Thursday, December 31, 2015

Welcoming the Hidden Christ – Scripture Readings and Discussion Questions

 

Welcoming the Hidden Christ – Scripture Readings and Discussion Questions

Genesis 18:1-8 Abraham and Sarah entertain angelic visitors
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

1. What is your picture of ideal hospitality?  2. Why welcome strangers?  3. What came of this meeting?  4. What can you expect from entertaining strangers?  5. Did Abraham and Sarah know what they were doing, who they were entertaining?  6. Do we recognize the people we are offering hospitality?  7. Does it matter?

Leviticus 19:33-34 (NRSV)
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:33-34 (KJV)
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NRSV)
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

1. These passages seem to be about respecting those who are already in the country – ‘resident aliens’. How do we treat new arrivals? “new Americans”? Do we treat temporary visitors and new citizens differently? Why?  2. What are the definitions of migrant, refugee, asylum seeker?


Deuteronomy 26:5-7 (NRSV)
You shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.

Deuteronomy 26:5-7 (KJV)
And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression…

1. This passage, and others, treats sojourners and aliens as somehow similar to widows and orphans and the sick and the imprisoned, that is, as people on the margins, but people with a special claim on our hearts.  2. How do we respond? Do our own experiences of marginalization (as children, minorities, unemployed, etc.) change our response?

1 Kings 17:8-16 The Widow of Zarephath shelters Elijah

Matthew 25:31-46 esp.
v.35 “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” and
v.43 “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me”

1. The scene of final judgment before the throne of God at the end of time is the setting of this passage. Can we imagine that?  2. Here the poor, the marginalized, and the stranger, are identified with Christ himself (though hidden). How does this help us confront the stranger in our own lives?

Romans 15:7
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Ephesians 2:14
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

Ephesians 2:19-20
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

1. These passages talk about hospitality within the context of the unity within the church between Jews and non-Jews. Are there dividing walls in our own time that Christ breaks down?

Hebrews 13:2 (KJV)
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

* * *

"Ya it's interesting how people don't make that hospitality and immigration connection." — someone who works on the border

The United Nations uses “migrant” generally to refer to people living outside their homeland for a year or more regardless of their reason or legal status and often includes international business people or diplomats who are on the move but not economically disadvantaged. The IOM’s World Migration Report 2005 defines “undocumented” or “irregular migrants” as “workers or members of their families not authorized to enter, to stay or to engage in employment in a state” … The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines a “refugee” as one who, “owing to well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinions, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”… The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), … defines “internally displaced persons” as those “who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border”…
            Some people may flee their homelands because of political persecution and fall under the category of forced migrants or refugees, for example, but their motivations may also stem from economic considerations and therefore the same people can be economic migrants as well. Most migrants are motivated by “push” factors that drive them away from their homelands and “pull” factors that draw them to better lives in another place. [The term] “refugees” highlights some of the most vulnerable people of the migrant population. (Daniel G. Groody CSC, “Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees” Theological Studies 70 (2009) 642-643 n.)

asylum-seeker:  “an individual who says he/she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitely evaluated.”  (UNHCR)

* * *

From Coracle, the quarterly magazine of the Iona Community (Winter 2015):

John R. Leech (USA): Recently I have observed and participated in a variety of border and immigration ministries in southern Arizona and northern Mexico, from hospitality (el comedor, Kino Border Initiative, Sonora) to deportation proceedings (Special procedures court, ‘Operation Streamline’, Tucson federal courthouse), from keeping vigil at el Tiradito shrine, remembering those who have died crossing the desert, to training with Tucson Samaritans, and serving at the comedor with Samaritans of Sahuarita and Green Valley.

I have spoken with members of St Michael and All Angels and St Andrew’s Episcopal Churches in Tucson, and with volunteers of the Casa Mariposa/Restoration Project, who have been meeting people at the Greyhound bus station in Tucson, people recently released from detention by ICE/Border Patrol.

This autumn the big news had two parts. First, the Tucson bus station began receiving eighty people a night, women with children, released with instructions to appear for a hearing within a month at an immigration court – presumably near family already in the United States – lest an order for removal close their case. No warning. Just dropped off.

