A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Way of Love: Rest

Rest: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, & restoration
Of all the practices named in The Way of Love, this one might be the most difficult to achieve. We know that God ordained this practice in the first creation account (Genesis 2:2-3); I don’t think this means God put his feet up, closed his eyes, and fell asleep (the fact that the Creator needed rest is, I suppose, something to contemplate!) I think it’s more likely God wanted a chance to enjoy the divine handiwork, with satisfaction and without distraction; to set aside time to revel delightedly in the newly-minted universe and all its wonders as they unfolded. (Remember, this is the first creation account – no “forbidden fruit” here!) And in “[blessing] the seventh day and [hallowing] it”, God has given us both an example and a directive: as beings created in the divine image, it is God’s intention that we take time to set aside work, cares, and stress, thus allowing ourselves to draw closer to God and to enjoy and appreciate God’s gifts to us.

But setting aside the things that keep us physically, mentally, and emotionally busy is easier said than done! Some of us work too hard. Some of us lie awake at night worrying about…all kinds of things. Some of us allow stress to occupy our minds to the point where joy and relaxation seem like foreign countries. The burdens of life can make us restless creatures. St. Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) knew something about restlessness. In his Confessions, he wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” God’s desire for his creatures is that we give over our restlessness, cares, worries and enter the heart of the Holy Trinity, where we find perfect love, pure joy, and ongoing re-creation. May you be gifted with the grace of God, the peace of Christ, and the restoration of the Holy Spirit,

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Way of Love: Go

Go: Cross boundaries, listen deeply, & live like Jesus
Jesus was on the move – a lot! He expected his followers to be on the move, as well, sending the disciples out during his early ministry (Matt.10:7-11, Mark 6:7ff, Luke 9:1-6) and again after his resurrection (Matt.: 28:16-20, Mark 16:15) – not to mention all those times they were on the move in his company! Jesus was not afraid to cross boundaries. He didn’t just stay in Jewish communities, with his own people. His travels, whether crossing the Sea of Galilee or walking overland, often took him into gentile territory, and he didn’t restrict his healings to his own people either. He drove demons from a man in Gerasene, healed the young daughter of the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite) woman, and the slave of a Roman centurian. But it wasn’t only geographic or religious boundaries that Jesus crossed; he made short work of social and cultural divisions too. He made room for “the outcast and sinner”, adding a tax collector to his inner circle, allowing a woman of dubious repute to bathe and anoint his feet, welcoming a woman to sit at his feet and learn just like the men around her did. Our savior listened to the needs of those around him; he heard them, heard their stories. Jesus loved the unlovable, touched the untouchable, forgave the unforgivable, and embraced those whom society had rejected. He created family out of unrelated persons and built community by bringing unlikely strangers together. Finally, he crossed the ultimately boundary, bringing new life from death.

How can we use Jesus’ examples of crossing boundaries and listening deeply in order to live like him? We start by looking for him and seeing him – in the stranger, the one who offends us, the person we’d prefer to ignore, or even someone close to us whom we’ve begun to take for granted. We start by paying rapt attention to the stories of those whom we encounter. We start by relinquishing our fear of the other. We needn’t travel far, physically, in order to “Go”. We simply have to say to Jesus, with an open heart, “Hear I am; send me”.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Way of Love: Bless

I admit I’ve never been a huge fan of the “Mitford” novels by Jan Karon. But I have read enough of them to remember that each morning the local rector, Tim Cavanaugh, asks God to help him “be a blessing to someone today”. It’s not a bad prayer. In the Way of Love in the Jesus Movement, there are numerous ways that each and every one of us can be a blessing to others. “Unselfishly give and serve” calls to mind the baptismal promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons”, loving the neighbor as the self. Sometimes, the act of blessing another is obvious: listening to a friend in need, donating to an organization whose work makes the lives of others better, taking a meal to someone recovery from hospitalization are examples of that. But sometimes, the smallest gesture, smile, or greeting, even to a stranger on the street, can make a difference in someone’s life. And as difficult as it can be, sharing with another the impact and change that faith has made in your life and the transformative power of God’s love in Christ, can lead a struggling person into a new path of hope and community. We have a powerful, life-altering, world-changing story to tell – and that’s a blessing!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Way of Love: Worship

Worship: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, & dwell with God
Something wonderful happens when the people of God gather in worship. Whether it’s a small congregation, a crowded cathedral, or the main Eucharist at General Convention; whether the occasion is joyful, mournful, or penitential, coming together as followers of Jesus reminds us that we are indeed the body of Christ in the world (not just in the Church) and that Christianity is very much a communal faith. We are not on this journey by ourselves; in fact, we need one another. The word worship originated in the Old English expression “worth ship”. Our worship seeks to give to God what is worthy of God, as best we can. In our tradition we refer to worship services as liturgy, from Greek words meaning “the public work of the people” (note that word, public). Worship, liturgy, is a two-way street, in which there is always communion of some kind between God and God’s people. And though certain persons – clergy, other ministers, musicians – have specific roles, everyone present is meant to be an active participant. There are no bystanders in the church’s worship of God! When someone is missing, the body is incomplete.

