Lent: Reaching for Peace

March 28, 2022
Monday of the Fourth week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we receive a perfect encouragement from Isaiah:

Is65_new heavens

Walter Brueggemann calls Isaiah 65 “a glorious artistic achievement”. Indeed, these images confirm his statement:

  • a new heavens and a new earth;
  • constant rejoicing and happiness
  • people will be a delight
  • no weeping or crying;
  • long life for all
  • everyone with a home
  • enough for all to eat

As we pray with this passage today, we may experience a longing for a return to our beautiful, safe world – a world before pandemic, a world before the specter of WW III. In today’s violent and besieged environment, we all pray from a place of anxiety, loss, constraint, or some degree of suffering. 

Isaiah’s community prayed from the same place. All the beautiful images were a promise not yet realized. The prophetic poetry of Isaiah is a call to courageous hope, not a description of current circumstances.

upside

Faith invites us, even as we experience a bittersweet longing, to trust that God is with us, teaching us and leading us deeper into the Divine Understanding. Even as circumstances turn our world upside down, God will guide the falling pieces to a blessed place if we commit to find God in the tumbling.

I don’t think many of us would deny that the world has needed fixing for a long, long time. The systems we have built leave many in deficit throughout the world, and we have failed to address the wound.

War, pandemic, forced migration of the poor, climate catastrophe all have laid that failure bare.

As we pray for resolutions to these sufferings, may we be opened to an irrevocable awareness of our common humanity and responsibility for one another.

Only by such an outcome will we move closer to Isaiah’s peaceful Kingdom. Only by our courage to embrace it, can God fulfill the Promise in us.


Poetry: by Emily Dickinson

I many times thought Peace had come
When Peace was far away —
As Wrecked Men — deem they sight the Land —
At Centre of the Sea —

And struggle slacker — but to prove
As hopelessly as I —
How many the fictitious Shores —
Before the Harbor lie —


Music: O Day of Peace – Carl P. Daw

Lent: Releasing Praise

March 26, 2022
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are encouraged to pray. Hosea tells us:

Come, let us return to the LORD,
it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
… the LORD will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth.


Let the image of that truth sink into your parched spirit.

rain

Our Gospel leads us to pray humbly:

But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

As we pray humbly today, let us ask for God’s refreshment for all our sisters and brothers across the earth. In good times and in trials, let us always praise God.


I would like to share one of my own poems with you today, as we kneel before God with all struggling Creation begging God for humanity to be washed in Mercy.

        All Creation    

 All Creation kneels,
a Single Being,
to praise God.

 From its immense heart,
it sings myriad songs at once,
Morning and Evensong,
Praise and Dirge,
Alas and Alleluia,
intermingled

 It sings even over its own scars,
where the chasms cry out for balm.
It sings both the remembrance
and the hope of blessing.
It sings the endurance of faith
and the confidence of love.

 In roar and silence,
darkness and light,
Creation kneels,
a Single Being,
to praise God.


Music: Total Praise sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  Just watching these faith-filled people lifts my heart and gives me hope.  I trust it will do the same for you, dear friends as we pray for one another.

Lent: The Way Home

March 13, 2022
Second Sunday of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are about types of citizenship, that condition of knowing we are fully and irrevocably home.


In Genesis, Abraham is given a land for himself and his descendants as a sign of God’s abiding Presence.

“I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans
to give you this land as a possession.”

Genesis 15:5

In Philippians, Paul tells us that, truly, “our citizenship is in heaven”.

But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20

In Luke, the transfigured Jesus shows us what that heavenly reality will be like. It is a kind of glorious belonging that Peter wants to hold on to … to capture in a tent.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.

Luke 9:28

But the Creator makes it clear this dwelling and citizenship exists only in the heart of Christ where we are called to listen and live our lives.

While Peter was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Luke 9:34-35

These readings confirm that, in God, we are a people not bound by borders, ethnicities, religious cult, or any other human categorization.

Every human being belongs to God and is called to live in the fullness of that Creation. This is our shared Divine citizenship demanding a reverent mutuality for one another’s lives.


Think about that in contrast to the incomprehensible outrage of Putin’s unprovoked war against the Ukrainian people. Think about it relative to the many armed conflicts in Africa, Asia and Latin and South America.

Think of our Oneness in God compared to talk of border walls, ethnic and religious bans, white supremacy, anti-semitism, islamophobia and all the other manufactured ways we try to isolate people from this Divine citizenship which makes us brothers and sisters in God.

