Sunday, August 29, 2010

Humility and Hospitality

August 29
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17
Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

The Collect

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

bent woman

Jesus gave a new vision of heaven to the people of God. He showed them an active vision of God's reign that set them loose from the bondage of rule-keeping, of trying to follow the rules. Instead of a negative "don't do that" as one faction had come to believe, he taught them a positive message of love - DO this - DO the kingdom. When you pray "thy kingdom come" know that you are part of making it happen - and DO your part.

So - heal on the Sabbath? Who wouldn't? Show some compassion.

Your rules, Pharisees, have to give way - the compassion of God is here, present, at work among you.

Visions of heaven can be funny and naive - this summer we heard a concert that included a child's-view of heaven: a hungry child's view of heaven. In that song which included these lyrics ("Good greens of every sort... and gardeners who allow everything!") paradise is a city with an abundant garden: and you can eat all you want from the garden - asparagus, notably, and green beans.

"Eat your vegetables" never sounded so good. And, you see, there is the secret: it is not a command, it is an invitation - and a proclamation - it is an invitation to life-giving, joyful action - and a celebration of new life in abundance.

When the bent-over woman came to synagogue that day she came to worship - and found the living God present and active. Jesus saw her, sought her out, and assured her of her healing - that day - now.

How is God present and active now?

In subtler ways perhaps but no less certain - in the simple gestures of kindness, of welcome; in the simple deeds of love, of care - for gardeners, for friends, and for strangers.

How can you and I become the active presence of the living God in the lives around us? in this community, nation, and world?

How can we show God's abundance - mercy, love, and compassion - and joy?

Maybe it's not abundant string beans - but maybe sometimes it is! Jesus' time was one where people saw there wasn't much to go around - remember the 5 loaves and 2 fish, enough to feed a poor family for a little while - and how he made it into a celebration and a sign of new life - it's not about relative wealth - it's about an attitude of gratitude, and a change of ways of seeing - of seeing around us the goodness of God that is present with us - and sharing the good news all around.

May we do so. Amen.


August 22
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 16
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Visions of paradise, visions of asparagus

We enjoy heavenly pleasures
and therefore avoid earthly ones.
No worldly tumult
is to be heard in heaven.
All live in gentlest peace.
We lead angelic lives,
yet have a merry time of it besides.
We dance and we spring,
We skip and we sing.
Saint Peter in heaven looks on.

John leads the lambkin out,
and Herod the Butcher lies in wait for it.
We lead a patient,
an innocent, patient,
dear little lamb to its death.
Saint Luke slaughters the ox
without any thought or concern.
Wine doesn't cost a penny
in the heavenly cellars;
The angels bake the bread.

Good greens of every sort
grow in the heavenly vegetable patch,
good asparagus, string beans,
and whatever we want.
Whole dishfuls are set for us!
Good apples, good pears and good grapes,
and gardeners who allow everything!
If you want roebuck or hare,
on the public streets
they come running right up.
Should a fast day come along,
all the fishes at once come
swimming with joy!
There goes Saint Peter running
with his net and his bait
to the heavenly pond.
Saint Martha must be the cook.

There is just no music on earth
that can compare to ours.
Even the eleven thousand virgins
venture to dance,
and Saint Ursula herself has to laugh.
There is just no music on earth
that can compare to ours.
Cecilia and all her relations
make excellent court musicians.
The angelic voices
gladden our senses,
so that all awaken for joy.


Das himmlische Leben
("Heaven's Life") from Das Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn)

Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 4 in G Major

Arranged for chamber orchestra by Erwin Stein in 1920 for Arnold Schoenberg's Society for Private Music Performances in Vienna. (program notes by Warren Friesen)

Performed by the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra with Emily Van Evera, August 4, 2010.

4th movement, Sehr behaglich (Very comfortably): child's-view of heaven


Life is eternal...


In churchyard at Sunningwell, Oxon.

