Saturday, October 27, 2012

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Warning: I am going to talk about Jesus today, about Jesus, the gospel, and the Bible. I am going to talk about turning to Jesus and what it means for our lives. I am going to start with the Gospel – the Scripture reading for today, and the question Jesus asks:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

What is it? (Bartimaeus is next to the road, on the pilgrimage route outside Jericho.) This is a pretty good place for a beggar, for being poor and needy, a good place to ask people, to demand that people, give you stuff – so that you won’t have to change a bit… In fact, if you do you will probably mess it up. You might as well throw away your beggar sign – your cloak – and go on the road.

Why would you change a thing? This is a pretty good gig. All we have to do is wait for other people to come along and rescue us and give us our due – and do the work and make the friends and give – so that we can stay right here by the side of the road, waiting for rescue.

But will Jesus rescue us? Did he rescue Bartimaeus? Waiting for the reward doesn’t work out so well either – remember the Zebedee boys last week? Put us next to you when you come into your kingdom. So wouldn’t you expect Bartimaeus – and the people of Israel – knew he was onto a good thing? Knew he was ready to stay put – and collect? But no.

There is a turning here: a turning to Jesus. And that meant – and means – turning away from a whole way of life.

When Bartimaeus cast his cloak aside he was not only discarding an outer garment (as if to get ready for action) he was leaving behind him the source of his livelihood – for beggars spread their cloaks to receive alms (handouts) from passers-by.

(Cf. Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man, Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, ca. 1987)

All this before he can even see. All this before we can even see – which we won’t do until we trust Jesus – and throw our dependence on him. But – be warned: Once you really see there is one thing you have to do.

When we see things the way they really are we get up and follow him. —Paul Mitchell

What does that mean for you? What are you clinging onto, holding onto, that you need to cast aside, let go of?

Are you willing to venture away from what you know, blindly seeking Jesus, willing to ask him, that you might see, that your eyes might be opened?

What will you see when your eyes are opened?

Are you willing blindly to follow his voice – before you even know where he’ll lead you, what he looks like, or what you will encounter on the way?

Do you know what you will do?
Do you know what you are asking for?
Do you know the way ahead?

Are you willing to follow Jesus, knowing that putting your faith in him, you need no other?

“Repent means stop doing it” (as Massey Tice said to me, in 1975) … and it means to start doing something else.

This is the turning point, the conversion, the healing – of Bartimaeus.

What follow from it is the way, the way of truth, the way of Jesus, the way of the Cross.

Bartimaeus did not ask Jesus to bless his cloak; he let it go.

And followed him.

What will it mean for you to follow Jesus on the way?

Mostly dead or all dead?

When somebody tells you that your church is already dead, remember Miracle Max.

Here is a scene from "The Princess Bride" a film written by William Goldman:

Inigo:  ... He’s already dead.

Max:  Look who knows so much. Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. ....

Now, mostly dead is slightly alive.  Now, all dead...well, with all dead, there's usually only one thing that you can do....

Hey! Hello in there. Hey! What's so important? What you got here that's worth living for?

Westley: ... tr ... oooo .... luv ...

Max:  Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world.... But that's not what he said. He distinctly said "to blave." And, as we all know, "to blave" means "to bluff."

Valerie:  Liar! ...

And Valerie and Max go to work. Wesley is revived...

So if somebody tells your church that they are already dead, they have a question to answer. Do you want to live for true love – or are you bluffing?

If you are only talking about your own survival then you are already dead.

What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asks. The encounter has been routine up to that point. A man sitting by the side of the road, set up to be a beggar, calling out –

But what is he calling out? And is he serious? He calls for mercy from the Son of David. That means Messiah. That means King. That means he is calling for the king’s touch.

That means Herod isn’t king – and Caesar does not rule. Treason! Sedition!

If you call on the Son of David to have mercy you had better be sure you have the right man – and even then…

The crowd tries to hush it up. But he cries even louder. And Jesus responds, bring him here...

The game plan is out in the open now. 

If all you are about is your own survival then you are not yet fully alive.

That is why Jesus is called “fully human” – he fully embraces the human condition, including death – and resurrection.

The Messiah is on the way to Jerusalem, to the Passover festival.