On this Sunday when our readings remind us of where and to whom each of our hearts belongs, let us pray for our world – for those suffering from war and isolation, and for the unfortunate lost souls executing that suffering. In differing ways, each of them, and we, need continuing redemption.


Poetry: The Man He Killed – Thomas Hardy

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

I shot him dead because –
Because he was my for,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like – just as I –
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.


Music: The Sins of War – Timothy Shortell

Lent: Persevering Prayer

March 9, 2022
Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Today, in Mercy, our readings could be so reassuring about the power of our prayer, except …..

How often have you prayed
for something that you didn’t get?


In our reading from the Book of Esther, Esther certainly puts everything she has into her prayer for deliverance:

Queen Esther – By Jean-François Portaels

She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.

The passage, in isolation from the rest of the Book, might lead us to conclude that Esther’s prayer is simply about her asking for, and receiving, what she wants from God. It’s about much more.


Esther, like Christ, is in a position to save her people. She must risk her life to do so. She is praying for the courage to do God’s will, to look past her own comfort and become an agent of grace in her circumstances.

Now that’s some kind of prayer!


Prayer can be like looking in a mirror. All we see reflected back is our own need and desire. We don’t pray honestly and openly enough to let God open a door in the mirror – a door into God’s own will and hope for us.

That’s the door Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.

  • What we ASK is not just for something we want, but rather to know God’s heart.
  • What we SEEK is not our own satisfaction, but the grace to embrace God’s mysterious energy in our lives no matter how it comes to us.
  • What we KNOCK for and desire to be opened to us is deeper love and fuller relationship with our loving God.

Sometimes, the problem with prayer is that we think it’s like asking our rich uncle for a permanent loan. It’s only when we comprehend that prayer is a relationship that the RECEIVE, FIND, and OPENED parts become real for us.


Poetry: Morning Prayer – Renee Yann, RSM

Photo by WARREN BLAKE on Pexels.com

I walk the earth, soft
from yesterday’s long rain.
Mists ascend like incense
under my indulgent footfalls.
Birdsongs thin themselves
between the early light;
chanting, contrapuntal, in
the well-laved trees.

Nothing grey is left now
in the wide sky.
Rinsed in light
it spreads to dry
in sere, blue wind.

Momentarily, earth
is wholly God’s;
deep, true colors fall to it,
rich, unshadowed.
Your Word, Creator,
WaterGod, has penetrated.
It returns to You in crystal images
from a finally uncomplicated world.

As if within a lucent globe
I hold You still,
in perfect, silent love,
clear, inexplicable
like sunlit rain.


Music: two offerings today. One is old-time revival. The other is classic beauty. Enjoy.

Prayer Is the Key to Heaven – Alan Brewster

Music: Overture from Esther – George Frideric Handel

Lent: On God’s Good Side?

March 7, 2022
Monday of the First week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are invited to be like God:

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel
and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

Leviticus 19:1

Our first reading goes on to tell us how to be a decent person.

Don’t steal, lie, or cheat
Pay just wages
Respect and help those physically burdened
Be impartial and just
Defend life
Don’t slander, hate, take revenge, or hold a grudge

Basically, the message is about kindness …
deep kindness,
the type that comes from realizing
how infinitely kind God is to us.

Leviticus, after a long list of practical examples, sums it up:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:18

Our Gospel tells us what happens when we make the choice to take the Old Testament advice — or not.

We are all familiar with the parable of the sheep and the goats. And we all hope our scorecard gets us into the right herd “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him …”

In this parable, Jesus puts the advice of Leviticus into practical form for his followers. But he adds one dynamic element that not only invites but impels our wholehearted response:

Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.

Matthew 25:40

Leviticus invites us to become holy as God is holy. But Jesus reveals the secret that this Holy God lives in the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned and sick. By embracing these most beloved of God, we find the path to holiness.


Poetry: When Did I See You – Renee Yann, RSM

When Did I See You …
(Woman Who Is Homeless)

In the bitter rain of February
I sat inside a sunlit room,
and offered You warm prayer.

Then, she passed outside my window
dressed too lightly for the wind,
steadied on a cane, though she was young.

She seemed searching for
a comfort, unavailable and undefined.
The wound of that impossibility

fell over her the way it falls
on every tender thing that cries
but is not gathered to a caring breast.

Suddenly she was a single
anguished seed of You,
fallen into all created things.

Gathering my fallen prayer,
I wear the thought of her
like cracked earth wears fresh rain.

I’ve misconstrued You,
Holy One, to whom
I spread my heart

as if it were a yearning field…
Holy One, already ripe within
her barest, leanest yearning.

