Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
vv. 10-11 And in the spirit [the angel] carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.
Our reading today is a description of the holy city. It is a marvelous sight for the imagination: crystal and gold and twelve precious jewels making up its foundation. It is "foursquare," with three gates on each side. The description is meant in every way to say, "perfection."
"The golden streets of heaven" is not an image that us progressive Christians take much stock in anymore. But it meant something to our ancestors, especially our African-American ancestors in slavery. They sang of the city often:
Oh! What a beautiful city...Twelve gates to the city, Hallelujah!
Three gates ina the East, three gates ina the West, three gates in the north, and three gates ina the South, making it twelve gates-a to the city, a-Hallelujah! (LEVAS II, #10)
For people who have nothing, the vision of golden streets on which they can walk, which have been made for them, means a great deal. Maybe that was an ultimately unhelpful vision of "pie in the sky," but I neither think that was its intention nor its effect. Its effect was hope, hope that could be born out of nothing and hope that could outlast anything.
It also should be a vision for change, earthly change. The city, after all, was seen by John not staying in heaven, but descending to earth. The hymnwriter Walter Russell Bowie wrote these words in 1910:
Give us, O God, the strength to build the city that hath stood too long a dream,
whose laws are love, whose crown is servanthood,
and where the sun that shineth is God's grace for human good.
Already in the mind of God that city riseth fair:
lo, how its splendor challenges the souls that greatly dare--
yea, bids us seize the whole of life and build its glory there. (The Hymnal 1982, #583)
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
vv. 27-28: Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
[From Eugene Peterson's The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is the Way, 2007, p. 242].
"A week later, the disciples were together again. This time Thomas was with them....And then Jesus was among them again. Thomas was all eyes. Jesus was gracious to him, and offered the 'evidence' of the holes in his hand and the gash in his side. And then the prayer burst from Thomas: 'My Lord and my God!'
"Thomas' prayer keeps us ready for what comes next; it keeps us alert to the Jesus who rules our life as Lord and commands our worship as God when we are least expecting it. Following Jesus is not a skill we acquire so that we can be useful to the kingdom. Following Jesus is not a privilege we are let into so that the kingdom can be useful to us. It is obedience ('my Lord!'). And it is worship ('my God!').
"No matter how much we know, we don't know enough to know what Jesus is going to do next. And no matter how familiar we are with the traditions and customs and privileges that go with being on God's side, we aren't familiar enough to know how Jesus fits into it.
No religious skills that any of us acquire will ever produce resurrection, and no spiritual strategies that we work out will ever produce resurrection. Following Jesus doesn't get us where we want to go. It gets us to where Jesus goes, where we meet him in resurrection surprise: 'My Lord and my God!'"
Monday, December 20, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
It's hard to pick a verse from this passage. The angry diatribe that began yesterday is in full swing today. "Accursed children!" the writer calls those he is railing against.
I share with you today, rather than my own thoughts, some from the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, a priest of the Church of England and a physicist, who has written extensively on science and faith. He also has a little book of Advent & Christmas meditations. Here are some words he has to say about judgment:
Judgment is not imposed arbitrarily from without, but we experience it from within because it centers on our reaction to reality, our response to the way that things truly are. Confronted with reality--including the reality of who we are and what we have done--we can either turn towards the light, accepting the painful fact of evil done as the first step through which we may begin to be changed and conformed to the holy reality of God's will; or we can turn away from the light into the darkness of ourselves, as we cling to the delusion that there is nothing really the matter with us.
Understood in this way as an opening up to the truth, judgment is a hopeful word. Reality may be painful, and we may only be able to bear a little of it at a time, but facing it is the only possible route to true fulfillment. There is no future in illusion.
The book of meditations is called Living with Hope: A Scientist looks at Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
V. 9 the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.
Judgment. The writer of 2 Peter is angry, and when we get angry we tend to see the world as right or wrong, good or evil, righteous or unrighteous, godly or depraved.
Many years ago now, before my coming to Rochester, I was invited by a Washington colleague to preach at her celebration of a new ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. She was becoming the rector of one of the minority progressive congregations there. I wondered with her whether this was a good idea or not, going into the lion's den, but she assured me all would be well.
I was vesting when the Bishop arrived, a man by the name of Robert Duncan. I introduced myself. He clearly didn't know who I was. he asked me the usual polite things: parish, bishop, seminary. "Welcome," he said. It occurred to me at that point that my friend had not told him who was preaching that night.
So I began mmy sermon lauding this wonderful parish and their terrific new rector who could bring together such disparate figures from the church as the Bishop of Pittsburgh and the President of Integrity. I smiled at the bishop. He did not smile back. the clergy in the first three rows were in various stages of distress. Off I went into the sermon.