Second, the incredible news that the Border Patrol has flown a thousand kids from Texas to Arizona and then put them into a warehouse (I’ve seen it from the road – it is meant for pallets of flour, not for people) in Nogales, AZ. These are unaccompanied minors from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), refugees from violence and extreme poverty. The warehouse serves as a temporary (promise: 72 hours) detention facility. It is on La Quinta Road near the truck crossing into Mexico.

The ongoing need for change in policy and practice, compassionate work for change and a deeper understanding of our fellow human beings – exploited and caught in the middle of a gigantic and ongoing crisis – and the need to reach out in love across boundaries: all this continues.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is that this situation is similar to so many others in humanitarian relief and development work: there is an immediate crisis that gets our attention – and an ongoing problem that needs lasting sustained effort.

All of a sudden on our own southern border is an immense influx of refugees, in two remarkable groups, women with children seeking to be reunited with their families, and unaccompanied minors, mainly teenagers but also younger children, who have been sent north without adults.

Preponderantly these people have come north through Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Why? Besides a sell-job by human smugglers, there are economic and political reasons for this migration.

People come to Arizona to work, to re-unite with their families, or to find and begin a new chapter in their life.

We need to practice a theology of hospitality – a spirituality of migration. We were strangers once too. So – an ongoing need is there. The need for change – in our national policies, in our practices of welcome, in our influence on conditions in other countries, in our attitudes toward the ‘foreigner’ – continues.

(“Sparks of the Light”, Coracle, Winter 2014, 13-14)


sparks

 
John R. Leech (USA): Recently I have observed and participated in a variety of border and immigration ministries in southern Arizona and northern Mexico, from hospitality (el comedor, Kino Border Initiative, Sonora) to deportation proceedings (Special procedures court, ‘Operation Streamline’, Tucson federal courthouse), from keeping vigil at el Tiradito shrine, remembering those who have died crossing the desert, to training with Tucson Samaritans, and serving at the comedor with Samaritans of Sahuarita and Green Valley.

I have spoken with members of St Michael and All Angels and St Andrew’s Episcopal Churches in Tucson, and with volunteers of the Casa Mariposa/Restoration Project, who have been meeting people at the Greyhound bus station in Tucson, people recently released from detention by ICE/Border Patrol.

This autumn the big news had two parts. First, the Tucson bus station began receiving eighty people a night, women with children, released with instructions to appear for a hearing within a month at an immigration court – presumably near family already in the United States – lest an order for removal close their case. No warning. Just dropped off.

Second, the incredible news that the Border Patrol has flown a thousand kids from Texas to Arizona and then put them into a warehouse (I’ve seen it from the road – it is meant for pallets of flour, not for people) in Nogales, AZ. These are unaccompanied minors from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), refugees from violence and extreme poverty. The warehouse serves as a temporary (promise: 72 hours) detention facility. It is on La Quinta Road near the truck crossing into Mexico.

The ongoing need for change in policy and practice, compassionate work for change and a deeper understanding of our fellow human beings – exploited and caught in the middle of a gigantic and ongoing crisis – and the need to reach out in love across boundaries: all this continues.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is that this situation is similar to so many others in humanitarian relief and development work: there is an immediate crisis that gets our attention – and an ongoing problem that needs lasting sustained effort.

All of a sudden on our own southern border is an immense influx of refugees, in two remarkable groups, women with children seeking to be reunited with their families, and unaccompanied minors, mainly teenagers but also younger children, who have been sent north without adults.

Preponderantly these people have come north through Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Why? Besides a sell-job by human smugglers, there are economic and political reasons for this migration.

People come to Arizona to work, to re-unite with their families, or to find and begin a new chapter in their life.

We need to practice a theology of hospitality – a spirituality of migration. We were strangers once too. So – an ongoing need is there. The need for change – in our national policies, in our practices of welcome, in our influence on conditions in other countries, in our attitudes toward the ‘foreigner’ – continues.

(“Sparks of the Light”, Coracle, the quarterly magazine of the Iona Community, Winter 2014, 13-14)  
http://iona.org.uk/media/coracle/

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas1



This is the Sunday of Light: of the Light that shines in the Darkness and the Darkness has never put it out.

This is the Sunday we bear witness to the Light: the Light of the Good News of God.

