Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance

"God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance,
so that by always having enough of everything,
you may share abundantly in every good work."
(2 Corinthians 9:8)

Dear friends in Christ:

"Happy Fall!" someone said to me the other day. Autumnal equinox was just hours in the past, and the weather sure had changed. We faced a gray cool day of soft rain.

My neighbor had greeted me with humor: and a sense of what was happening. At this time of year we see seasons change. It's harvest time, in orchard and vineyard, field and garden. We celebrate that. We give thanks and share God's abundance. It's a new year in schools and colleges. We celebrate that.

We look forward with anticipation as new things begin, even as the year's pace quicken, leaves turn, and the air is fresh and cool.

Creation celebrates a change of season - and so does the church. At this time of year, particularly, we gather to give thanks and share God's abundance. We give thanks for God's abundance shown in the harvest and in our own lives. We celebrate with hospitality and welcome the gift of each other, friend and stranger. We share God's abundance in joy, showing in our lives the gratefulness we feel in our hearts for all that God gives. For all we have, we receive from God; when we give, we give of his own.

This year our stewardship team invites us to rejoice and give thanks: God’s Promise is Abundance. When we present our offerings in the Holy Eucharist, we are celebrating God's abundant grace and responding in generous thanksgiving.

There is a Native American word, skookum - which means good, special, best, and gives us an image of bountiful goodness. That is what God gives to us: bountiful goodness. And that is what we return to God: a gift of the best of ourselves.

When we give, we offer a sense of hope in the future, an affirmation of continuing relationship with Christ's Church and a forward-looking faith in a generous God. Please consider prayerfully what God is calling you to share from the abundance that he has given you. What we call a 'pledge' is no more than this: an offering of intention. Your pledge helps us in planning for the future.

In all things we turn to God, knowing that what we give and what we have and what we will someday see, comes from God.

On Sunday, November 7, we will offer all our pledges on the altar in thanks giving for God’s many blessings. [Please return the enclosed card in the envelope provided, by mail or in Sunday's collection.]*

May God bless you in this season of harvest and thanks giving, and in the coming year.


Fr. John

October 2010

St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 21405 82nd Place West, Edmonds, Washington 98026


*Stewardship team reports that ..."all the Stewardship Letters and Pledge Cards went to the Post Office this morning." (Wednesday, October 6, 2010)


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Back in 1980 I worked in Washington, D.C., and I walked to work.

I started out in Georgetown on Que Street, crossing the Buffalo Bridge walking east to Dupont Circle, then down Connecticut Avenue to the corner of Lafayette Park, past Decatur House and Blair House, crossing at the light, then along Pennsylvania Avenue down to 13th Street N.W. As I crossed at that stop light I came onto the sidewalk in front of the White House.

There was an old lady who wore purple, who needed a safe place. She found it in front of the White House. As I walked by each morning on my way to work farther downtown, I would see her there, huddled against the fence, in the corner between it and the guards' station. She was there every morning that fall (1980).

I checked once, with the guard, an eye check, just a nod: yes, he knew she was there, and yes, they looked out for her, every night. And every morning I would walk by. She was cold but she was safe.

Lazarus lay at the gate of a big house too - but he was starving. He would have gladly gathered up the scraps discarded by the rich man's guests.

He was invisible - or more truthfully, ignored.

The day came when that rich man died - and discovered that he wasn't safe.

Fortunes were reversed. All of his life was built on the pleasure principle - he lived well and trusted to his wealth to bring him safety. But that was all gone now.

"Let goods and kindred go; this mortal life also" - he wasn't ready for that.

All that was left was what he could have always counted on - the justice and mercy of God - but he'd counted on something else: Mammon, that is, worldly wealth or power or status - any one of those things that people place between themselves and reality, themselves and the true God, themselves and the reality of the life that is really life - the life of obedience ot God.

Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, he says - did he still not get it?

His next request: send him to my brothers, my closest kindred, so they may be spared this agony. At least give me that.

But the estate tax is 100% - it's all gone and worthless now.

What lasts? What lasts but the promise of God?

Jeremiah discovered the promise held in the most desperate circumstances. Jerusalem was under siege - the mighty army of Babylon was encamped beneath its crumbling walls.