[Jesus is the One who was promised. Will he be a king the way we expect him to be?]

And he is inviting us to come along. But, fair warning! 

Things will not be as they were.  If you set out on this journey, you will not be the same.

Everything will be different. That is why he came: to bring us out of old life into new.

That means leaving the old behind, giving up old habits, behaviors, and attitudes, even discarding the covering that protects us and gave us livelihood. It means leaving a way of life behind.

And that means being ready to be free. Getting ready to begin an adventure – to follow Jesus, as Bartimaeus and the other disciples followed Jesus, uphill on the way to Jerusalem – to the Cross – and then, only then, on to glory.

October 28, 2012
Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 25, Jeremiah 31:7-9, Psalm 126 , Hebrews 7:23-28, Mark 10:46-52 accessed October 27, 2012.  accessed October 27, 2012. accessed October 27, 2012.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

the power of servanthood

October 21, 2012
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 24
Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

They just don't get it, do they?

We just don't get it, do we?

The power to serve - the power of servanthood ... as Father Robert Fuller (St Frances Cabrini Parish, Tucson, Arizona) says, the only thing that makes you "important" to Jesus is that you serve selflessly, that you follow him ... that you do drink the cup that he will drink, under go the baptism with which he will be baptized ... that you will willingly follow the way of the cross, the way of the servant, that you will be obedient, as he is obedient.

What we believe is that as human beings God wants us to live into the fullness of life; as Christians we believe that the way to become truly human - to experience this fullness - is to follow Jesus.

And that means to follow him to Jerusalem, on the way to the cross, even as the disciples, oblivious as they were, were following Jesus. They went with him; what they expected, they did not get.

They had to give up what they expected, what they knew, for something greater, for a different kind of kingdom altogether from what they had expected, a different triumph, a different 'cup', a different 'baptism'.

The cup of salvation was the cup of suffering that Jesus drank freely - in the garden of Gethsemane he said, take this cup away from me: but he had already said, at the last supper with his friends that night before the soldiers came, this is the cup of my blood which is shed for you, and for many.

Will you share it?

The baptism was the baptism into and through death; through the rising from the waters of baptism we symbolically (at the least) re-enact his rising from the grave. He has conquered death; first of all, though, he went through it - and he went through it for us. In obedience to his Father, he underwent the grief and the pain and the suffering of an ignominious death. This kind of cruel death, crucifixion, was all too common in the Roman world. What was uncommon was that Jesus did it in obedient love.

He is the suffering servant, the one whom Isaiah proclaimed.

And we are his body - that we suffer too is not a sign that he has failed us; it is part of our humanity - that he shared. Jesus shared in our humanity - including our suffering - and redeemed us by his own taking upon himself of the pain he did not need to share. We share in his suffering - and his triumph.

We share in his joy. His cup. His baptism. And indeed in the kingdom of heaven we will sit beside him.

Perhaps not on his right and his left! that is not his to grant ... or ours to ask.

It is enough.

Francis foolishly asked (holy fool that he was) that he might know the pain and the joy that Jesus suffered on the cross; and his wish was granted, on the feast of the Holy Cross, September 14th, after which he could echo the epistle of that day, "from now on let no one bother me for I bear in my body the marks of our lord Jesus Christ."  (Gal 6.17)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Big Loser

The Big Loser

I wonder what we're missing
I wonder what's already gone
It's easy to miss stuff
              to lose stuff
It’s easy to be afraid
              to miss stuff
              to lose stuff
It’s not so easy to get rid of stuff

but it’s not so bad
the key is
            to focus
            to keep close to you
to be single-minded about
            what really matters
so as to avoid confusion


Jesus says
to one man
whom he looked upon with loving regard

perhaps with sorrowful compassion
perhaps with joy
the grieving over
            many possessions
                        would not last

what would last
            would be
                        the invitation

The invitation
            come – follow me
put that stuff
            to good use
release it
set it free
free yourself of
            the burden
that is bearing you down
and then
            come to me

