The Flag

Independence Day

July 4, 2019

Suggested Reading for the Day

Today, in Mercy, I offer this opinion piece.


flag

In some ways, it’s hard to be an American today. We live in a country confused about its identity, a country enmeshed in questions about “who we really are” – about both the good and the evil we are capable of. Those questions, on days like July 4th, get all tangled up in symbols like our beautiful flag.

I don’t have the answers but, as usual, I have an opinion. I think we all do. And I’ll share mine for those who might want to read it.

Our flag, cobbled together on a narrow Philadelphia street, has run with the Massachusetts 54th up the Fort Wagner rampart, and has been hoisted on a bloody hill in Iwo Jima. It has been raised over singing, saluting schoolchildren, and wrapped around the caskets of our heroes. It has wafted from the shoulders of Olympians, and stretched – supersized -across our nation’s stadiums.

Woven into its stately stripes is our desire for human freedom, strength, pride, happiness, and peace. For me, our flag stands for this ideal and thus I will always respect and value it.

What I will not salute is the hijacking of our beloved symbol to stand for militarism, white nationalism, religious extremism, isolationism, imperialism, or racial and ethnic exceptionalism. These poisonous misappropriations have so clouded our flag that we struggle to retain the purity of its original call to us:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The men who wrote these lofty words didn’t fully comprehend or achieve their reach. They ignored whole segments of people – women, people of color, Native Americans – who should have been immediately embraced within the nascent ideal.

And now, after centuries, we still struggle to secure the full promise of these words for all people. In many ways we have even regressed in our efforts, retreating to the deadly “isms” mentioned above.

Whenever an ideology is used to suppress and control the legitimate freedoms of others, a malignant force is unleashed. And when that force conceals itself with our flag, we all suffer.

I believe that’s why Americans like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe protest the flag as they do. They are protesting the poisons poured into our flag  by these toxic ideologies. Rather than immortalizing or demonizing such protesters, we would do well to listen to them, discerning the truth they attempt to reveal to us.

But, as we face these challenges, let us not blame the flag. Let us blame ourselves and, in that honesty, resolve to go forward in the strength of our common humanity.

Today, let the flag do what it was intended to do. Let it call us to a determined commitment to freedom and mutual responsibility for one another’s well-being. Let the flag make us brave to face where we have failed one another – often grievously- in this pursuit. But let it also make us confident that the courage it has drawn from us over centuries will strengthen us as a just, compassionate, inclusive, free and strong nation.

Music: The Star-Spangled Banner- sung by The Voices of Gwynedd; arranged and conducted by Musical Director Carol Evans.

Finding Peace

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 21, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel offers us a profound message: what does it mean to live in the peace of God?

jn14_28 peace

So many things, from the monumental to the trivial, can make us unpeaceful. If we made a list, we might tire before we completed it! This lack of peace takes many forms in us – worry, anxiety, second guessing, distraction, self-doubt and myriad other forms of inner fragmentation.

For some of us, gaining inner peace is more difficult than for others. So much depends on the trust we have felt in our lives. For those who have felt betrayed by family, friends, or God, the journey to a peaceful heart can be a tortuous one.

But Jesus says we can do it because he showed us how.

Don’t you think he might have been confused and bewildered at times by what the Father was asking of him? Don’t you think he was disillusioned at times by the wavering faith of his disciples? Don’t you think he was frightened by the kind of death he faced?

So just how did Jesus grow to such a fullness of peace that he was able to bequeath it to us as our inheritance?

He said:

Not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.

The world gives peace by removing or dominating challenges. God gives peace by accompanying us through challenges.

Jesus came to the point, in his very human life, where he chose not to let his heart be troubled because he had found this accompaniment.

The willingness of Jesus to live, suffer, and die according to the Father’s Will gives us the pattern on which to build our peace.

Throughout the ages, many saints have found and lived this peace according to their own call from God. One of the many who inspire me is Julian of Norwich.  Julian was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages.  She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.

Julian was worried about the presence of sin in the world. It seems she wondered, like many of us might, why God didn’t just fix that!


“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.”


This also is a lovely quote from Julian to pray with:

“From the time these things were first revealed I had often wanted to know what was our Lord’s meaning. It was more than fifteen years after that I was answered in my spirit’s understanding. ‘You would know our Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more. But you will not know or learn anything else — ever.”

Music: Meg Barnhouse’s modern interpretation of Julian’s writing, which Meg has obviously studied.

 

Pour It All Out for Love

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts describes Peter in the full energy of his discipleship. The infant Church was at peace, being built up by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter, completely filled with this sacred power, raises a woman from the dead. He does this in the Name of Jesus to Whom he has given his entire being.

pour faith

Our Gospel describes the moment of Peter’s total commitment. Some have turned away from Jesus because of his teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus asks the Twelve if they to wish to go too.