He had told the leaders of Israel there was no point - they had no chance to defeat this army. God would remold Israel, remake it - break it if need be - and only in God would they find safety. Certainly they would not find it in their own prowess.

Jeremiah relied on nothing less than God's promise when he insisted on buying a plot of land for full price, in full public view - when he could have driven a hard bargain, or just forgotten about it.

His city was under siege and he knew there was no hope to be found in the walls and troops defending those walls - the mighty army around them was bound to come in - and sure enough they did. (Jerusalem fell, and its leaders went into exile in Babylon for seventy years.)

But before that day the Lord sent a message to Jeremiah and through the prophet to the people: there will come a day beyond that day. Beyond defeat, the death of your hopes in common defenses, there will be a new era - and houses and vineyards, and fields will once again be valued and purchased here.

Bury that pot for now - it contains what must be preserved: the due dull formula of commerce of course but now commerce serves a holy purpose - not for its own sake but for something beyond human striving - it points, a sign of God's eternal faithfulness: there will come a time when all will be made right and all will be well.

Paul tells Timothy start living now like that day is almost here: anticipate the return from exile, the coming of the true king, the day of the Lord.

All things will be set right - put your trust in God.

What fouls people up is not wealth or poverty - what fouls people up is the eager striving, the craving, the wanton desire, the desperate need, to get more and then more again, that leads to destruction.

What you have - what you have been given - you have been given in trust, to use to the glory of God.

If you must pursue anything seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, seek godliness, faith, love, and gentle endurance - it is in these that the path to true riches lies.

What you have before you is imperishable - take the transitory things as a way to work good in the world, be rich in good works, generously sharing God's abundance, so that you may grasp at last the true inheritance: the life that is really life, in God's presence.

Jeremiah bought the field his kinsman offered to show that the land of promise was going to see the fulfillment of God's purpose. You can live that way - it's not safe but it's good.

There is an old woman who lives in the desert - she sold her house in the foothills and moved far away from the city to a ranch outside a small mining town. It's near the border - the southern border.

Sometimes people come to her house out of the desert - they are sick, they are tired, they are poor, they are hungry, they are old - or young; and she takes care of them.

Lady, please, the Border Patrol says, don't - they are worried about her safety.

But she does - so far, safely.

But I think she know that it may not always be safe for her, but that is not what she is thinking about: it is not safe for them now. - and so she goes on loving, unstintingly.

It's a careless, reckless love - like the love of God for his people.

For we are the ones in the desert, crossing from desolation to hope.

We are the strangers who are welcomed, that are welcomed by God.

May God bless us in careless, reckless ways, in the abundant love of his Son, who gave his all for us - who, having more in his possession than the richest of rich men ever had, gave up his seat at the side of God and took on our humanity, and came to us, God in the flesh, that we could have life and have it abundantly.

Good and gracious God, all that we have comes from you; make us sensible of your grace in all our dealings with each other and with your whole creation.

Grant that we may reflect your generosity in our lives and do your will here on earth that we may come to rejoice in your heavenly kingdom,

through Jesus Christ our Lord who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.


Do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, live in peace with all. The peace of the Lord be always with you...

Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God who abounds in love for you and all people; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.


Prayer, peace, and blessing by David Adam, from Glimpses of Glory: Prayers for the Church Year, Year C (SPCK, 2000).

Insights gleaned from Herbert O'Driscoll, Fred Craddock, Sharon Ringe, Tom Wright, and other sources.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Celtic Christian Spirituality reading list

With an Eagle's Eye: A Seven-Day Sojourn in Celtic Spirituality by John Miriam Jones, S.C. (Ave Maria Press, July 1998)

The Music of What Happens: Celtic Spirituality - A View from the Inside by John J. Ó Ríordáin CSsR (Dublin: Columba, September 1996; Saint Mary's Press, December 1996)

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, February 1995)

The Wisdom of the Celtic Saints by Edward C. Sellner (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1993; revised and expanded edition, Bog Walk Press, February 2006)

The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination by Esther de Waal (Doubleday, August 1997)