Music: The Least of These – Karl Kohlhase

Primed for Transformation

February 27, 2022
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings prime us for the coming of Lent. Lent is all about the transformation of our hearts within of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

But before we are ready for such transformation, we must be totally aware of ourselves and open to God’s Presence in our lives.


Our readings call us to a deep look at our spiritual integrity as it is revealed in our words and actions. The image of a good tree, bearing fruit, suffuses all our scriptures today.

What about the integrity of our words:

The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;
so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.
Praise no one before he speaks,
for it is then that people are tested.

Sirach 27:6-7

What about the integrity of our faith:

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

Psalm 92: 13-14

What about the perseverance of our faithful labor:

Be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord,
knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 92:15-16

What about our actions – the fruit we bear to the world:

A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Luke 6:43-54

Let’s set our sights on the beginning of Lent which is now on the near horizon. How do we want to begin the transformative journey offered us once again in this magnificent liturgical cycle? Now is the time to prepare.


Poetry: Birches BY ROBERT FROST

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Music: Tree Song – sung by Evie Karlsson

Seeing Clearly

February 16, 2022
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are around the theme of our spiritual senses.

James tells us to listen, look, see, and act on the Word planted within our hearts. Once again, he gives us great images to help our understanding.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer,
he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror.
He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets
what he looked like.

James 1:3-24

If anyone thinks he is religious
and does not bridle his tongue
but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.

James 1: 26

In our Gospel, once again our dear, earthy Jesus heals someone in a deeply human way. Jesus takes the blind man aside, holding his hand to lead him. As he did in a passage recently, Jesus spits on his fingers and massages the blind man’s eyes.

The man tries to work with Jesus, exclaiming that he sees “people like trees walking”.

I’ve always loved that line because it makes me feel like I’m right there, in that little dusty village of Bethsaida, listening like the rest of the stunned crowd to the man’s amazement!


As we pray this morning, we might wonder what Jesus said back to that overwhelmed man as they sat together, helping him to learn how to see. What might Jesus say to us as he lifts one of our many blindnesses from our hearts?


Prose: from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

(This passage is from one of my all-time favorite books written by Annie Dillard whom I think of as the “Mary Oliver” of prose. Here’s the way wikipedia describes the book:)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a 1974 nonfiction narrative book by American author Annie Dillard. Told from a first-person point of view, the book details an unnamed narrator's explorations near her home, and various contemplations on nature and life. The title refers to Tinker Creek, which is outside Roanoke in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Dillard began writing Pilgrim in the spring of 1973, using her personal journals as inspiration. Separated into four sections that signify each of the seasons, the narrative takes place over the period of one year.
The book records the narrator's thoughts on solitude, writing, and religion, as well as scientific observations on the flora and fauna she encounters. Touching upon themes of faith, nature, and awareness, Pilgrim is also noted for its study of theodicy and the inherent cruelty of the natural world. The author has described it as a "book of theology", and she rejects the label of nature writer.

I think this is a great book to pick up at the beginning of any season of nature or life. The excerpt I chose for today, in honor of the Gospel, is from a chapter entitled ” Seeing”:

A fog that won’t burn away drifts and flows across my field of vision. When you see fog move against a backdrop of deep pines, you don’t see the fog itself, but streaks of clearness floating across the air in dark shreds. So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity. I can’t distinguish the fog from the overcast sky; I can’t be sure if the light is direct or reflected. Everywhere darkness and the presence of the unseen appalls. We estimate now that only one atom dances alone in every cubic meter of intergalactic space. I blink and squint. What planet or power yanks Halley’s Comet out of orbit? We haven’t seen that force yet; it’s a question of distance, density, and the pallor of reflected light. We rock, cradled in the swaddling band of darkness. Even the simple darkness of night whispers suggestions to the mind.

The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across and hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise. I return from one walk knowing where the killdeer nests in the field by the creek and the hour the laurel blooms. I return from the same walk a day later scarcely knowing my own name. Litanies hum in my ears; my tongue flaps in my mouth Ailinon, alleluia! I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

Music: I Can See Clearly Now – Jimmy Cliff

Sailing home…

February 7, 2022
Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are woven through with the theme of “coming home”.

In 1 Kings, Solomon believes he has constructed the perfect home for God:

Then Solomon said, “The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud;
I have truly built you a princely house,
a dwelling where you may abide forever.”

1 Kings 8:13

Psalm 132 invites God to dwell in that home, and in the home of the psalmist’s heart:

Lord, go up to the place of your rest!

