another kind of prayer is Confession. Confession is important and necessary for health. To be able to tell someone, a trusted confidant, a priest, a therapist with your deepest and darkest secrets, is the necessary step toward healing and restoration. One of AA truths is that we are only as sick as our darkest secrets. Telling someone is often a liberation through which change can begin.

Confessional prayer is also a time when we are forced by life, relationships, history, and culture to examine who we are and how we behave toward each other and to ourselves. It shines light on our own brokenness and the brokenness of others and of the systems around us. It drives us to the kind of inner change that leads to new life and it confirms us in the truth that God is merciful to us and blesses us. It can move us to a place where we can forgive others and ourselves and to make restitution.

Confessional prayer is the great informer, the place of inner struggle and truth. We are naked before God. There is no hiding. All we have is our own pure truth and lies, our beauty and our deception, our wisdom and our ignorance and blindness, our loving kindness and our hardness of heart. It’s all there ready to be taken out of the closet of our inner life and presented in all its messiness to God. Like the widow persistent for justice before the unjust Judge. And Yet God who is Just will hear her cries.

And justice does not come, not always, because the cries of the rest of us are so blinded by our own obstructed need that we have no time or vision for the need beyond our noses. We are like the unjust judge. Few can claim of never finding themselves in that role, trying to ignore the cries of the poor and the powerless. Elie Weisel who survived the death camps of Europe said that the ground of evil is not hate, it’s indifference. What widow whose pleas for justice have you heard? What widow in you, cries to be heard?

Indeed one has come among us. The woman splashed with acid by her husband, and you heard and saw her and you were if you were like me informed and horrified at the cruelty of one person to another. We need to continue to raise our voices against this kind of cruelty, the hidden cruelty of domestic abuse. Prayer is not only an inner conversation with God. The response of God asks, “What are you going to do about it?” You are my hands and my feet and heart in this world. I depend on you. And you and I need to respond, I will do such and such, I will make some noise, I will cry out, I will go and comfort and respond.

Sometimes though our response may be, “the time is not ready; I have to attend to an inner life that I failed to nurture by my laziness or occupation with too many things. I need to be still and Know You God

More about that later.

Thanksgiving: Native Americans say that all prayer is Thanksgiving. If we were able to give thanks for all things, to see the holy in everyone and everything, in every encounter and situation; that would be prayer enough. As a practice it opens the heart and mind to help us see how God is working in creation, among nations and peoples and in our lives. If we were to live less out of our complaints and more out of the abundance we have been freely given, we would find joy.

So prayer is like going to a dance or going off to war. What then is the dance of prayer? Each of the kinds of prayer I’ve been describing has elements of both. The restoration of the lost, the healing of relationships, the healing of a loved one, the breaking of a destructive habit are a cause for celebration and dance.

There are still those kinds of prayer that take us directly into the dance of God. These prayers are adoration, praise and oblation.

Oblation is the prayer of giving ones life and service to the love of God and creation. It’s doing whatever you are doing for the love of God. If you wash the dishes, dig a ditch, birth a child, run a corporation, or a nation, to do it for the love and service of the holy. You may see how everyday life can become a prayer and a dance.

Or praise: They say when you sing you pray twice. So we sing. My mother wouldn’t sing because her brother teased her as a child. Since that day I don’t remember hearing her sing. So we sing for her, for all the silenced voices, for the pure love of the beauty of sound and the combined voices, and the words that have been put to music and the poetry.

And adoration: This prayer is meditation, adoration and praise which is what the poem in the beginning is about. It’s the prayer where one meets God. It is like the priest who said,” I just talk with Jesus and He talks back to me.” Or the other priest who prays and talks with Jesus while he sits on the cellar steps and looks at his dog

As we participate in the dance of prayer we discover the presence of the holy; That space where you and God are so conjoined that there is no obvious separation, you are one, undivided and holy trinity. You and God and all creation.  Here in the dance and the heart of God we may find Jesus with us in our bed one night and experience the sorrow of God and take God in our arms and give comfort and let God rest and weep. The deep hurt of the world is so much greater than most of our worries and ills. It is the Christ that witnesses it and waits for a response.