Every Earthly Blessing: Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition by Esther De Waal (Morehouse, July 1999)

The Celtic Vision: Prayers, Blessings, Songs, and Invocations from the Gaelic Tradition edited by Esther De Waal (Saint Bede's, July 1990; revised edition, Liguori/Triumph, November 2001)

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue (Cliff Street Books/HarperCollins, October 1997)

Celtic Inheritance by Peter Berresford Elis (London: Constable, 1985; New York: Dorset, 1992)

Soulfaring: Celtic Pilgrimage Then and Now by Cintra Pemberton, O.S.H. (Morehouse, October 1999)

In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands by Daniel Taylor (Bog Walk Press, 2005)

Celtic Threads: Exploring the Wisdom of Our Heritage by Padraigín Clancy (Dublin: Veritas, 1999)

Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources edited by Oliver Davies and Fiona Bowie (SPCK & Continuum, 1995)

Celtic Spirituality edited and translated and introduced by Oliver Davies ; with the collaboration of Thomas O'Loughlin (Paulist Press, 1995)

A Doorway in Time: Memoir of a Celtic Spiritual Journey by Herbert O'Driscoll (Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1985)

Man of Aran by Pat Mullen (E. P. Dutton, 1935; M.I.T. Press, 1970)

George MacLeod: Founder of the Iona Community by Ronald Ferguson (London: Collins, 1990; Glasgow: Wild Goose, April 2001)

Glendalough: A Celtic Pilgrimage by Michael Rodgers and Marcus Losack (Morehouse, February 1997)

Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by J. Philip Newell (Paulist Press, January 1997)


You have created all creatures with your word...

Holy, holy, holy, perfect Lord of Hosts,
heaven and earth are full of the holiness of your glory.
You have created all creatures with your word.
You carry them all without being weary,
and feed them all without ceasing.
You think about them all without forgetting any.
You give to all without being diminished.
You water all the earth without running dry.
You watch over all without sleeping.
You hear us all without neglecting any.
While your presence fills every place,
they have told us about you in a way we can receive.

--An Ethiopian prayer;
From Richard Marsh,
Black Angels: the Art and Spirituality of Ethiopia


Monday, September 13, 2010


by Tom Cashman

Adam, David Flame In My Heart: St. Aidan For Today SPCK London 1997
David Adam is Warden of the Lindisfarne Community. He writes poetically and non-academically about the Celtic apostle Aidan, who brought Christianity to the Picts of Northern Scotland, and in whose footsteps Adam today follows.

Allchin, A. M Praise Above All: Discovering the Welsh Tradition
University of Wales Press 1991 A look at the consistent emphasis on the praise of God in the Celtic tradition, including its legends, songs, poetry, hymns, from earliest times to the present.

Eriugena, John Scotus The Voice Of The Eagle (Homily On The Prologue To The
Gospel of John) Translated by Christopher Bamford Lindisfarne Books, Great Barrington, MA 2000 Eriugena is the second great theologian of the Celtic Christian world. The Gospel of John with its imagery and myticism was a primary resource for them. This commentary is primary material for understanding the Celtic Christian perspective and its Johannine roots.

Bradley, Ian The Celtic Way University Press, Cambridge 1993
Still the best basic overview of Celtic Christianity; often used as the text for initial classes. Excellent chapters on Pelagius & Augustine, and on the future of this movement of the Spirit

______________ Celtic Christian Communities: Colonies of Heaven
Northstone Publishing Kelowna, BC 2000 This recent book by Bradley takes us into practical application of the world view and spiritual practice of the Celtic Christian church. This is a “must read” for any student of the future, emerging church.

Bitel, Lisa M. Isle of the Saints: Monastic Settlement and Christian Community in Early Ireland Cornell University Press 1990 Drawn from accounts of saints lives written between 800 and 1200, Bitel gives us a vivid look at monastic life and the social networks of the medieval Irish monks.

Carmichael, Alexander Carmina Gaedelica: Hymns and Incantations Lindisfarne Press 1995 First and only English translation and compilation of the five volumes of oral history collected in the original Gaelic by Carmichael (1832-1912)
A must for any Celtic library.