What we have done this year, this past Advent and this ongoing Christmas season, is to bear forth into the world the Good news that is the Light of God incarnate in Jesus Christ.

We do this through our actions, as symbolic as our liturgy, and as concrete as our activity during the week, in the world. We show forth the Light, and we bear witness to it, potentially in all we do.

This past few weeks I have been the grateful witness and participant in many manifestations of the light in the midst of darkness. I have been aware of the darkness, of fear and misunderstanding and willful hate, of ignorance and exclusion and pompous piety. And I have been aware that throughout all of this we the witnesses to the light have not given up.

In fact, we have shone out! – in so many ways…

I see it in the processions – in the All Souls procession from St John the Evangelist parish church down to the mission church of San Xavier, and in Las Posadas right over on South Main Avenue with the schoolchildren of Carrillo School.

I have seen the light of Christ shining, being borne forth by his people.

I have seen it in the pointedly political bi-national Las Posadas on the border in Nogales, with the dioceses of Tucson and Nogales leading, and many people concerned with our border and immigration policy and practices taking part in a mildly long walk.

I have seen it in our Christmas celebrations, in church and community – church in community:

·     Advent Lessons and Carols
·     Bake sale at the Parade of Lights
·     Carols and Beer!
·     Longest Night service – and all our services.

When we take a gift to a friend or a greeting to a neighbor, when we wave someone ahead of us on the street or in line at the grocery store, it may not mean much to us – or to them. But it gets us going. It gets us started on another path than the one that leaves us in shadow.

When on Christmas Eve a few of us were talking through the fine points of the liturgy, Vicar Kate reminded us that the gospel book itself bears witness to the light. When it was carried first in procession, before the story of the Christ Child was read, it was the vessel of illumination. It carried a light that was leading the way – the light of the Good News of God.

As we heard that story again and for the first time that night, we could almost see the glow around the people gathered in the little town where the child lay. There in that faraway place, new Light had come into the world.
It came in dangerous times, in a risky way. It came in by the small door, not through palace gates, but in an ordinary small place.

Light comes to us sometimes without angels – or with only shepherds to witness. Sometimes we are the shepherds, the poor ones trying to keep warm on a cold night – just doing our jobs. But then…

The word comes to us and dwells among us, the word which is the light of all people.

We have a new job to do.

That job – that work – is to bear witness to the Light; what that means, how that plays out for each of us, is the daily task, and the daily opportunity, of our new lives in Christ.

May we as we go forth into the world into this new-coming year, bring with us a little bit of the glow of Christmas night, as we too, like the shepherds and angels before us, try to hold aloft the Light that reveals the truth to all, and the glory to all, of God with us.

Eternal light, scatter the darkness from our hearts and minds, enlighten our lives with you glory, and give us the power and wisdom to live as sons and daughters of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


David Adam, Glimpses of Glory (SPCK, 2000) 18.

Preached at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona. Sunday 27 December 2016
JRL+

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Sunday of Light

First Sunday after Christmas

This is the Sunday of Light: of the Light that shines in the Darkness and the Darkness has never put it out. This is the Sunday we bear witness to the Light: the Light of the Good News of God.

What we have done this year, this past Advent and this ongoing Christmas season, is to bear forth into the world the Good news that is the Light of God incarnate in Jesus Christ.

We do this through our actions, symbolic as our liturgy, and our activity during the week, in the world. We show forth the Light, and we bear witness to it, potentially in all we do.

This past month I have been the grateful witness and participant in many manifestations of the light in the midst of darkness. I have been aware of the darkness, of fear and misunderstanding and willful hate, of ignorance and exclusion and pompous piety. And I have been aware that throughout all of this we the witnesses to the light have not given up.

We have not given in. I see it in the processions – in the procession on All Hallows’ Eve from St John the Evangelist parish church down to the mission church of San Xavier, in Las Posadas right over on South Main Avenue with the schoolchildren of Carrillo School. I have seen it in the more pointedly political bi-national Las Posadas on the border in Nogales, with the dioceses of Tucson and Nogales leading, and many people concerned with our border and immigration policy and practices taking part in a mildly long walk.

