Saturday, December 31, 2016

Feast of the Holy Name

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21)


Before he was conceived: that is early. Perhaps not so early for some eager parents, but paired with the giver of the name, a lot to anticipate for a little baby.


Expectation. That is part of what comes with a baptism. The name we give a child, the name with which we greet them, says something of our hope for them, for our relationship with them, and for their relationship with the world.


We want Barack to be Blessed, as their name implies, and we want them to be a blessing.


John, meaning God is gracious, as in John the Baptist or John the Evangelist, we expect to send us that message: God is gracious.


Perhaps we name a child after a living relative whom we wish to honor. Or perhaps we name a child after an ancestor, someone whose name we wish to live on in memory.


We put something of ourselves into a name, then. A hope. A connection. A relationship.


And then we come to this day, the first of January, and remember the greatest name - and naming - of all.


His name will be called Jesus (Y'shua, "God saves"). For he will be the deliverer of his people. And so he was. And so he is.


That is what we remember today. That is what we recollect and bring into our own present. The knowledge that the greatest of all names is given not to the loudest or the largest or the tallest. It is given to the one to whom it is given by God.


And it is given to us, to gather us together, a banner above us, and a flag to follow.


For it is the one name, the true name, that we are to follow. And to follow it means to live in love. To bear hope into the world. And more than that to bear his name and carry his message, in word and in action.


And so we make these promises, the gift of the baptismal covenant of our people, that we will carry that burden of love, bear that message of hope, and come forward when we are called to follow. For we are his people, and he is our God.


(The Baptismal Covenant is found on pages 304-305 of the Book of Common Prayer.)


Living into the Holy Name


So what do we do about it? How do we go about bearing his name, carrying his burden, carrying out his mission in the world - today?


Those vows we recite in the Baptismal Rite give us a push.


5. Every person is made in the image of God and deserves the respect, the forbearance, and the fair treatment that status implies.


4. For in each person is God’s image, somehow present in their making, however hidden or obvious to us, however different or the same as us, and so to love ourselves and our neighbor is to welcome and embrace the presence of Christ - in each other.


3. What we do and what we say tell the story: we are the ones with Jesus, we are his people, and we have a story to tell like no other: a story of power and freedom, of liberation.


2. We will fall down sometimes, instead of standing up for ourselves or others, and we will need to seek repair for those rifts in God’s fabric. We are called to do so and we are assured of his love.


1. For we gather together in prayer. We seek God alone in prayer. We listen and take in the teaching of the church that is our Christian tradition, for there is a lot to learn from those who have gone before us on The Way.


0. We will break bread together as we have from the beginning, that Christ’s table may be present to us and we with all the disciples share his supper.


Identity and Vocation


For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, identity is a gift and a calling. We are creatures before we are anything else, fragile and corruptible yet made for a reason, with a unique part to play in the working out of the divine plan. Vocation - such a beautiful word - runs deeper than the usual identity markers. Vocation is fixed from the moment of conception (“before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”), and it is here, if anywhere, that our personality finds its stable center. Yet vocation is also fluid, telic, oriented toward change (“no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”).  
(Carol Zaleski, The Christian Century, November 23, 2016, 35.)


Identity and vocation are both specific and generic, both ontic and telic, both being and becoming.


We both are, and are becoming, who we are called to be.


“Before you were knit in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).


Our goal is to become fully human, fully Christian; to become who we are called to be.


We cannot become again the people that we thought we were but we can become the people we know we are called to be.

And we can work for our world to become what it is longing to be.


You are named both because of who you uniquely are and because you are called to become in Christ a fully human person.

We cannot make the world paradise again, but we can work for the coming kingdom of heaven.


O Lord our governor, •
  how glorious is your name in all the world! (Psalm 8:1)


Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)


The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)







who we are called to be

Identity and Vocation

For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, identity is a gift and a calling. We are creatures before we are anything else, fragile and corruptible yet made for a reason, with a unique part to play in the working out of the divine plan. Vocation - such a beautiful word - runs deeper than the usual identity markers. Vocation is fixed from the moment of conception (“before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”), and it is here, if anywhere, that our personality finds its stable center. Yet vocation is also fluid, telic, oriented toward change (“no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”).  (Carol Zaleski, The Christian Century, November 23, 2016, 35.)