Chadwick, Nora The Celts Penguin 1971 The history of Celtic culture in Britain from its origins to its transformation under the Romans and the Saxons by one of the foremost Celtic scholars of the 20th century. Excellent chapter on Celtic Christianity.

Clancy, Padraigin Celtic Threads: Exploring the Wisdom of Our Heritage Veritas Publications (Dublin) 1999 Ms. Clancy is an Irish folklorist who has gathered contributions from a wide range of authors. Articles include those from the Benedictine perspective (Sean O Duinn), the Green Party (Nuala Ahern), mystical music (Noirin Ni Riain), a feminist theologian (Mary Condren), a philosopher/story teller (John Moriarty) and Michael Rodgers of the Glendalough Retreat Centre. This is an intriguing collection of essays for the Celtic seeker.

Cronin, Deborah K. Holy Ground Upper Room Books 1999
A beautifully written account of her personal journey into Celtic Christian Spirituality, written by an ordained Methodist superintendent and educator. Dr. Cronin weaves humor and personal insights into this jewel of a book.

Davies, Oliver and Bowie, Fiona Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources. SPCK London 1995 An authoritative and scholarly collection; a wide range of both ancient and modern writings on the Celtic tradition, some appearing in English for the first time. There is a strong Welsh poetry
and praise prayer content.

Davies, Oliver Celtic Spirituality (Classics of Western Spirituality Series) Paulist Press 1999 This is the most definitive collection of source documents available in English. It includes both letters from the hand of Patrick, works from Columba and Columbanus, and hagiographies of Brigit and David, among others. This is a prime reference for any serious student of the Celtic Christian tradition.

DeWaal, Esther Every Earthly Blessing; Celebrating a Spirituality of Creation Servant Publications 1991 One of the best introductions of Celtic Spirituality, containing splendid examples from Celtic poetry and other writings.

Eriugena, John Scotus The Voice of the Eagle Lindisfarne Press 1990
Translation and introduction is by Christopher Bamford. John the Scot is the 9th century Celtic scholar who followed in the footsteps of Pelagius to anchor the theological tradition of the Celtic church. Here he reflects on the Prologue of the Gospel of John, and often speaks directly to issues of our 21st century church.

Evans, Robert F. Pelagius: Inquiries and Reappraisals Seabury Press 1968
One of the earliest of a number of contemporary theologians re-evaluating the role of Pelagius in his era as proponent of the Celtic view on sin and grace. Many are now concluding that Pelagius was the orthodox, mainstream thinker of his time and that his antagonists were the radicals. This is an excellent examination of that critique.

Ellis, Peter Berresford Ellis Celtic Women Eerdmans 1995 One of the best of Ellis’ books on women in the Celtic culture, including church leaders such as Brigit and Hilda. Intriguing insights into the life style, structure and culture of monastic communities.

Finney, John Recovering the Past; Celtic and Roman Mission Darton Longman & Todd 1996 Finney compares and contrasts the Celtic and Roman mission approach of the 6-7th centuries and shows how we can learn from them today. The differences in evangelism are particularly worth considering. Hunter follows him.

Hunter, George G. The Celtic Way of Evangelism Abingdon Press 2000
Dr. Hunter contrasts the evangelistic approach of the Celtic monks with the approach of the Church today. The acculturation method of those monks has huge implications for evangelism today and the future of the Church in a time of major transition.

Joyce, Timothy OSB Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, A Vision of Hope
Orbis 1998 Joyce is a Benedictine priest and monk, and an American Irish Catholic who writes the first significant book from this perspective. This book also covers the period from the 11th century through contemporary attempts at Celtic reclamation.

Joyce, Timothy OSB Celtic Quest; A Healing Journey for Irish Catholics
Orbis 2000 Fr. Joyce brings us another important book exploring many factors in the loss of our Celtic Christian heritage. The Irish Catholic tradition is shown as particularly impacted, and this book becomes both conduit and resource for the healing process.

Lehane, Brendan The Quest of Three Abbotts Lindisfarne Press Hudson NY 1998 This is a comprehensive look at the lives (and journeys) of three great monastic leaders, Brendan (to American), Columba (to Iona), and Columbanus (to Christianize Europe). He weaves their lives into the emergence of the Celtic Church.