When we take a gift or a greeting to a neighbor, when we wave someone ahead of us on the street or in line at the grocery store, it may not mean much to us – or to them. But it gets us going. It gets us started on another path than the one that leaves us in shadow.

When on Christmas Eve we were talking through the fine points of the liturgy, Vicar Kate reminded us that the gospel book itself bears witness to the light. When it was carried first in procession, before the story of the Christ Child was read, it was the vessel of illumination. It carried a light that was leading the way.

As we heard that story again and for the first time that night, we could almost see the glow around the people gathered in the little town where the child lay. There in that faraway place, whether the child was in a barn or a cozy back room of a family home, new Light had come into the world. It came in dangerous times, in a risky way. It came in by the small door, not through the gates of the palace, but in an ordinary small place.

Light comes to us sometimes without angels – or with only shepherds to witness. Sometimes we are the shepherds, the poor ones trying to keep warm on a cold night – just doing our jobs. But then…

The word comes to us and dwells among us, the word which is the light of all people.

When we see it, when we hear it, we may not know how to ignore it. We have a new job to do.

That job – that work – is to bear witness to the Light; what that means, how that plays out for each of us, is the daily task, and the daily opportunity, of our new lives in Christ.

May we as we go forth into the world into this new-coming year, bring with us a little bit of the glow of Christmas night, as we too, like the shepherds and star-watchers before us, try to hold aloft the Light that reveals the truth to all and the glory to all of God with us.


 
Sunday 27 December 2016
St Andrew's Episcopal Church
Tucson, Arizona




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Welcoming the Hidden Christ - reading list

Gray-Reeves, Mary, and Michael Perham. The Hospitality of God: Emerging Worship for a Missional Church. New York: Seabury Books/Church Publishing. 2011.

Morris, Clayton L. Holy Hospitality: Worship and the Baptismal Covenant. A Practical Guide for Congregations. New York: Church Publishing. 2005.

Pratt, Loni Collins, and Daniel Homan, O.S.B. Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press. 2002.

Smith, Gary, S.J. Radical Compassion: Finding Christ in the Heart of the Poor. Chicago: Jesuit Way/Loyola Press. 2002.

Spellers, Stephanie. Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation. New York: Church Publishing. 2006.





Friday, December 4, 2015

whose story?


What story are you in? Whose story? Are you in a story of fear or a story of joy?

Is this passage from Luke two stories:
one of fear, anxiety, and power;
one of joy, gratitude – and truth?

You could look at it that way – or you could look at it as one story –
one story of how the people of God move through times of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear; through temptations to greed, pride, envy, and all the rest;
to a place beside the birth site of Jesus,
to a time of joy, fulfillment, and peace,
that like God’s presence is already but not yet visible among us.

Advent after all is a time of joyful anticipation, expectation, and preparation for God’s presence yet to come…
but it is a time also to remind ourselves that
that presence has always been with us –
that the God who is to come, proclaimed by John and heralded by angels,
is already among us, already present.

The Hidden Christ –
the one seen in the face of a stranger, in an outstretched hand of welcome, -
is among us, waiting to be known:
to be newly born at Christmas,
surprisingly revealed in Epiphany, and
finally recognized on the Cross and in the glory of the Resurrection.

That Christ is present with us now.


Luke 3:1-6



Baruch 5:1-9
or Malachi 3:1-4
Canticle 4 or 16
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

After 461 days...

Sometimes I feel like Mr. Pepys the witness of extraordinary events from a fortuitous vantage point. He climbed pillars or scaffolds to witness the return of the monarch. Tonight at the back of the room on the kiva-like benches of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, I witnessed (and participated in) the communal celebration of the
Final Sanctuary Prayer Vigil for Rosa
November 10, 2015
Opening/Canción de Apertura
            Pescador de Hombres, No. 721
Gathering Words of Welcome/
Palabras de Bienvenida
Psalm 96/Salmo 96
Sharing Words of Gratitude/
Compartiendo Palabras de Agradecimiento
Philippians 4: 4-9/Filipenses 4:4-9
Sharing Words of Blessing/
Compartiendo Palabras de Benedición
Laying on of Hands/Imposición de Manos
Song of Praise   We Will Go Out With Joy, No. 539
            Spanish Verse:
            Vamos saliendo con gozo en el alma;
            vamos saliendo ya
            Vamos saliendo con gozo en el alma,
            vamos saliendo ya
            Aleluya, vamos saliendo ya.
            Aleyua! Aleyua!
Spreading the Light/Compartiendo la Luz
Amen! Amen! Amen!
It was powerful. It was unexpected. In the course of things Alison Harrington the pastor welcomed us – and told us that tomorrow at eleven o’clock we were all welcome back for the public announcement and celebration of the end of Rosa’s confinement to sanctuary. “She is protected!” she cried. And may all those like her, undocumented, be likewise so.
Margo Cowan the lawyer was there and received due congratulations. Isabel Garcia from Derechos Humanos, Ilaa Abernathy from St. Michael’s Guatemala Project, … many familiar and new faces joined in joy in this celebration. “The movement is spreading.”