It is here that hearts are lifted in praise and adoration. When our hearts are not like thanksgiving, but filled to overflowing with gratitude with the life that we have been given, when all the cries of the heart are received by the love and mercy and compassion of the holy. To be able to live with God and when you get there, Letting Go,  To not hold onto God like a possession, but as a gift to be given away and shared and tended and loved and set free.

We need more time for silent prayer as well. Not rush through them like we tend to do in congregations. And we need to shout Amen when we like a point in the sermon, to encourage those who get up and take off the bindings of their soul in front of you each Sunday.

Our life is a blessing: As the great Rabbi Heschel said, “Just to live is a blessing. Just to be is holy.” It is to have a prayer constantly on our lips. “Come holy One, Open my lips,  and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

You don’t have to pray, but if you’re going to pray. Do it. Pray as if your life depended on it. Whether you pound on the door of the unjust judge, or go off to war, or whether you are still and silent in a grove of trees or the chair that overlooks the busy street. Pray with all your heart. And remember the great resource of the tradition that gives us the great prayers: The “our father”, the psalms, the prayers of the hours. So that in those times of dryness you don’t have to come up with something yourself. Ideally, the times of going off to a dance or to war with God is a daily , even hourly cycle. Each time responding to and nourishing the other. In the morning one begins with centering prayer: Listening to the heart beat, rising before dawn to be in the stillness of the morning and the first stirring of birds: A lavender-pink or red sun rising, Stretching out, breathing in the presence of the divine. And use the daily prayers our great traditions have given to us. Use them as a template for your own prayer. Take advantage of the gift of prayer in community that Susan offers here.

Whatever you do and however you do it, even looking at the last leaf of the summer as it falls off the tree, that kind of opening to the wonder and amazement as well as the hurt of the world, opens us to that realm where God is and lives and gives us being and lives through and in us.

 

If I were a rich man. September 28.

One summer day I was visiting with my family on the deteriorating front porch of our vintage Victorian house. I had scraped and painted the house with a forty foot aluminum ladder that sagged precariously as I tried to reach the topmost shingles. I had scars from attempts to prop up the front porch which buckled on both corners. I was working three jobs: one as a part time priest, another as a cabbie in the city, and the third as a teacher at a community college. My wife and I had three children, two with special needs.

Into the scene two old women were toddling by and from the sidewalk called out to us, “You must be rich!” My first reaction was to protest. We were getting help with food from the government, we had no health care. Thank God for the neighborhood health clinics that some of us had set up in the 70’s.

And yet, those old women were right. We were rich. We had a roof and shelter and the slim means to pay for it. We were rich with health, in the gift of three beautiful children, including the little ones who taught us to see through the eyes of their disabilities.

We were rich with friends and meaningful work and with enough food to eat. Even at the age of thirty eight or so we were among the richest people in the world.

So when an old woman walks by your house and you’re feeling put upon instead of moaning about how hard your life is remember your blessings.  Recall the gifts you have been given: your life, your breath, a heart that beats, an eye that sees, an ear that hears. Be grateful for people to love and the glorious creation that cascades in a spectacular Kaleidoscope of color from the trees.

As the old Incan shaman said to a friend, “We own nothing. Everything is ours.”

A Dream: Pentecost, Luke 13:10-17

I

I had a dream a few days ago. I was the president. .Instead of living in the White House, I chose to live near my old neighborhood in the city. There was a Three-story walk up with a finished basement, front and back porches, nice and airy. I thought by moving into the old neighborhood things would improve for the folks who still lived there. Better schools, teachers, health facilities, safer streets, better quality of life. But my security detail blocked the streets, went door to door and removed the petty theives, We all knew who they were and they were basically harmless, and of course they went to town with drug users and the derelict who I would talk to on the way to the store. They tried to make it too safe. Old friends started to complain.