Mackey, James P. An Introduction to Celtic Christianity Biddles Ltd Surrey 1995 Fourteen essays on aspects of Celtic spirituality including scripture commentary, missionary activity, literature and art. Well annotated. Some source documents.

Matthew, John Drinking From The Sacred Well HarperCollins 1998
The author is well known for his prolific pre-Christian heroic and Arthurian works. Here he produces a series of remarkably lucid, charming cameos of the lives of Celtic saints, including some not well known, such as Senan, Berach and Mochuda.

Mitton, Michael The Soul of Celtic Spirituality Twenty Third Publications 1996
Mitton uses the stories of the Celtic saints to illustrate his thesis that the ancient Celtic Church has much to say to us today. He is a co-founder of St. Aidan Trust. Originally published in the UK as Restoring the Woven Cord Darton Longman & Todd.

Moorehouse, Geoffrey Sun Dancing Phoenix London 1997
The author is a novelist and commentator who constructs an intriguing novelette of the monastic life on Skellig Michael 6th – 13th Century. The second half of the book provides a more scholarly presentation of the historical evidence that supports his suppositions and conclusions.

Newell, J. Philip Listening for the Heartbeat of God Paulist Press 1997
Newell develops the Johannine theme of experiential (Celtic) Christianity contrasting it with the predominant intellectual Petrine (Roman) tradition. Most important, he shows how both are needed for balance. Also explores the Scottish Presbyterianism.

_______________ One Foot in Eden; A Celtic View of the Stages of Life
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 1998 This series of reflections on birth to death and beyond helps to understand in a fundamental way what our roles are at each stage of our lives. Must read!

_______________ The Book of Creation; An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality
Paulist Press 1999 This series of meditations on the seven days of creation explores aspects of God infused in the Celtic Christian ethos. Seldom does our tradition consider the wildness, the fecundity, and the creatureliness of God. But Newell does in a manner that enchants and inspires and enlarges our awareness of God in creation. Must read!

_______________ Echo of the Soul: The Sacredness of the Human Body
Canterbury Press 2000 Starting from Genesis 1 where humanity is made in the image of God, Newell explores the different manifestations that may have from seven perspectives: the mystery of self, the wisdom of self, the strength of self, the beauty of self, the creativity of self, the eternity of self, and the presence of self. Must read!

_______________ Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation
Jossey-Bass 2008 This book will challenge the theology of many Christians. Newell takes on the virgin birth, original sin, redemption, and a good part of the legacy of the Roman church. Must read!

O’Donoghue, Noel Dermot The Mountain Behind The Mountain
T&T Clark Ltd. Edinburgh 1993 The author grew up in SW Ireland and looks through the lens of his place and time at Celtic Creation Spirituality. He examines the writings of George Macdonald and Teilhard de Chardin as conduits illuminating the essence of Celtic Spirit in our own day.

Pemberton, Cintra OSH Soulfaring: Celtic Pilgrimage Then and Now
Morehouse Publishing 1999 Not only a detailed guide to Celtic sacred places, but
an exploration of the motivation and method of pilgrims and pilgrimage. A unique and
excellent work that will companion you intensely from the first pages.

Pennick, Nigel The Celtic Cross Blandford 1997 The definitive book on Celtic crosses, their evolving forms, symbolism, and typology. Many illustrations and photographs are provided. Various methods of cross interpretation are outlined.

Pullen, Bruce Reed Discovering Celtic Christianity
Twenty-Third Publications 1999 A “Readers Digest” generalist overview of Celtic Christianity with British emphasis by one who was a pilgrim. Despite his economy of words, his summaries are solid and well described. This is a good read for the beginner in Celtic studies.

Roy, James Charles The Road Wet, The Wind Close: Celtic Ireland
Dufour Editions 1987 Roy relates an historical journey as well as a personal one through Irelend. A most marvelous chapter on Skellig Michael begins the book. His photographs and anecdotal detail quickly lock you into this narrative.

Sampson, Fay Visions and Voyages Triangle Books London 1998
The author is a novelist who, caught up by the history of her country and her faith tradition, sets out to research and write a free narrative history of the Celtic Church. The results are very readable and remarkably insightful, but probably not for the academic.