“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, ..."

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 Romans 10:8b-18 Matthew 4:18-22 Psalm 19 or 19:1-6 

St Andrew, Apostle


“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus 

accessed November 10, 2015. 

 

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Tucson




Friday, November 6, 2015

Widows' Offering

Jesus is watching with his disciples as people put money into the temple treasury.

When a poor widow puts in two small coins he draws their attention to it - see her total faith in God, her trust. She has aligned herself completely with God's kingdom.

As Ruth did when she came alongside Naomi, leaving her past loyalty and support behind and relying on the God of Israel (under whose wings she sought protection).

The stranger and the widow - Ruth and Naomi both - are God's special care and comfort.



(Many give out of their prosperity. The widow's offering is her faith not her surplus wealth.)

prayer for the migrant

Prayer for the Migrant, from the program at the conclusion of the pilgrimage to San Xavier du Bac Saturday 31 October 2015 organized by Derechos Humanos to remember those who have died crossing the desert in the past year:

Creator, full of love and mercy, I want to ask you for my migrant brothers and sisters. Have compassion and protect them, as they suffer mistreatment and humiliations on their journeys, they are labelled as dangerous, and marginalized for being foreigners.

Make them be respected and valued for their dignity. Touch with your goodness the many that see them pass. Care for their families until they return to their homes, not with broken hearts  but rather with hopes fulfilled. Let it be.

Ruth and Facebook

My sermon this Sunday begins on Facebook:

News Feed

733 pm during World Series game nov1 first xmas related commercial aaagh
Lisa  and Lois  like this.
Comments
Diane Hagen Beach
Diane   Hallmark channel started showing 24-7 holiday movies a few days ago. Last year, I think they ran into January. Do you have any idea how many really bad holiday movies there are? Yikes!
John Leech
John Leech The hallmark movie plot : she finally meets the right man. Grandma is happy.
John Leech
John Leech The hallmark Christmas movie plot: she finally meets the right man, just in time for Christmas. Grandma is very happy.
Diane Hagen Beach
Diane  Got it in one, unless it's the equal opportunity version where the guy is looking for the right woman! LOL


The story of Ruth that we read today is a lot like a Hallmark Channel movie - at first glance. A capable woman meets a righteous man, marries him, settles down, and they have a child. Grandma is happy. 

But the story did not start that way. The four-episode story of Ruth begins with a much graver situation than you'll find in any Hallmark movie.

As the story begins a woman leaves her hometown of Bethlehem - where there is no bread: it's a time of famine - and travels with her husband and her two sons across a couple of boundaries. They cross the valley of the Jordan to an unlikely place, the unfriended land of Moab. But there is food there. And her sons find wives. But her husband dies and after ten years her sons die as well. She is left, in that ancient patriarchal culture, without male support. Husbands and sons were the security for women. Without them the woman - the women - fall to the bottom of society.

The woman hears that the famine is over in her homeland, and so she makes plans to return. Her daughters-in-law accompany her part of the way but she discourages them. She has no husband and no prospect of sons. She cannot hold out hope to them that, in-laws as they are - but now to become foreigners in a strange land - they would find any comfort there.

Orpah goes back. Fair enough. Ruth surprises her mother-in-law and vows to continue with her, to stay in relationship with her, and indeed to adopt her homeland and her family - and her God - as her own. So forsaking all others she goes with the older widow on her journey.