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

At pivotal points in our faith life, Jesus asks us the same question. May we always have the strength and insight to turn toward Christ. May we pour our hearts into the welcoming love of Jesus, just as Peter did.

Music: To Whom Shall We Go – Robin and Staci Calamaio – Father and daughter team

Cast a Merciful Shadow

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings continue to show us the rising power of Christ after the Resurrection.

Acts5_15 shadow

Acts demonstrates how powerfully He lives in his disciples, and in the faith of the emerging Church.

… the people esteemed them.
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord,
great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets
and laid them on cots and mats
so that when Peter came by,
at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.

Our Gospel recounts two Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus where He bolsters that faith for these still fledgling followers. They were gathered in the Upper Room, doors locked and fearful. When Jesus appears, the first thing he says is, “Peace”, because that is what his little flock most needs.

In the course of the reading, we discover Thomas’s adamant doubt unless he can see and touch evidence of the Christ he once knew in the flesh. His doubt is so strong that his faith, when it comes, overwhelms him.

My Lord, and my God!

In these first sainted founders of the faith, we can find a mirror image of our own call to witness Christ. We are delegated to be his presence in the world, to cast a shadow that bears his blessing in the midst of suffering and confusion.

But in the locked room of our hearts, we may still be afraid. We may feel, like Thomas, that we were absent when the affirmation and courage were distributed!

Knowing our own weaknesses – and captured in the maze of their little dramas – we may be skeptical that Christ desires to rise in us, to preach by our lives.

What Jesus said to these very fragile witnesses, he says to us

Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
so I send you.

Let us look around today in awareness of those who fall in the shadow of our faith: our children and families, our religious communities, our elders, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers. As we pass through life together, does our presence bless them with a trace of God?

As we pray today, let us place our doubts, fears, weaknesses and self-concerns into Christ’s sacred wounds. Let us leave them there in confidence as we humbly choose to be his Presence and Mercy for others by the simple, selfless choices of our lives.

Music: My Lord, My God  – Vineyard Music

Don’t You Love Something New?

Monday, April 1, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings speak to our innate desire to have another chance, to start fresh.

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Don’t you love to get something new? A new outfit that refashions not only your appearance but your attitude? A fresh coat of paint on a room that has grown commonplace? A few new plantings in your winter-dried flower boxes?

Even as a kid, didn’t you treasure that new box of crayons? That unscuffed baseball when the season started? That second piece of construction paper when your first effort flopped?

Isaiah knows how we feel. He is speaking, in today’s passage, to a people bereft by their circumstances and recent history. They have suffered invasion, exile, tribal strife, and the destruction of the Temple. The faith of the masses had been weakened almost beyond repair.

But Isaiah challenges his listeners to renew their hearts. God is greater than all they have suffered. And God is offering them that second chance, that fresh sheet of paper, that  box of whole crayons:

Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.

What we have to understand from this passage is that God is talking to us! We are Jerusalem! Any suffering in our lives, the pain, disappointment, brokenness, heartache and sin that might burden us is going to be transformed. In the Eternal Creation, all will be joy and fullness of life.

And we don’t have to wait until we die to experience that new creation. Our faith, ever deepened by God’s grace, lets us live in that joy even in the midst of our everyday challenges.

This is the profound lesson Jesus is about to teach us by his Passion, Death and Resurrection. This week’s readings, in a dynamic mix of joy and sorrow, lead us more deeply into that understanding.

Music:  O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines –  Carl P. Daw

Wait on the Lord

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

 Click here for Readings

Today, in Mercy,  we find so many singular, profound words in Sirach. Each word is like a deep pool that can be prayed into, like a diver becoming one with the water.

Sirach2_2

Sirach is instructing his “son” on relationship with God. As we pray with the reading, we can focus on these words. We can ask for the grace to enrich our friendship with God by deepening in these virtues:

Justice —- Sincerity—- Steadfastness—-
Peacefulness —- Patience —- Trust —-
Mercy —- Hope —- Spiritual Insight—-
Compassion —- Forgiveness

In our Gospel, the disciples need a reminder about which virtues lead to true greatness. Like them, we all get off track sometimes about our own self-importance.

Jesus brings their focus back to truth by placing a little child in their midst. Let’s pray today for a graceful re-focusing of our hearts.

“If anyone wishes to be first,   
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, Jesus placed her in their midst,   

and putting his arms around her, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Music: Be Still – Mary McDonald – Sunday 7pm Choir

The Ark of Your Hearts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021919.cfm

duck
Sent to me this morning by my beautiful niece in Atlanta where they are having rain

Today, in Mercy, and for the next few days we have the story of Noah. It’s both a terrifying and delightful story. 