Psalm 132: 8

And in our Gospel, Jesus sails toward a quiet, homey place for peace and quiet:

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.

Mark 6:53

Thinking of home, and sailing, and sea, my prayer this sunny morning is filled with thoughts of Ann. We, with fifty other young and vibrant souls, entered the convent together almost 60 years ago.

Among us, Ann was probably the only one who had ever sailed a boat. She was the child of surf and sand while most of us were children of bricks and trolley tracks.

She told me way back then how much she loved and missed the sea spray anointing her face as she sailed. She was then, and remained, a ray of freedom and delight.

Ann died a week ago after a Sunlit Life in God’s Mercy. I can almost see her grave from my window behind the Motherhouse, especially on this brilliant morning.

Reading Mark today, and picturing Jesus tie up his boat at the golden shore, I think of Ann on heaven’s morning – Spirit’s seaspray and sunlight come fully home.

Poem: Prayer – Renee Yann, RSM

You wait for me
to find morning’s
Eternal Edge.

Coiled prayer
slowly unwinds
within and around.

I see that You
sail forever
toward me.

Come,
tie up now
at my heart.

Music: Sailing

The Beloved One

January 9, 2022
The Baptism of the Lord

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, that moment in time when Christ entered into his ministry, announced by the thundering voice of Divine Infinity.

Maybe you’re not like me in this, but I must confess to sometimes letting the scriptures become very ordinary and pedantic. These passages have been read at me in church, sometimes well, often poorly, for seven decades. They have been plastered on billboards, bumper stickers and Church marquees for just as long. All that mundane exposure has demystified some of the most amazing words ever written.


But just think about what today’s Gospel describes.

Think about the greatest prophet of both the Old and New Testament standing waist-deep in the Jordan, eyes locked on Christ.

Think about Jesus, perfectly communed with the Father, walking slowly past the bird-filled trees and bushes to a moment that had been waiting for Him since all eternity. Did not those works of the Creator’s hands sing in worship as he passed?

Think about the pulsing sky already filled with the Creator’s waiting breath, ready to burst with the proclamation of the Son – this Son who said “Yes” to the greatest act of love in history!

For a few moments this morning, let yourself be there. Be filled with nature’s orchestra. Be filled with the pulsing colors of God’s astonishing revelation. Be filled with the Baptist’s profound reverence. Be filled with Christ’s omnipotent freedom and joy.

Let us enter with gratitude and celebration into the Baptism of Jesus!

The Baptism Of Jesus is a painting by Jeff Haynie For purchase, see:https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie.html

Poetry: Jesus’ Baptism – Malcolm Guite

Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Spirit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings
‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’

In that quick light and life, as water spills
And streams around the Man like quickening rain,
The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river
To die and rise and live and love forever.


Music: Jesus the Lord – Roc O’Connor

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus
Let all creation bend the knee to the Lord.

  1. In Him we live, we move and have our being;
    In Him the Christ, In Him the King!
    Jesus the Lord.
  2. Though Son, He did not cling to Godliness,
    But emptied Himself, became a slave!
    Jesus the Lord.
  3. He lived obediently His Father’s will
    Accepting His death, death on a cross!
    Jesus the Lord!

Rain Down, Lord!

December 15, 2021
Wednesday of the Third Week in Advent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Isaiah and Luke who both offer us passages in which God self-describes in displays of omnipotence and tenderness.

In Isaiah, we meet the powerful Creator Who dispenses both justice and mercy.

In Luke, we meet the merciful Savior Who tenderly uses that power to heal.

With our psalm response from Isaiah, we voice our longing to be healed by God’s infinite power – a power which finds the world’s brokenness, seeps into it like rain, transforms it with love.


Poetry: I Rain by Hafiz

The poem came to mind when I prayed the verse:
Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

I rain
Because your meadows call
For God.

I weave light into words so that
When your mind holds them

Your eyes will relinquish their sadness,
Turn bright, a little brighter, giving to us
The way a candle does
To the dark.

I have wrapped my laughter like a gift
And left it beside your bed.

I have planted my heart’s wisdom
Next to every signpost in the sky.

A wealthy one, seeing all this,
May become eccentric,

A divinely wild soul
transformed to infinite generosity

Tying gold sacks of gratuity
To the dangling feet of moons, planets, ecstatic
Midair dances, and singing birds.

I speak
Because every cell in your body
Is thirsty
For God.

Music: Waiting for the Rain – Kathryn Kaye