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me
.

When they arrive it is early spring. The barley harvest is beginning. It's the first sign of hope, as episode one closes.
In episode two, the women of Bethlehem welcome home their relative, Naomi. But Naomi is bitter at this point and sees no happy way out of her circumstance. Bereft of husband and sons, and prospect of a child, she has little left. Except Ruth.

Ruth with permission from her mother-in-law becomes a gleaner, one of the poor ones following the harvesters as they reap the grain. And she is seen. The owner of the field approaches, speaks his appreciation of all she has done. She has taken care of her mother-in-law, leaving all her other support behind her. He blesses her for seeking protection under the wings of God.

The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

The man, Boaz, sees that Ruth has placed her total trust in God. He praises that. And he looks after her that day and sees that she does not go home empty-handed. Naomi is glad to hear how the day went for Ruth and indeed notices that the owner of the field was none other than her own close relative. A hopeful ending to episode two.

Episode three begins some weeks later as the harvest season is coming to a close. Naomi, now in much better spirits, has come up with an idea. And so Ruth seeks out Boaz - and the upshot is here in today's reading. She seeks shelter under his wing - for life. And in episode four, we get the happy ending. Ruth and Boaz marry, and Naomi gets a grandchild.

But remember where we started and see the story as a whole. The book began with six characters, three men and three women, only two of whom survive to the second chapter. From exile the older woman returns to her own land, and with her comes a woman who is seeking safety, shelter, and a new home in a place she has never been before. God bless you, says a new friend, for what you have done. And the story turns away from famine, scarcity, and sorrow to abundance, fullness, and joy.

That is the story of Ruth - an immigrant and a widow - who found a welcome in the household of God, among the people of God in a place she had never known, that now she would make her home.

Questions I am asked and challenged by:

What do you do to make a home of a place you have never been before? And what do you do to make your place a home for the alien, the widow, the stranger, and those seeking a new life in a place they have never been before?

Ten or eleven years ago at the bishop's conference on the border (organized by Tom Buechele) some one asked if there were any Bible passages about borders and migration. Three came to mind, right away:
"My father was a wandering Aramean,..." or, as the King James has it, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father,..." (Dt 26.5) This is the story of how Jacob, patriarch of the Hebrew people, migrated to a foreign land in a time of famine.

"You were strangers once in Egypt...." (Dt 10.19) "Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
 This is an admonishment to the people of Israel to extend hospitality to foreigners. And even, at Passover, to welcome them into their homes for the family dinner on an equal footing with themselves.

And the kicker:

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Mt 25.35) Jesus at the final gathering of all peoples responds with welcome to those who have been welcoming...



When I first came to southern Arizona eleven years ago I had to find ways to make it home. One advantage I had was a bit of history of my own from long ago: my grandfather was a forest ranger in the Arizona territory before the first world war. And my future parents-in-law met at the University of Arizona. But family connections are not enough. I had to get to know the place, the land, the fauna and flora. And I had to get to know the story of Arizona, the stories of the people who live here.

Those stories are many, and carry on. Among them are many stories of people who have come to Arizona for work, for family, or to start a new and better life. There are people who have fled war, civil strife, or natural disaster. Famine. And there are those who find here a fresh start in a place of abundance. They are welcomed. There are some who are greeted with an attitude of scarcity, of not sharing. (Where I once lived in another state, we called this "closing the door behind you" as all of us had been immigrants not long since.)

The story of Ruth - of Naomi and Boaz and the people of Bethlehem - gives us hope. It gives us a story of welcome and hospitality. It gives us in quiet ways a story of how God can work with what we have - even if it is only two women who stick together in hard times - and make a new thing begin.

How do we make something bloom in the desert? How do we make ourselves at home in a new time or a new place? How do we begin to welcome home those who have been long away? Or those who have never been under our roof before?

And how do we celebrate the welcome of God to all of us as God welcomes us into his house, his hospitality, and we find shelter under his wings?



