Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mustardseed Sunday

May our prayers rise like incense before you, and the lifting of our hearts as the evening sacrifice.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, and when words fail me may your Spirit intercede for me. In the name of Christ.

Last summer I grew a beard. I had plenty of time for such projects, because of what had come just before….

When words fail us,
we rely on the Spirit to intercede.

Beyond what we know or think is possible, God is working—
in a seed so small as a mustard seed, there is the beginning of verdant growth;
in a palm full of yeast there is the hidden power to make the bread to rise:
it’s something humble, almost, imperceptible, yet God is working there.

In a field is a hidden treasure, like a Viking hoard long lost; or
In the marketplace is a pearl of so great a value,
that to have it in your hand is worth all you can summon together to give.

There is a net full of fish—
and the good alone is kept.

(What is there to do—when someone is gone, but to remember the good?)

[“There’s nothing to remember about her except the good.”—Paola, closing out chapter one of The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon, (Atlantic Monthly Press, May 2008)]

There is a storehouse full of treasures old and new; to listen to the word is to bring them forth.

Even in crazy stuff like Jacob’s story, and the stories of Rachel and Leah, we can see God’s hand at work. He is working out his purpose even in the wiliest of men—or the wackiest of families.

(Imagine Jacob waking up next to— a Surprise! “Who are you people????” And the response comes as they all burst through the door: “We’re your family!!!”)

Beyond what we can ask for or even imagine are the promises of God, the future with hope he is working out for his people—

through hidden things and great,
with those who are obedient—

for these parables all give us glimpses of what the world can be like when we let God be in charge,

and take part in his loving work, as his hands in the world.

We hear the good news:
Christ has died for us and set us free;
nothing can separate us from the love of God—
all things work together for good to those who love God—

and so we can with boldness say
Our Father:

and so we can take on Christ as our Lord as well as savior;

so we can respond to the challenge of the gospel, the invitation and the promises of the Covenant we make in Baptism:

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? We will, with God’s help.

learning what it means to walk the Christian way,
having companions for the journey,
encouraging each other,
showing each other the love of God
and how to live it, out in the world?

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you do fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? We will, with God’s help.

not giving up or being too proud to seek God’s forgiveness,
to make reconciliation, to say ‘sorry’,
to make amends— or forgive— and move on

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? We will, with God’s help.

to show in our lives that we bear the love of God into the world—
what we say, what we do, says that Christ is Lord, that God is in charge of the world:
loving it, redeeming it, and bringing it to completion in the fullness of time.

Will you, loving your neighbor as yourself, seek and serve Christ in all persons? We will, with God’s help.

so easy to dismiss or belittle the unfamiliar,
so easy to be unkind to the stranger,
so much easier;
than standing up for what is right

Will you respect the dignity of every human being, and strive for justice and peace among all people? We will, with God’s help.

for that is what it means when God is in charge—
and what it means to be his people,
for whom all things work together for good,
according to his promise.


The love of God enfold you,
the power of Christ protect you,
the leading of the Spirit guide you,
and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

(Blessing from Clouds and Glory by David Adam, SPCK, 2000)


Sunday, July 20, 2008


“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:1, BCP)

God knows all that can be known; He is present in all places; no one can escape His reach.

God knows the whole of your life and activity.

God is in control and will be your guide, your shield, and your savior; he will help you, wherever you go.

You cannot escape from God – he is bound to find you everywhere you go.

He is present even in the womb.

His thoughts are unfathomable.

God is all knowing.

And he is just.


“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15, NRSV)

God is everywhere and you cannot escape from it. You need not; he is wise and glorious. His love for you, and his care for you, is unshakeable. He will never leave you. He will always guide you, protect you, be by your side – whether you feel his presence or not, God is always there. Indeed, he has promised, from ages old in time and history, to be the fulfiller of the promise: through Abraham and Isaac and Jacob all the families of the earth shall be blessed and in them shall find their blessing.

That hope of the world, that promise, comes to us from God in Jesus Christ. He is the one, as Paul exhorts us to grasp, who brings reconciliation, renewal, renewal, the one who brings us a vision of hope, of freedom, and glory in God. In Christ is the hope of the resurrection.

All things were made through him and in him all things will reach their completion.


"Jacob left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran. He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it." (Genesis 28:10-13, JPS)

The vision of Jacob – the stairway to heaven – is a vision of connectedness.

God and Man at Bethel – the place of God’s choosing, not Jacob’s. It is holy because God is there. Because God is there, Jacob honors it and consecrates it.