Sheldrake, Philip Living Between Worlds: Place and Journey in Celtic Spirituality Darton, Longman & Todd 1995 The sacredness of place, earth, tuatha, and landscape are thoroughly explored by Sheldrake. He offers the “edge place” concept.

Simpson, Ray Exploring Celtic Spirituality Hodder & Stoughton Ltd 1995
Another founder of St. Aidan Trust, Ray Simpson offers a vision of the future as well as an exploration of our Celtic roots. Like Newell, he sees the Gospel of John as representative of the Celtic & Eastern Churches, balancing the Petrine & Pauline legs of the Christian tripod.

Sellner, Ed Wisdom of the Celtic Saints Ave Maria Press 1993
This is an excellent collection of stories and legends of various saints, including some of the more obscure. Particularly useful is the introduction identifying hallmarks of the Celtic Christian worldview. Lacks annotation.

____________ The Celtic Soul Friend Ave Maria Press Notre Dame IN 2002 Tracking the anamchara concept of the Celtic Christians, Dr. Sellner explores the spiritual practice of the soul-friend relationship in the Celtic church. He also follows it as an overall icon of the value of relationship in the Celtic Christian culture.

Snyder, Graydon F. Irish Jesus, Roman Jesus; The Formation of Early Irish Christianity Trinity Press International Harrisburg PA 2002 What would Christianity look like if the Jesus tradition had been first planted in a tradition other than the Roman. Snyder speculates on the results through an Irish lens, using everything from Paul’s letters to the Galatians to Irish stone crosses and architecture as data.

Toulson, Shirley The Celtic Year: A Celebration of Celtic Christian Festivals
Element 1993 A delightful compendium of saints from all the Celtic countries along with the significant Celtic festivals, month by month. A pilgrimage guide with maps is included.

Tom Cashman Corporate Coaching & Consulting September, 2009


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Lost

Some things were lost which should not have been forgotten. Deep in the caves of the Misty Mountains, far from the Shire, a little fellow called a hobbit wandered through the gloom. There in the dark fumbling around in the depths of the endless caverns, Bilbo found a ring. He came upon it - quite easily. He wasn't looking for it - it found him. But another soon was searching - with a howl of pain and scrabbling hands, desperately seeking - something precious.

Where could it have gone? Where could it be?

Bilbo put it on - and promptly disappeared. Perhaps he'll come back into the story later. But there, left behind, bereft and grieving, for its loss inconsolable, was the ring's old keeper, who mourned. It was not actually all that valuable in itself, was it? Its value was in its tie to its master - its true master, maker and owner, who sought it even more deeply with a darker craving than any other creature could conceive.

It was a bad thing that was lost - and found - there in the dark, in the tale of the Lord of the Rings that Tolkien told. There are good things lost too - by good people. Simple things, cherished things, beloved things: a ring, a photo, a coin. More importantly, a pet, a cat or a dog, a farm animal, a sheep or a goat. More important still - a beloved child.

Yesterday during my wife's company picnic I looked up one moment and noticed a mother looking around for her son. Where is he? I thought, and began to look too.

I got pretty far off and away from the rest of the gang but when I looked back, there way across the picnic ground, at the edge of the park, there he was: leaning against the fence, raptly watching a cement mixer pour its load.

He loves machines, his mother said. They walked back together to rejoin the rest of the party. I have to tell you, their absence was not much marked. Her child, like any child, I suppose, wanders off from time to time - who doesn't?

What we were doing - what they were doing - they until we rejoined the party - was playing silly games just for fun - mostly a chance to enjoy each other's company and cheer small victories and little feats.

There was a spoon race, a three-legged race, and a ball toss. Dress-up, a trivia quiz: all for the fun of it.

We didn't really miss out on much while we were away - this isn't a perfect fit to suit the gospel. Its two stories are halves of the one that Jesus told three times over.

If there were a sheep lost you'd go find it, wouldn't you? When you all were together again wouldn't you have a party for the sheer joy of it and the joy of the finding and the being together - restored to unity?