8 November 2015
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 27


Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Psalm 127
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44


Notes for a sermon given at St. John's Episcopal Church, Bisbee, Arizona. JRL+

Thursday, September 24, 2015

handbasket

Arthur J. Dewey concludes his commentary on this coming Sunday's gospel with this observation: "It is ironic that in our modern world, where the 'garbage of humanity' are usually overlooked, we are called by the Markan Jesus to identify with this very 'refuse' in order not to be found in the garbage heap [Gehenna] on the last day." -- p. 137, The Word in Time (New Berlin, Wisc.: Liturgical Publications, 1990)

2015 September 27
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
B Proper 21
 


Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 
Psalm 124 
James 5:13-20 
Mark 9:38-50 

 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

climate change reading list

 
Walter Brueggemann. Journey To The Common Good. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.
Jimmy Carter. A Call To Action : Women, Religion, Violence, And Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Gore, Albert. The Future: Six Drives of Global Change. New York: Random House. 2013. Griffin, David Ray. Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis? Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press. 2015.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Fifth Assessment Report. available online at http://ipcc.ch/.
Jenkins, Willis. The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013.
Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. http://thischangeseverything.org/. http://www.naomiklein.org/main.
Bill McKibben. Oil And Honey : The Education Of An Unlikely Activist. New York: Times Books, 2013.
Rasmussen, Larry L. Earth-honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Swimme, Brian Thomas, and Mary Evelyn Tucker. Journey of the Universe. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2011.


http://greenchurch.blogspot.com/ 

ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Global Warming?


Spiritual Formation
Global Warming? How do we care for our environment as stewards of God’s creation?
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, September 13, 2015 9am
Theological reflections on the spiritual context for environmental action

There was a landowner who put his top employees in charge of his holdings. He said to them, “Take charge of it – and take care of the place. Bring your families to live on the land, and enjoy its produce. Serve it faithfully, and from its care you will live abundantly.”

So the servants came on board. They lived on the land, and raised families there. They were as fertile as the land itself and they grew in numbers. And it was theirs for the taking – to take charge of, to take care of, or to take advantage of – and with the land they served as their home they would live in hope and abundance, or in fear and scarcity – it was up to them.

What will they say when the landlord comes? How will they be with him? As servants entering into joy, or as sad stewards with empty fields, exhausted resources, and mistreated fellow creatures, to show for their stewardship?

We are familiar now with the data and analysis that have exposed to our concern the phenomenon of climate change. It is a transnational challenge that faces us on a global front. Many of the crises and problems facing humanity on occasional or local bases connect to this root phenomenon: we live in the Age of the Anthropocene.

Human activity shapes geography, climate, biosphere – and even geology. We are making, through our collected and cumulative activities, a permanent impact on the landscape of our world: its ice and free water, its air and clouds, its land and growing things (including food for ourselves and all other animal creatures), and hence the sustainability of life for ourselves and our fellow beings.

A Turkish seminarian from Istanbul, an exchange student in the United States, told me he’d polled his fellow students: If you saw a cricket in your room what would you do? Ninety percent said, I’d kill it. And these were seminarians! He exclaimed. What became of compassion for all creatures?

Let us not make the Anthropocene the anthropocentric. Let us remember our special mandate as human creatures to care for the earth: not just to multiply and fill it – but to tend it. We are the stewards, the workers in the garden, of this green and gold, and glorious, blue white planet. It is our home, but not as owners – not as exploiters – but as chief tenants. We are the manager of the apartment house, so to speak, not the landlord.

In our Christian hope we turn to that landlord and yearn for his presence. We look forward to the return of our Lord, with joyful expectation but also some anxiety. Our anticipation is mixed with feelings of loss and grief – and even guilt.

As preparatory work for the hope that is born in us through faith, we must acknowledge our failures – perhaps irrecoverable, some of them – as stewards, even brothers and sisters, to earth and our fellow created beings.

But our Christian perspective, even in the kingdom of anxiety that is this world, is that we can do something still worthwhile, small and large, in our collective identity and our solitary pursuits, to move toward the day of his coming with rejoicing – a welcome made possible only because we do not stand alone.

God is indeed already with us – in our suffering and elation, our watchfulness and neglect.

What we face now with environmental catastrophe is unprecedented in scale, possibly, but not in moral quality or human impact. A famine up close is a hungry village, a starving face, and a child with no solace. A forest fire or a drought is in aggregate a great disaster.