Identity and vocation are both specific and generic, both ontic and telic, both being and becoming.

We both are, and are becoming, who we are called to be.

“Before you were knit in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Goal: to become fully human, fully Christian; to become who we are called to be.

We cannot become again the people that we thought we were but we can become the people we know we are called to be.

You are named both because of who you uniquely are and because you are called to become in Christ a fully human person.

(Max Depree — 'We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.')

Friday, December 30, 2016

Living into the Holy Name

So what do we do about it? How do we go about bearing his name, carrying his burden, carrying out his mission in the world - today?

Those vows we recite in the Baptismal Rite give us a push.

5. Every person is made in the image of God and deserves the respect, the forbearance, and the fair treatment that status implies.

4. For in each person is God’s image, somehow present in their making, however hidden or obvious to us, however different or the same as us, and so to love ourselves and our neighbor is to welcome and embrace the presence of Christ - in each other.

3. What we do and what we say tell the story: we are the ones with Jesus, we are his people, and we have a story to tell like no other: a story of power and freedom, of liberation.

2. We will fall down sometimes, instead of standing up for ourselves or others, and we will need to seek repair for those rifts in God’s fabrice. We are called to do so and we are assured of his love.

1. For we gather together in prayer. We seek God alone in prayer. We listen and take in the teaching of the church that is our Christian tradition, for there is a lot to learn from those who have gone before us on The Way.

0. We will break bread together as we have from the beginning, that Christ’s table may be present to us and we with all the disciples share his supper.

Holy Name

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21)


Before he was conceived: that is early. Perhaps not so early for some eager parents, but paired with the giver of the name, a lot to anticipate for a little baby.


Expectation. That is part of what comes with a baptism. The name we give a child, the name with which we greet them, says something of our hope for them, for our relationship with them, and for their relationship with the world.


We want Barack to be Blessed, as their name implies, and we want them to be a blessing.


John, meaning God is gracious, as in John the Baptist or John the Evangelist, we expect to send us that message: God is gracious.


Perhaps we name a child after a living relative whom we wish to honor. Or perhaps we name a child after an ancestor, someone whose name we wish to live on in memory.


We put something of ourselves into a name, then. A hope. A connection. A relationship.


And then we come to this day, the first of January, and remember the greatest name - and naming - of all.


His name will be called Jesus. For he will be the deliverer of his people. And so he was. And so he is.


That is what we remember today. That is what we recollect and bring into our own present. The knowledge that the greatest of all names is given not to the loudest or the largest or the tallest. It is given to the one to whom is is given by God.


And it is given to us, to gather us together, a banner above us, and a flag to follow.


For it is the one name, the true name, that we are to follow. And to follow it means to live in love. To bear hope into the world. And more than that to bear his name and carry his message, in word and in action.


And so we make these promises, the gift of the baptismal covenant of our people, that we will carry that burden of love, bear that message of hope, and come forward when we are called to follow. For we are his people, and he is our God.







The Baptismal Covenant is found on pages 304-305 of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26)


 O Lord our governor, •
  how glorious is your name in all the world! (Psalm 8:1)


Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Friday, December 9, 2016

beside the golden door

People move. That’s what they do. Regardless of election outcomes and irrespective of party affiliations, North American and European societies face the challenge of thousands (in the first case) and millions (in the second) of people on the move in and through their regions. People travel south to be reunited with their families, others travel north. People move to find a better life, a new home. These we call migrants. People flee danger, persecution, war, civil strife, gang violence, and natural disaster. They flee exploitation. They flee starvation. These we call refugees. Some people are brought against their will to be sold or exploited for labor or sex work. These we call victims of human trafficking. All are on the move.


All require justice. None require hatred.
All deserve welcome. None a rebuff.
All need safety, and freedom.
And so they come to us.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

politics of compassion

Where is Jesus? Where might you meet him in a new way this Advent season?

Jesus, Marcus Borg tells us, practiced a politics of compassion. (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, 1994) That is, his actions proclaimed a reign of God based on feeling for, and feeling with, others. It was not isolated, private piety - spirituality without religion - it was a belief system centered in the compassion of God.