Collected by Keith Oles.


Monday, August 2, 2010

The Hospitality of Sarah and Abraham

There is a famous icon, by the hand of Andrei Rublev, called the Old Testament Trinity. It shows three angels gathered around a small table laden with food and drink. The icon gives us a picture of three persons in a mutual relationship of commonality and exchange - that helps us imagine the nature of God as one in three.

The Old Testament Trinity changed the subject, literally, of an earlier iconic image, the Hospitality of Abraham. You may see this image in icons and in other art. What it shows is the whole image of the visit of three strangers to the Oaks of Mamre, and the tent of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham humbly greets the angelic visitors, while Sarah looks on from behind the gathered folds of their tent.

The three visitors have just arrived; they are strangers. And yet, unaware that he is entertaining angels, Abraham extends the full hospitality of his household to them.

He offers them everything Martha and Mary and Lazarus combined would give the Lord.

He doesn't know them at all.

But there it is.

Openhearted, open-handed hospitality.

And it is an icon for us, of just that.

It is more than an icon to contemplate - if we choose it to be it can be the opening of a doorway to the future.

On the front doors of Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco, these figures appear. The doors are the twins of the doors to the baptistery in Florence. So this image of hospitality appears as a door to the sacred.

When the doors are opened to you, you face a great basin - on a step above the nave floor is the font, on a line between doors and altar. You must move past the font to make your way in to communion with the people gathered in that place. And you are welcome.

You may be a total stranger; but you are welcome.

As we make our adjustments to our own worship space, we find ourselves encountering fresh the meaning of the gifts of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist.

These two sacraments instituted by our Lord offer us his hospitality, as we journey farther up and further in to the kingdom that is eternal, the place where God reigns.

As we welcome others, strangers to us as they may be, and offer to share the gifts with them that God has entrusted us to give, we encounter ... messengers of a hopeful future.

Before they leave Abraham and Sarah the three visitors give them a promise, one only God could keep: that indeed what God has purposed will happen, that the progeny of their faith will be as numerous as the stars.

Sarah laughed.

Maybe it was doubt.

But perhaps it was joy.


Genesis 18:1-10a(10b-14)


August 2, 2010
For the Gospel Grapevine (September 2010).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Keeping Watch (with Louise Clark)

Recently when I visited with Louise Clark at Aldercrest (where she has been serving as president of the residents' council), she told me about the prayers she says at midnight: Lauds. She has her own way of doing them, using the prayer book and the psalms.

She begins, practically enough, with Psalm 63, which contains the verse, "When I remember you upon my bed : when I meditate upon you in the night watches..." (Psalm 63:6)

She turns to the Book of Common Prayer, Daily Evening Prayer, which begins with one or more sentences of Scripture, such as these:

I will bless the Lord, who giveth me counsel; my heart teacheth me, night after night. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall. (Psalm 16:7,8)

Seek him that made the Pleides and Orion, that turneth deep darkness into the morning, and darkeneth the day into night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his Name. (Amos 5:8)

If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night," darkness is not dark to thee, O Lord; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to thee are both alike. (Psalm 139:10,11)

She says Psalm 134 Ecce nunc, which is found in the order for Compline:

Behold now, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, *
you that stand by night in the house of the LORD.

Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the LORD; *
the LORD who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.

Pause, now, for meditation and contemplation.

Then, on to the psalms of praise: 145, 146, 147, 148, 149 (v.1-5), and 150.

Then that lovely prayer, drawn from the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, that we find in both Evening Prayer and Compline:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

And then it is about time to return to sleep, until morning.

What are you doing up at this time of night? Saying my prayers, saying my prayers. Not a bad answer to give.

And the basis of all these prayers is Sacred Scripture, for as the Psalmist says,

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)


Aldercrest is a skilled nursing facility in Edmonds, Wash. (

For the Gospel Grapevine, parish newsletter of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Washington, August 2010.