It is frightening to think of the earth inundated by flood, all Creation wiped out because of the Creator’s disappointment! 

But it is delightful to think of these thousands of animal couples, holding hands, paws, fins or tentacles and skipping into Noah’s big boat.

In this passage, the writer imbues God with the same emotions and responses we have when our project fails mightily. We crumple it up, press delete, throw it in the garbage disposal, or smash it on the ground. In Genesis, God decides to “erase by flood”.

Despite the woeful drama, the story is filled with hope. God has not completely given up. He just wants to start over again.

Throughout the voluminous rest of scripture, God starts over with us innumerable times. Think of the Prodigal Son, the Adulterous Woman, Joseph and his Brothers.  Forgiveness and new beginnings are the story of our relationship with a God Who loves us too much to let us fail.

So, if your faith life is a little stormy just now, take refuge in the “ark of your heart” – your trust, hope and faith in God. Pray for fairer weather and believe that God will send it. Ask for the eyes to recognize it when it comes.

Music: Eye of the Storm ~ Ryan Stevenson (a little bit country, but the message works)

… the children, for God’s sake

Friday, December 28, 2018

Feast of the Holy Innocents

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Jer 31_15 Ramah

Today, in Mercy, we are lifted to Light by John’s sacred words in our first reading:

Beloved:
This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

Simply hearing it, we long to abide in that whole and healing Light.

But then we read our Gospel, among the saddest accounts in all of Scripture – the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Their needless deaths come at the hands of a power-crazed and fearful man.  So hungry for his own aggrandizement, he tries to assure it by killing a generation of children.

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it, that anyone could be so hardened by evil? It sounds impossible that good people would execute this order of a mad man! It sounds impossible that human beings could be so blind to the sanctity of another’s life!

Dear friends, we must confront our own blindness. We must look into the eyes of our 21st century children – the border children, the children of Yemen, Syria, … the children of war, violence, drugs and poverty.

We must hear the cry of God, their Mother, and choose legislators and leaders who will honor life; who will shape global policies and relationships recognizing the common life we share in God – who will make true pro-life choices regarding gun control, arms sales, and an economy of endless war.

Our attitudes, our advocacy and our votes will either condemn or exonerate us when that Great Light ultimately reveals our hearts. When a society’s children become the victims of its indefensible corruption, we must say “Enough!”

Music: The Mediaeval Baebes – Coventry Carol

The “Coventry Carol” is an English Christmas Carol dating from the 16th century. The carol was traditionally performed in Coventry, England as part of a mystery play called “The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors”. The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Matthew’s Gospel. The carol itself refers to the massacre of the Holy Innocents in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed, and takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children.(Information from Wikipedia)

No More War

Friday, December 7, 2018

Click here for readings

Dec 7 _2

Today, in Mercy, we pray for the gift of hope for ourselves, and for all who desperately need it today. Hope is the steely confidence that no matter how dire our condition, God abides with us and is lifting us toward Light. Hoping, unlike wishing, changes us not our circumstances. That is its magic, its power and its mystery.

Some will remember December 7, 1941. Some will still feel its imprint on their families although they were born years later.

No doubt, every American adult will have some sense of the enormity of war, whether it be WWII, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or all the other endless operations of war.

Let us pray together today for an end to war, and to all the immoral pursuits that lead to it. Even though it is difficult, let us hope and believe that humankind,  through the grace of God, is capable of more.

Music:  Where Have All the Flowers Gone – by the great Pete Seeger, prolific folk song writer and political activist.  On this recording, Pete is an old man singing with his grandson.

Prince of Peace

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Readings: Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy,  majestic Isaiah bursts out, full-throated, in proclamation! 

Is 11_not by appear copy

Messianic Psalm 72 picks up his jubilant strain.

Justice shall flourish in his time,
and fullness of peace for ever.

And in our Gospel, Jesus affirms that the childlike will share the jubilation.

What a joy to hear these hope-filled readings once again!

We look forward with avid anticipation to  the redemption of all Creation in Christ.  We long for the One born in the Spirit of the Lord who will lead us with wisdom and understanding.

As Handel intones in today’s musical selection, “The government shall be upon his shoulders …” – that realm of peace, love, mutual respect and appreciation that will allow even the rival animals to lie down beside one another in security.

Today, let us pray with Jesus as he speaks with his Father in our Gospel: “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” 

… and I ask you to bless our world with a foretaste of the peace you have promised. Let us see one another as sister and brother, not as enemy, foreigner, or rival. Let us put away the words of alienation, stereotyping and hatred. Let us all become your children once again.

Music:  For Unto Us A Child Is Word – Handel’s Messiah