On top of that my landlady was bent over, hard of hearing and half blind. She lived on the first floor and she was the queen of the house and demanded attention. Seriously, this was my dream. Would I continue to live in my neighborhood or would I move to the projects a half mile away? Or would I move back to Washington and live in the neighborhood behind the Capitol Building. That’d show ‘em.

I woke troubled that my radical behavior caused such problems for my friends in the old neighborhood. When Jean woke I told her my dream and she remembered an old Hindi story about a King who was attacked by a tiger. Three monks who were nearby scared the tiger away and saved the kings life.

Grateful the king invited the three monks to his palace. When they arrived the King served them food and drink and said, “I am deeply grateful to you for saving my life. I will grant you one wish and if it is within my power I will see that your wish is honored. The first monk said, “Thank you, my village needs electricity.” “ Granted”, exclaimed the King. The second monk asked for a van and a road that would connect his village to a hospital. That wish too was granted by the King.

The King asked the third monk for his wish. The monk said to the King. “Your Majesty, wife and I have talked to the village leaders and we have agreed that we wish you to come live in our house. My wife and I would like to cook for you and you would come to know how good our people are and how much they love you.” After some thought, the King turned to the monk and said, “I will come.”

The Moral of the story is: “When you invite the divine to live with you, when you feed and love the holy, all the rest will follow.”

The moral of my dream?  The president is not divine?

Now back to the dream. The iconic Boston Three-decker with its finished basement offered a way to look at how we look at the spiritual life, religious tradition and in our case, scripture. I suspect it applies to any scripture, but for Christians it’s the specifically Christian scripture and those parts of the Hebrew bible that we tend to choose to help fortify our particular religious perspective. Cynthia Bourgeault in “The Wisdom Way of Knowing” writes about the four senses of scripture.

My dream basement where my security team hangs out is the “by the book” gang. Bourgeault calls them the literalists. They are the earliest stage, and we can see it developmentally in children as well as being acted into adulthood. The Bible tends to be interpreted as a rule book by which to live the Christian life. There is little tolerance for ambiguity. My bent woman in today’s scripture is the subject of this literalism by the religious official. He takes the command to “Keep holy the Sabbath” literally. The literalists in our day either disregard the miraculous healings of Jesus or they get stuck with; “if the bible said it, it must be true just as it is written”. The woman was healed by Jesus and that’s it. Case closed.

The first floor is the one through which everything is seen through the prism of Christ. Bourgeault argues that “this process may seem forced if you are not a Christian”, yet it is a step beyond the stunted literalism of the basement floor because it requires imagination, the use of analogy and metaphor. It is the beginning of creativity and art. “Around the Center point of Christ {one] is learning to tap into those more subtle and ‘image forming and symbolic categories’ of a heart that is coming into its own.”

The Second floor is the floor of growth. At this stage (one) sees that the scriptures are patterns for the soul’s journey. It is on this floor that there is room for both play and pray. My Japanese roommate years ago had difficulty pronouncing his ‘r’s’. So the word pray became play. One begins to “play in the fields of the holy. One tends to see the real through the eyes of the divine. The old neighborhood becomes a holy field, its streets, trees, people, residents, its pure beauty which breaks the heart, the years of families, of devotion and betrayal, of heartache, of abuse and sorrow and tragedy, all is becoming a part of the sacred vessel in which the dream takes me. It is a floor for growing into the divine heart, the open heart, the heart of God.