Be compassionate just as your Father in heaven is compassionate. (Luke 6:36)

Jesus, seeing a man with an affliction, was moved with compassion. In his own guts he felt the other’s need.

This is in contrast to the prevailing establishment and alternative politics of the day. Sadducees and Temple authorities, Pharisees and Essene communities, operated within a purity system. Your goal, in this life and for the next, was to be pure.

Purer than tax collectors, sinners and the like: women, Samaritans, Roman soldiers, … the ill … the blind …

Compare that attitude to:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18)

“Where were you when we welcomed you?” (Matthew 25:40)

Jesus breaks the rules - of the purity regime.

He touches, and heals, lepers, the blind, a woman having an issue of blood (Luke 8:43), … even the dead. (Talitha koum.” Mark 5:41)

Jesus in his day practice a politics of compassion over against the purity system. He broke down the walls of us/them. (see Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, 2015) He found common ground on the hill - of Golgotha. He welcomed - the stranger (cf. Teresa of Calcutta), he stood up for the oppressed (cf. Janani Luwum), he embraced and succoured the ill (cf. Francis of Assisi), and he led his followers in a great feast, a thanksgiving meal for all comers (that we celebrate weekly as the Eucharist).

When Jesus healed someone, he healed them and he also performed a symbolic, subversive act, overturning the dominant paradigm. So in our day how can we act and move, practically and symbolically, to proclaim the true reign of peace that is already come into being and yet is not forcing its way upon people. How can we establish outposts of compassion in an indifferent world?



Where is Jesus?

Advent is a season of expectation, of joyous anticipation, and of preparation, for the coming of Jesus. Who are we expecting? The divine Son of Man? The human hero the Son of God? Where do we expect to meet him? How will we greet him? Will he come to us as conquering hero, freeing us from oppression and anxiety? Will he come to us as Savior, suffering servant and healer? We have our expectations of who the Christ will be and how we will see him.

Where is Jesus? Do we see him in creation? In the midst of our families and friends?  Do we find him in solitude? Do we see him at work in the world?

How do we imagine him coming to us? As an infant? A judge?

Andrew was by the lakeside, when John the Baptist pointed out a man walking nearby. Behold, the Lamb of God: and Andrew went and found his brother and said, “We have found the Christ.”

In the next four weeks as we prepare our hearts to make him room, let us explore together where we find Jesus - and where Jesus finds us.

The season of Advent, and this course, begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Spiritual Formation 9am Sundays in St Andrew’s parish hall. November 27 and December 4, 11, 18, 2016. Come join us for all or any of the sessions.


(Announcement for an adult spiritual formation course at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Tucson.)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Looking for Jesus

... in our homes.
... in our neighborhood.
... in our city.
... in our world.

An old red candle, the shape of a milk carton. Made of old red crayons, poured into the form the milk carton made. And then drizzled with more warm red wax, to make an uneven and intriguing surface. Light it up and strange shadows gleam. This is a Christmas candle, lit every year in my childhood home.

Another candle, lighter wax, smoother surface: it too is lit every year.

And so are the four little candles on the base of the merry-go-round of four trumpeting angels, winged and circling the flames, the heat, and the light of the joyful announcement of Christ's birth.


Bread. On the table. Cornbread, hot. French bread, crusty and cold. Tortillas, warm from the oven, warmed with a cloth - or quickly flapped across an open flame on a gas stove. Pita, served at a tent-topped restaurant in Nazareth - just a memory, as we gather. Family time, around the table. Hearth.

Somewhere in the middle of this a baby is born, a cry is heard, a life is begun. In the breaking of the bread a new sense of being is released into our lives.


Far away from here, outside our doors. The neighbors. Once you open that door, you're on. The set that is outside your front door is the beginning of the movie. You step outside and you are a character - in somebody's movie. Will it be yours? Will the director be a stranger? Or will you be in better hands?

The neighbor - is that your friend? Not likely, not necessarily. But still, your neighbor. The ones living closest to you. Probably the air you breathe is their breath. Mingled with the city's airs.


The city holds ... quiet times in the midst of danger. A car sweeps by, blocks away. Distant sobbing is heard. Lights dim, go out. Dawn rises, and the symphony begins. Where is Jesus?