But, again, up close it is the tragedy of each creature swept up and away by destructive forces. Each of us has stories to tell, and promises to keep, on the human level – efforts token or tiny that help us forward as we confront the common foe. Together – as we band together – there are large things we can do even yet to make the world a better place.

Maybe the time of changing light bulbs is over, as enough. But the time of the Anthropocene, the human-fashioned epoch, has just begun. A couple of speakers at the American Academy of Religion convention in San Diego this past Thanksgiving – including Bill – had some things to say that are useful to us all, to guide our deliberations, and set a spiritual context for our focus on climate change: sustainable living.

Bill McKibben talked about the comforting whirlwind out of which God spoke to Job. We could distinguish two calls in that voice: One is the call to humility – we are nowhere when it comes to the vast majesty of creation.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
   Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
   Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
   or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
   and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,
   and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no one lives,
   on the desert, which is empty of human life,
to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
   and to make the ground put forth grass?
(Job 38:4-7, 25-27. NRSV)

The other is the call to joy: we are uniquely able to perceive God’s delight in this world. What we can see and touch invites us into a joy just of being – not us exploiting or using – just being.

We need that good-news reminder at times of distress. There is too much goodness to give up now.


Our keynote speaker in San Diego was Jimmy Carter, the former president. Jimmy Carter was there to talk about the plight of women and children around the world. In getting there he had some things to say about religious attitudes that shape our responses and he had some things to say about the effect of climate change on women and children.

That effect, I can tell you first, is that the women and the children are in so many places and cultures and traditions the last in line – when food is scarce, medicine is absent, and there is no roof, or a lack of clothing, they are the ones who go with the least, the last, and sometimes completely without.

That is only made worse by climate change – as resources become scarce these the least able to cope, the most vulnerable – are first to suffer and last to share in what’s left. Women feel the pain first: climate change will exacerbate their plight in the future.

Cultural attitudes persist that somehow some group of people are not as well beloved as all God’s children are – and we are all God’s children – these attitude have played their part in more than one story of human deprivation and prejudice.

The president’s example was from his own childhood. He grew up in a small town in Georgia, playing with other kids, working with them on the farm, and going to school together. That his was the only white family did not seem to matter.

Except when experts came to town, to the church, and sought to prove from the Bible that blacks were inferior to whites and deserved a status of servitude. Folks, it’s just not there. It’s not in the book.

That teaching was a willful self-delusion on the part of people who benefited, holding positions of power and privilege on the basis of that notorious falsehood.

Likewise, then, women and children, treated as less than equal, as subservient, inferior or less deserving, as if that was what God mandates in Scripture. Again, folks, it’s just not there. It’s not in the book. It’s self-delusion, a prop for power – power over one’s true equals in the sight of God. The truth is, we are equal before God and equally beloved. To quote the president, “We are all created and loved by God equally.”

Finally, a third self-delusion – is this is my own addition to the mix: we are deluding ourselves if we think our self-assumed pose of superiority to creation is something mandated in the Bible. We are chosen, yes, and special, because we are called to self-understanding, to knowledge (as partial as it may be) of our place in the cosmos, and our role as stewards of the earth.

As the passages from Job remind us, there is much to be humbled by when we turn our eyes to the stars – or to the smallest element of creation. And in what those same eyes see there is much to respond to with joy – the majesty of the infinite and the delight of the minute. That humility and that joy are part of what make us human, make us special, and give us a unique purpose in the plan of God.

Genesis 2:15 (CEB): The Lord God took the human being and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.

In other words, we are both to cultivate the land and to take custody of it as servants of the Lord. We are stewards of the earth, caretakers and custodians.

In Genesis 1:26-28, God says, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.

As the notes to the Common English Bible inform us, to take charge – to rule as a master over servants, or a king over subjects – is a way of characterizing human power and authority over the rest of the animal world. But that in itself does not say anything one way or another about how that power is exercised, whether in caring for creation or ruling harshly over it.

We are God’s representatives, or images, in creation, so exercising that authority of “taking charge” is a servant role, subservient to the true Lord of the universe. We have power to alter the world but we depend on the earth and its life for survival.

Our “rule” is subordinate – submissive to God and God’s will for creation – God’s will, not our own.

Take care, take charge. Fill the earth, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. And delight in it.