The Third Floor of my three-decker where my dream has deposited me Bourgeault calls the “unitive” stage. The image I had was a room filled with light that did not burn, of a communion of communions where all beings were gathered at table with the divine. In the middle of the room was the divine and next to the divine sat Mert, the developmentally disabled woman in the congregation to which I was now speaking. In fact around this table were many of the bent women and men, handicapped, mentally tortured, and then the rest of us, the mostly, more or less, normal people,  whoever they are. And there are birds, and the roof is also open to the night sky where in the darkness one can see galaxies, planets, and a crescent moon. It reminded me of Jean Vanier’s, L’Arche community in a way, but universal. Every race, religion, political persuasion, was gathered there being drawn to the light and love of the heart of God.

In my dream did I mention that I was Black? In the dream it was not an issue. Upon waking I could see through the lens of race and how it is a factor for the neighbors. I am not invited into the homes of many. There are the old wounds of racism and prejudice. The systems will have to be torn apart and down and replaced. That will take time. But all I can see now is how the bent woman in the scripture for this week, the one Jesus healed can be seen through different floors of our faith journey.

I knew that the woman who lived on the first floor, bent and half-blind and hard of hearing was one who would need my sitting with, perhaps for hours at a time. Somehow she was the key, the door into my house and into the heart of God. And in some real ways that old woman was me.

The Fires that don’t consume, Pentecost 13

Fire: 13th Sunday after Pentecost: Luke

“Jesus said, ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled’.”

I’ve been chewing over this passage from Luke since 1974 when Bishop Burgess of Massachusetts asked me to write a sermon on it. I didn’t have a clue how to approach it and I suspect now almost forty years later the old anxiety about it still rises.

What could I say to a congregation or to the bishop who had taken me as a young deacon under his wing? I could start with the fact that the whole dang city seemed to be burning down around me. Fires from the matchstick wooden tenements stuffed with émigrés and refugees, were burning daily and at night.

We were planning to ride the busses with the little Black children in a few weeks into South Boston as the Court attempted to solve racial separation in its schools.

Then it was August 15th the day, when nine years before, Jonathan Daniels was killed in Alabama while trying to register Blacks to vote and desegregate Episcopal churches.

And it was also the month when in 1945 we dropped A Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and forever redefined the following generations.

Not to forget the gas ovens of Europe that claimed 9 million Jews and others who did not fit into the Nazi scheme of things.

And what can I say… 56,000 of our youth never returned from Vietnam. How may other non-combatants died to napalm and other fire, approaches hundreds of thousands.

And it’s hot, the dog days of August, and if Jesus was saying these words at the same time of year he probably had a list of his own of fires of his lifetime. I was a hot and angry young man. And my anger included a grief over the monumental losses we had experienced in our world since my birth up until that time. Anger and grief are twin children and their faces are two of the faces of our age.

And yet did these fires have any relation to the fire Jesus said he sought to kindle?

Yes and no.

Each of the fires that flooded into my mind were fires that consumed and destroyed. Yet these fires also cause one to raise questions about what it means to be human.

Why were our cities burning?

Why was (and is) racism so endemic and what can we do about it?

What greed or desperation compels humans to accommodate the entire destruction of cities, or a people, or a species or an environment?

As we ask those and other questions, we allow our consciences to be scorched and fired up. These openings are some for the first kindling of fire that lead men and women like Jonathan Daniels to try to do something to turn the tide of ignorance and violence; to out of love stand in the path of the gun.

Jonathan was raised in Keene, NH. He was a poet and a dreamer who once penned this line, one that has been etched in my memory because I so loved its language and lilt.

“Somewhere a tenor sang of valleys lifted up and hills made low,

Death at the heart of life,

 Life in the midst of death.

 The tree of life is, indeed, a cross.”

Jonathan was to enter his last year of seminary at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, MA, when he burned with a fire to register Black Americans to vote in the south.

He and a Roman Catholic priest were jailed in Hayneville, Alabama. Mysteriously let out of jail, Jonathan, the Priest and Ruby Sales, a pre-teen whose family Jonathan stayed with while in Alabama, were walking across the street to get an ice-cream cone. It was then that Jon saw a shot gun. Quickly he moved to shield Ruby and his body absorbed most of the force of the blast. Ruby was spared physical injury. The priest may still have pellets from the blast in his leg.