Where is Jesus in your home? your neighborhood? your city? Where is Jesus in the world?

We used to sing a song, "Have you seen Jesus my Lord?" by John Fischer, junior high counselor at Mount Hermon Camp and Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We sang it in Young Life meetings. Have you seen him? In clouds, in sunsets - in the natural world. In your brother's eyes - that is home and family, or stranger: the world of people. Have you seen Jesus? Will you see Jesus?

Imagine him come into your world. Your home. Your neighbors' houses. Your city streets. Is he welcome?

How can you possibly prepare for a guest like that? Will you know him when you see him?

He'll know you. We're all sure of that.




Sunday, October 30, 2016

Litany for Thanksgiving 2016



For the world we have before us, for its wonders, gifts, and sorrows; for it is home for us:

Let us give thanks.

For the people of the world, its nations, tribes, clans, and destinies; for the children, women and men who enrich our lives and those friends we have yet to meet:

Let us give thanks.

For this country and all the people in it, for the hope that sustains us, and the civility that can guide our common life:

Let us give thanks.

For the gift of the night, for preparedness for tomorrow, for anxiety and fear and the hope and courage that overcome them:

Let us give thanks.

For each other, for ourselves:

Let us give thanks.

For forgiveness and love:

Let us give thanks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Daily Bread

A Religious Response to Climate Change – III: Our Daily Bread
Saturday, October 29, 2016. St. Michael and All Angels Church. Tucson.

As a religious people, who pray for our daily bread, we seek understanding, wisdom and courage to take informed actions as good stewards of God’s creation.


Theological reflections: spiritual context for environmental actions

Sherman Johnson, our New Testament professor, taught a prayer he was sure that Jesus prayed:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.


We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.


That is the prayer over the bread, at a passover supper. “He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his friends…” So it is part of our tradition, too. When Jesus blessed God in this prayer he was giving thanks to the Creator, the One from whom all our blessings come forth.


Jesus, we are told, taught his disciples another prayer, which included the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We do not live on bread alone, but we sure need it. Like words from the mouth of God, it is necessary for our lives. We are dependent on God, for everything from the words of Scripture to the morsels and crusts we may gather on our worst, most desperate, days.


Jesus was however the proclaimer of a kingdom not of scarce resources but of abundance. And out of that abundance we are grateful and receive our sustenance. Not for ourselves only, but for the whole of the human race, and the whole of creation. All beings require sustenance from God. God is the only source of life.


And this is our only planet. (At least until 2030 if NASA’s new dreams come true.) So we better take care of it. Treat it as a gift - a gift to steward and cherish and care for. For now we are the generations with this responsibility. And we are the ones who will pass on the joy of that care.


Here are some Scripture passages to reflect on together during our lunch break, and to discuss at our tables.


Genesis 1: 9-13  And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.


What does it mean to be born amid such splendor? What does it mean to us to be part of this creation? What does it mean, that God called it good?


Genesis 1: 28-30 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.” Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened.


What does it mean to be stewards of the earth? What does it mean to be told to “take charge” of other creatures of God? What does it mean to receive as gifts the fruit of the earth to eat?


Isaiah 25.6: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
  a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
  of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.


Mark 14: 22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”


1 Corinthians 11: 24 After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.”


What bread did he lift up? Why was it sacred? What were they expecting it to mean that day? And what transformation took place? In them? Can we any longer be indifferent to our role as stewards of the earth? Can we look upon the gift of bread as ordinary, knowing whom it meant?


This morning already some of us at eight o’clock or soon thereafter took into our hands a tiny wafer, a symbol of the holy meal Christ shared with his first disciples. When Mary and John and James and Andrew and Peter and the rest of them received the bread from his hands, what did they make of it? And what did it make of them?


What does it make of us?


And what are we to make of our world, knowing what we know? Of it, of its condition, of our charge of stewardship? Of the sacredness of the ground, the water and the sky? Knowing what we know, what action are we called to take? Today or for ever? Practical or symbolic? How shall we now live, with this ‘actionable knowledge’ of the earth’s condition, and our survival?


Are we dependent creatures? Are we powerful actors in our own lives, and the lives of others? Are we not both.

Jesus took the bread and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: This is my body.

All are welcome at the Lord’s table.