That final command
is the closer – the purpose

for one man – and one church

the only promise Jesus gives the man
who grieves – for he has            
            many possessions –
is to receive treasure in heaven
once he is free of what is holding
            him to earth

what does that mean? I’m not sure
but the story does not end there
            Jesus goes on to say,
                        then come follow me

the man goes off, grieving
but does grief last forever? (Joy comes in the morning)
or does he go
like the son who said no
            but then went and did it
                        what his Father commands

How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
            for those who have wealth
            for any body

for it is right there
his hand is open
            offering it to you
but you have to open yours to grasp it

and like the monkey with his fist
            in the jar
            clenched full of filberts
you may have something to let go too

to lose …


what possesses you:
anger, resentment
fear itself

(false sources of security and comfort)

to gain…

the promise is
            he will be there
            he is already there
            he is already here

take my hand, open yours
follow me, and
grasp hold of the treasure
that is heaven –

How do you grasp hold of heaven?
How do you grasp hold of his hand?
            and follow?
How do you learn how to follow?

learn from his teachings
            his ways
            his practices


His people
            join in this common pursuit
You are not alone in this
            the people of God are
            the people of the promise             (Francis Baur, Life in Abundance)
the people who choose to respond
            (perhaps after much grieving)
to the invitation
            to follow
            to receive the Spirit
            to share the relation
                        Jesus has with his Father, his source:

Rowan Williams, Where God Happens (Boston, 2005) p. 114:

“That the church will not fail is one promise we can trust. This is for the simple reason that the church is above all the community of those whom Jesus calls to receive the Spirit and to share the relation that he has to his Father, his source. Because Jesus does not stop issuing that invitation, the church does not stop existing.”

That relationship
that source
            makes it possible for us
to let go of our stuff
respond to his call
and follow.

14 October 2012
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 23
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31


Monday, October 1, 2012

seasons of the year

Our celebrations as a church follow a pattern - a pattern set by custom and tradition and calendar, but also by the natural cycles of the year, the seasons of the sun and phases of the moon.

You know when it’s fall. You know when it’s winter, and springtime, and summer, and fall again. That is the Earth's natural year, the round of the seasons. It follows the sun, as our planet’s course through the heavens brings us closer and then takes us farther away from that stellar source of light.

Seasons vary from place to place, from time to time: we know them not by clock or calendar but by the rhythms of life and light. There are measurements of course: solstice and equinox, and halfway between these, the quarter days. These have been codified by calendars, to give us a handle on what is happening to us as days grow shorter or lengthen. The liturgical round of the
Christian year follows this pattern.

The ancient Celtic calendar was also built around the seasons of the sun. The Celtic calendar included not only the winter and summer solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes but also the days halfway between them, which they called the quarter days. Each is associated with an element of nature.

Samhain, associated with the element of earth, at the end of October and the beginning of November, marks the turning of the Celtic year. Imbolc, the festival of light, comes at the beginning of February. Beltaine, associated with fire, is May Day. Lughnasa, feast of the air and wind, is August 1st.

The year, in this imaging, starts in a gathering darkness, when the seed in the ground, planted earlier, begins in silence to take root and grow. Something is ended; something new has begun. It is like our understanding of death and resurrection. It is a harvest time for past things, looking back, and, looking forward, to what is already but not yet come into our world, a time of hidden new life.

The Christian year, and the Church calendar, reflect the seasonal rhythms of the natural cycle of the solar year – and it shows us that in its own cycle of feasts and fasts. These, too, following the seasons of the sun, are arranged around the solstices and equinoxes and the quarter days between them.

The liturgical year begins with Advent, the season of preparation, for four Sundays before Christmas. Just past the winter solstice comes the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. We celebrate light and life and the incarnation of the holy one of God. The celebration continues through the twelve days of Christmas, and the feast of the Epiphany, into January’s Sundays, including the 
Baptism of Our Lord

The next feast comes around the time of the quarter day at the beginning of February, when we celebrate Candlemas (Candelaria in Mexico). It’s a perfect reason for another party, as we remember the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, completing the cycle of the birth of our King. In some traditional cultures, the winner of the prize baked into the Epiphany cake brings treats for all to share on this day (let’s see what happens here). 

Seasons and celebrations begin to change; days lengthen. Shrove Tuesday comes; we celebrate with a pancake supper. 