Ruby, fifteen or twenty years later became a priest and the last I heard she was raising alarms about the misuse of the Patriot Act.

Partly because of Jonathan I arrived at the Theological school the next year and wonder of wonders, they let me in.

John and Jesus knew something about kindling a fire.

I think one way a fire starts is when one becomes aware of the yawning abyss of hurt that is in the world. A wise monk once said to me, “So many of us like to get close to the fire and feel its warmth, but few want to be incandescently burned by the love of God.”

It’s the burning with the heart and love of God and neighbor that Jesus is talking about. But it’s not a fire that consumes and destroys, it’s not the fires of the holocaust, it’s the fire which burns but does not consume, that burns with the white heat of the Holy Spirit.

It’s like the burning bush that Moses encountered as he walked in the desert. It burned but was not consumed.

Another image of the fire that burns but does not consume comes from my Roman Catholic neighbors. Aunt Peg had such an image in her living room. As a child I thought it was odd: it was the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a beautiful Jesus who pointed to a heart in his chest surrounded by flames of fire. In retrospect it was a very good representation of what Jesus and Jon were about. The fire to be kindled is the transformation of the heart and mind and body to God.

Anyone who has lived through these times and has tried to stay awake understands the vital necessity of the fire which doesn’t burn you up and out.

Aunt Peg had a fire. It was a fryer and she would turn that baby on and make the most delicious donuts that made my nine-year-old heart sing. At four in the afternoon she would turn on the radio and listen to Cardinal Cushing in his nasal South Boston accent recite the rosary. One learned the rosary almost by osmosis whether one wanted to or not. Now in these later years I think of that voice and that time and that home as a place where the fire of God’s love did not burn us out, but built us up, energized, consoled and taught us the other lesson about fire.

That what we do here Sunday after Sunday is light the fires, kindle the hearth, so that we can hear the stories repeated over the years and remember how in our impassioned youth we dreamed and acted because someone else showed us it could be done and ignited us enough to live through our fears.

Now we keep the hearth fires lit so that any who would drop by may also be enlightened by the brilliant light and love of God. So they would know that the sorrow of the world is also a torch to move us to action as well as consolation. So that the bruised and “abused and so confused” as Van Morrison so eloquently sings, may have a hearth to come where they can be safe among the family of the “People of the Book”, people who have been set on fire for the love of God and his son, our brother, Jesus.

(Here’s a song that doesn’t fully capture the kind of trouble the fire of God’s love can get you into, but it still captures the fire and the beauty of God’s sustaining love for us. It’s entitled: Pass It On, written by Kurt Kaiser) I sang it accompanied by my pedestrian guitar playing in a Roman Catholic Church with a largely Episcopal congregation of eight people on Peaks Island in Maine. I thank these good folks for helping me resolve my anxiety about this text. Here’s to you dear Bishop Burgess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha and Mary, Pentecost 9

July 21, 2013

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”    Luke 10: 38-42

Martha, or as we say in Boston, Maatha, is one of my favorite characters in the Gospels. We in the church are so like her. We are the grunts, cook the food for the coffee hour and the community meals, set up tables and chairs, clean, repair, and weed the garden.  We are the ones who make things work.

In the Enneagram we are the two’s: people who serve. And it is good and necessary we do or nothing would happen. Or would it?

There is a dark side to the two’s. We want to be thanked, and recognized and heaven forfend if you do not show appreciation.  Another aspect of the dark side is resentment of Mary. Mary is not a slave to duty. She is free to step out of the servant role long enough to pay attention to what is trying to break through the ordinary tasks of living.

For all of us Maatha’s who are “worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”

Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Now if we Maatha’s could only get past our annoyance, we might have the space to figure out what that better part is. Hmmm.