If a woman lost a day's wages, all in one throw of a coin, wouldn't she conduct a sweep-search until she found the missing piece?

And then wouldn't she be so glad she'd found it she'd call her friends to share the joy?

Much more so, much more so - what a party the angels have in heave to rejoice in the restoration of a lost child of God. For he is the shepherd who seeks the stray and carries her back into the fold, he is the housewife who turns the kitchen upside down to find what has fallen, and rolled, maybe here, maybe there.

He is the party-giver who invites us all to join in the fun.

But there is a problem here - a wet blanket who just won't dance, won't sing, won't laugh, wouldn't even cry if it came to that. No, no, no.

"This fellows," said the Pharisees to the scribes, "welcomes sinners and eats with them."

He extends the fellowship of the Table to unclean, impure, sinful people. Ecch!

At the picnic Saturday, Meredith Long pointed out a real difference between Jesus and his interlocutors. They perceived the 'sinners' as of no value, of lost value, forever stained by sin; Jesus saw them as people made in the image of God, an image that could be tarnished but never wiped out.

So it is that Jesus tells the story to them. Look at it:

- lost sheep, lost coin, sinner;
- found sheep, found coin, repentant sinner;
- rejoicing with friends, rejoicing with friends, grumbling and carping.

What gives?

When John asked you to mourn, Jesus says, you would not weep; when I asked you to dance, you stayed still.

It's as if they haven't received the news:

All are forgiven, all are restored, all are being brought back, all restored to life in the Father - by the grace of God in the love and faith found in Jesus.

What was impossible for humanity to accomplish, GOD has done.

Jeremiah speaks of a land laid waste, even the rocks in tumult. (As Meredith Long pointed out to me) All that God created is undone, the days of creation reversed, like a torn seam in a cloth all the sewing ripped away: where the city stood lie ruins, where orchards grew there is a wasteland, the mountains and the hills themselves are shaken; the land under the seas subsumes once more; as at the beginning all is without form and void - almost: for the holy Breath still sweeps over the face of the deep.

The light they cannot see for sinning still shines. It is lighting the darkest path, and the Lord will restore the fortunes of his people. They will rejoice and be glad.

They will no longer thirst by day, and by night they will fear no evil. For God will be their everlasting light, and he shall be their glory.

He shall be the mainstay of the poor, the hungry - and all who have fallen short of Glory he will bring back: to life, to light, to rejoicing in the presence of heaven.

This is the Lord's doing: no one can boast of it as his own achievement.

Paul tells Timothy that he was a sinner; he received mercy - and God's grace overflowed with love and faith: for Jesus came to save the lost - as surely as the woman went to seek the coin, as surely as any one would go find a lost one of their own keeping, as surely as a mother seeks a missing child, Christ comes for us.

Christ comes to us - and he calls us to come home; and he calls to us, as well, to come join the party: for what was lost is found.

When you are invited to dance, when there is a time of rejoicing, you are part of the welcome: the welcome-home to the lost sheep or coin or son or brother.

Come and join the company of angels: rejoice in the presence of the Lord.

You are welcome at the Table.

Blessed one, bless us, in the breaking of the Bread. Amen.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rejoice, Hope, and Act.

On the Bread for the World blog, Carlos Navarro posted this on July 11, 2009

Marty Haugen's Gift to Bread for the World

A special guest graced us with his presence and with a gift at Bread for the World's 35th birthday celebration in Washington just a few weeks ago.

That guest was liturgical composer and singer Marty Haugen, who wrote a special song entitled (appropriately) "Bread for the World."

The song was based on the theme of our 35th birthday celebration:
Rejoice, Hope and Act.

Rejoice, give thanks for abundant grace, food on our tables and peace within this place. How rich, how wide is our God's embrace! And thru' this great sustaining love

We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world. May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.

Hope burns anew, thru' the world's despair, when eyes are opened and hearts are moved to care, when we can listen and learn to share, then we might fin'lly turn and see

We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world. May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.

Act strong in faith, for God's Reign is near; stand up with courage, speak out and do not fear! Now is the time that the world must hear the tasks that God has called us to;

We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world. May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.

Thank you Marty Haugen for such a special gift!