For perhaps the first time in his life, Jacob feels a sense of awe, of the presence of the holy.

What are our lives for? For our own purposes? No – for the purposes of God. We are God’s creatures, through and through he knows us; he fashions us, and carries us – covers us – through life and at the end he welcomes us home into eternity. We are called only to grow in relationship with God, to live responsibly, … responsively, in answering God’s call to a devout and holy life.

“I don't know Who — or what — put the question, I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone — or Something — and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”— Dag Hammarskjöld (29 July 1905 - 18 September 1961), Markings (1964).

At some point in life, as Dag Hammarsjkold saw, we have a chance to say YES to God, to life, to God’s call to life in abundance. To something beyond ourselves.

This call – to life, to respond to God in his love with our own faithful obedience and trust – is at the heart of what Paul is saying, and what Jacob lived.

Here was a man, who tricked his brother, outwitted his father-in-law Laban (stay tuned, for further episodes in this summer’s saga), and – well, who would have thought he would be a patriarch, one in whom all nations would be blessed? And yet here he is: encountering God at the House of God.

His response first is AWE – praise, worship – and as we will see, in further episodes of our story (and his), that he goes forward from this point in faith.

His trust in God is complete, by the end: he has followed the path of God’s law, covenant, promise, and come to fulfillment of his own role in God’s plan.

We do not know what our own roles will be or are, entirely; what we know is that we should act faithfully, responding in awe to God’s presence, responding in confident faith to God’s guidance, responding in obedient surrender to his Lordship, responding in thankfulness to his endless Grace.

“For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.”—Markings.

In the name of God, the merciful Father, the compassionate Son, the spirit of Wisdom. Amen.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Beach Reads & Other Bibles

During the “long green season” after Pentecost, sometimes called Ordinary Time, we may find time to make “ordinary” some activities we’d like to have as part of our daily routine.

One long-established practice for many Christians is daily Bible reading and prayer.

The men’s Bible study group is meeting regularly now, on Tuesday evenings, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM, in the Education Annex conference room. We study together the readings appointed for the following Sunday’s worship services. All men in the parish are welcome to join us.

There are a variety of Bible translations available; some intended for both common worship and private prayer; some best for private study. There is a spectrum, as Donald Kraus shows in “Choosing a Bible” (Seabury, 2006), from literal, formal, word-for-word translations, as faithful as possible to the sentence structure of the original language (New American Standard Version); other versions most concern themselves with easy comprehensibility by the modern ear: these can be “dynamic equivalent” meaning-for-meaning translations (Good News Bible, Contemporary English Version) or paraphrases which go beyond the original text to enliven the reader’s understanding (J. B. Phillips, The Message).

Striking out for the middle way are the versions authorized for use in worship by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Most formal (and venerable) of these is the Authorized King James Version (KJV) of 1611. It has many descendants including most recently the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – which we use as our Lectionary text.

The New International Version (NIV) is concerned with conveying a consistent theological message. The Revised English Bible (REB) is a new translation from the original; along with the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) it has language both fresh and beautiful.

For private study I’d recommend hearing more than one version, and comparing notes and impressions with others. And, beyond that, I’d recommend a Study Bible: the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV), Oxford Study Bible (REB), HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV), or New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NRSV). There are also study editions of the New Jerusalem Bible, the New International Version, and others. It is important to have a Bible that includes the Apocrypha, which is used in the liturgical churches (Episcopal, Catholic, Orthodox, etc.).

And then there are many commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and other helpful study aids. The Episcopal Bookstore in Seattle, and the Diocesan Resource Center, can steer you toward some of the best.


During this long green season we are taking advantage of a feature of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL): a track of readings through the summer months that follows a narrative thread through Genesis and Exodus into Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges.

This gives us an opportunity to see how the ancient people of God, the children of Abraham, grow in their faith and knowledge and experience of God, and how each generation faces anew the challenges of life in the presence of a holy and faithful Lord.

At the same time, the readings from the Epistles and the Gospels give us a sense of God’s people, growing in grace and faith, in the New Testament era.

All this will help us grow, in both public worship and private devotion, in our own sense of calling as God’s people in this place in this time – and help us understand why we are planted where we are, how to bloom where we’re planted, and how to continue to develop as a green and growing church, a fellowship of believers in the church of Christ.


"From the Rector’s Study - Beach Reads & Other Bibles"
For the Gospel Grapevine – July 2008 (