One of my favorite hymns is “We the Lord’s people” (#51 in The Hymnal 1982). The text is by John E. Bowers and the second stanza, in particular, describes what our worship gatherings are meant to be, and how they help draw us closer to God: “school for the faithful, refuge for the sinner, rest for the pilgrim, haven for the weary”. Perhaps, from time to time, church has been each of those things for you. It certainly has for me! Out of this text arise two questions: What do we bring to worship? What do we take away from it?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Way of Love: Pray

Prayer, that is, communion with God, has always been important to God’s people. As we see in the scriptures, prayer can take many forms: Abraham argues with God on behalf of the people of Sodom (Gen. 18:22-33); Moses talks to God in the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-15); the psalms are full of lament, praise, and petition to God (and yes, sometimes anger and confusion – it’s OK to be angry with God), and in the prophets we find many instances of the entire community of Israel’s faithful brought together to offer confession and repentance, thanks and praise. The gospels illustrate, over and over, how important it was for Jesus to spend time on his own, praying and listening to God his Father. The epistles (letters) of Paul and others emphasize the prayers offered and requested on behalf of the early churches and their leaders. Of course, prayer is a two-way street. We speak to God, but we also listen for God’s voice. Sometimes, it’s enough simply to sit (or stand, or walk, or kneel!) in silence before the Divine. What’s the best way to pray? Whatever way brings you closer to God in Christ and allows you to feel the presence of God’s Spirit in your life. For me, raised in The Episcopal Church, the Daily Office in The Book of Common Prayer has always been helpful. Even though I pray the office in solitude, I feel that I am praying along with the whole Church. The collects and my own petitions help me focus on offering my own and others’ needs to God, and through the readings, prayers, and canticles, as well as time spent in silence, I hear the voice of God speaking to me. May your prayer life be ongoing and steadily enriched as you continue to draw nearer to God.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Anima Christi (Soul of Christ) - A Hymn Paraphrase

I've always been drawn to the Anima Christi prayer, included in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (though not necessarily authored by him). There are a number of translations of the Latin, including this one from Finding God in All Things: A Marquette Prayer Book. While this translation is in the singular, some are plural. Here is a hymn paraphrase I've written for congregational singing, in Common Metre Double (CMD). Recommended tunes are Kingsfold and Forest Green. Feel free to use it, with attribution.

O Spirit of the living Christ, your holiness bestow,         
That through the bread we take and break, salvation we may know.
May your blood shed, the cup we drink, our souls inebriate;
And water from your wounded side our spirits recreate.

Your passion, Christ, will give us strength to bear the cross you bore;
And as we lift our prayers to you, O hear us, we implore.
Within your wounds may each one find a sacred dwelling place
That from you we may not depart, nor fail to see your face.

In all assaults of enemies, help us to persevere;
And when we see the face of death call us to you, Savior dear,
That with your saints and angels bright, in all their company,
Your praise shall be our joy and song throughout eternity.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Way of Love: Learn

Learn: Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life & teachings
As the Collect for Proper 28, the penultimate Sunday in the liturgical year, says, “[God] has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning” and bids us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” these scriptures (BCP p. 236). Because the gospels focus directly on Jesus’ life and teachings, why not start, or continue, with those? You might want simply want to read straight through, beginning with Matthew. Or perhaps you’d prefer to follow the Daily Office lectionary. This lectionary is in the back of the prayer book (we’re currently in Year 2), or online at http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/. So, that’s the content; but how do we “read” these sacred texts in a way that is prayerful and reflective, and that will draw us closer to Christ? One way is the ancient method of lectio divina (“sacred reading”). Slowly read through the text, and find a word, phrase, or idea in the passage that speaks to you; maybe it’s something you get “stuck on”. Meditate, think, pray, reflect on why it got your attention: what might God be saying to you as you focus on the life and ministry of our Lord? What questions does it open for you? What new ideas does it call out of you as you go deeper into relationship with Jesus? Of course, you need not always do this on your own. A study group can be helpful for support and shared understanding.