There is a shift now, at Ash Wednesday, remembering the water of Baptism and the coming themes of death and resurrection. We prepare, through Lenten discipline, for the great events of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Eve and 
Easter Day. Fifty great days later – eight days after the Ascension – is the feast of Pentecost.

Breaking into the midst of the Lent/Easter/Pentecost cycle (which is tied to the phases of the moon well as the seasons of the sun) is the feast of unexpected news, the revelations of the 
Annunciation, on March 25, just after the vernal equinox.

We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of baptismal promise, and the growing body of Christ’s faithful people, through summer and into fall. 

The summer solstice comes just around the feast of our patron, Saint Alban, and just before the feast of the Nativity of St John, the Baptist on June 24 (six months from Christmas). 

Around the time of the quarter day at the beginning of August we celebrate The Transfiguration (and Picnic Sunday). 

As the autumnal equinox indicates a change of season toward the end of September, so do the feasts of St Michael and All Angels and St Francis of Assisi  (with the Blessing of the Animals).

St John said of our Lord, ‘he must increase, I must decrease’ - and now indeed the days slowly shorten, imperceptibly at first, until the season’s quickening accelerates into autumn, harvest, and the eve of All Saints’ appears on the horizon of our year. At All Saints, we remember and thank God for the saints of the past, celebrate with those present with us today, and pray for those who will join the Kingdom in the future.

All Saints' Day and the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (in Mexico, el Día de los Muertos), November 1st and 2nd, falling at the quarter day, provide an opportunity to offer thanks for what we have received from what has come before and give us a chance to pray for what is to come.

All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee— words of David, how appropriate they sound, in the season of thanksgiving, as we celebrate the in-gathering of pledges and the offering of our own blessings back to the source of all blessings, God who creates, redeems, and sustains.

The Sundays just before Advent are a season of anticipation – they focus on the Kingdom of Christ. This culminates on the last Sunday of the church year, in the feast of Christ the King.

Look back with gratitude, 

Look forward with anticipation, 
In all things give thanks
– Christine Sine

What season of the year, you may wish to ask yourself, fits your spirit? Where do you find resonance with your own spirituality? What is the season that speaks to your heart? 

Are you in a season of anticipation – of the Advent of Christ? Does the Incarnation fill your heart with quiet longing, with loud rejoicing, with the sureness of peace, the future of hope, the promise of love, represented by Christmas? Have you welcomed the new into the kingdom of your heart, giving due obeisance, like the three kings of Epiphany, to the presence of the true ruler of the universe – however humbly he appears now to our eyes? Are you embarked upon a journey of preparation – the long desert trek of Lent? Are you in Easter, full of the reality of the risen life in Christ? Are you in the middle of summer days, in the long green season of Pentecost, watching things grow and helping them along, anticipating the fullness of fall’s harvest celebrations? Are you celebrating the kingdom season, the end of days after Pentecost, and the in-breaking (already-but-not-yet) reign of God?

All these seasons are filled with possibilities; meanings that may speak to you each in their turn.

You are invited into relationship with God, in each season of the year, and in each chamber of your heart.

You are beckoned by God, through Christ, into relationship with the eternal Word and holy Spirit, who together with the Father, the source of all Being, are the One true home, the One true light, the One true timeless reality that lies beneath and beyond all our days.

Come into celebration – come in quiet or in laughter, in sorrow or in delight; come to Christ at harvest and planting, breathe in the Spirit in summer’s air and winter’s, and walk with God in every season of your life. 

Come with us on the journey together. We are one family – the household of God. And you are always welcome under His roof.



Marcus Losack, “Celtic Spirituality and the Pre-Christian Tradition”, Lecture in the Chapel of the Ascension, Markree Castle, Co. Sligo, May 22, 2007.

Herbert O'Driscoll, Prayer Among Friends (Toronto: Path Books, 2008).

Hugh Stevenson, "The Secularization of the Calendar", St. Patrick's Grapevine, Newsletter of St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, Kenwood, Calif., July/August 2010.

David Marshall.

Tom Cashman.

Nora Chadwick, The Celts.

Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Book of Days.

Christine Sine, "Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart", Accessed October 1, 2012.

Adapted from "
the year's turning", an article for the Gospel Grapevine, parish newsletter of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash., November 2010.