After the service the bishop quickly left and I didn't get to speak to him. (I was with him at an event about a year later and he admitted that he probably would have asked me not to preach). But at the reception afterwards I had a lively conversation with several of the clergy of the diocese. If I recall right, three opened with the same line: "You preached the gospel tonight!" It is, I trust, to my eternal credit that I chose not to be sarcastic that night. I said simply, that's what I try to do, by the grace of God. Clearly I was a puzzle to them.
I started that service under their judgment. Of that I have no doubt. But I didn't turn out as they expected (and perhaps they didn't to me either). What a terrible thing judgment is, which is perhaps why Jesus (who I'll listen to for light years before I'll listen to 2 Peter) asks that we refrain from it.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Christ Church, Rochester
The December 9, 2010 Rochester Monroe District Meeting was held at Christ Church, Rochester with 31 people present.
The Rev. Ruth Ferguson opened the meeting with prayer at 7:07 p.m.
Padraic Collins-Boher spoke about the numerous outreach ministries at Christ Church along with their affiliation with the Eastman School of Music and as a Jazz Festival venue. He also shared information about the history of the church beginning in the 1800’s.
Warden Bonnie Hallman-Dye chaired the meeting.
The minutes were accepted as read.
Old Business: None
1. Patti Blaine, City School Outreach Coordinator and Laura Despard, described two programs at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School #9. Patti spoke about the literacy support program. Laura presented a challenge to the group to provide meals for students during school vacations. Discussion and a question/ answer period followed. Information regarding the tutoring and vacation book program is available from Patti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about A Challenge to Mission is available from Laura Despard at email@example.com.
2. The Very Rev Lance Robbins initiated a discussion about Prayer Partners. The focus was on the way prayer partners are selected and how much prayer partners communicate with one another. Please forward ideas and suggestions for prayer partner projects or activities to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. The Very Rev. Cynthia Rasmussen led a small group discussion around the first three chapters of I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church. Small groups were asked to discuss one of three topics and decide what activities would be appropriate for their setting. Topics included: life/death; community/isolation; and fun/drudgery. Suggestions were shared among the group.
Cindy is moving forward with setting up a face book page for members to continue the discussion on line.
Chapters 4-6 will be discussed at the February meeting.
4. Neil Houghton’s resignation as Monroe District Warden was accepted with regret. A new warden will be elected in February. Nominations should be forwarded to The Very Rev. Lance Robbins at email@example.com
1. Christ Church, Pittsford is offering a service for special needs children and their caregivers on December 19, 2010 at 1 p.m.
2. Carpenter’s Kids are making another two week pilgrimage from August 1- 13. A child can be sponsored for $80.00.
3. A Blue Christmas service will be held at St. Luke’s Brockport at 7 p.m. on December 16, 2010.
4. On January 29, 2011 at 3 p.m. there will be a benefit for Rural Migrant Ministries at Epiphany Gates. There is also a celebration of Rev. Don Hill’s 40th anniversary of his ordination.
5. Two Saints is offering an Advent Quiet Day from 2-4 p.m. and Evensong at 4 p.m.
6. Next Meeting:
February 10, 2011
36 S. Main Street, Pittsford
Sharon Del Vecchio Therkildsen
Rochester Monroe District Secretary
V. 19b You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Attentive to what? "The prophetic message" (in the first half of the verse) which seems to be Peter's testimony of Jesus' tranfiguration on the mountain, where God was heard to say, "This my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (retold in verses 17-18).
It's a lovely image. Keep God's Beloved before your eyes, shining in a dark place, until the day comes and that same Beloved rises as the morning star.
But it's a long night, and it seems every time I think I see the morning star on the horizon, it slips away, slips away with another act of injustice, another violent death, another hungry child, or another loss of love--be to death or some other way.
That's gloomy, I know, and I have to be careful not to get stuck there, as we all do. But it can also be a joyful place to be, in the dark where the light shines. As John's Gospel says, "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" (John 1:5). Or, as we sing with great joy sometimes, "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine!"
We all know the darkness. It is unavoidable. The question is, how can we help keep the light shining, keep waiting for the dawn and the morning star?
Monday, December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
V. 13: Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
In this case, Paul was talking about his instructions for the Thessalonians in regard to work and idleness. Many of the Thessalonians had apparently come to believe that either the Lord had already come or his coming was in process. So why work? Paul is quite harsh with them: "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat."
It has always been interesting to me that we don't have much of a theology of work. Somehow, for many if not most of us, our vocational life has become about us, not about God. This can even happen to clergy. I can't expound a theology of work here, but I can say that I think it has to do with participating in God's ongoing creation--being a continual co-creator with God. It also has something to do with the relationship of the individual to the community where some important balances have to be maintained. And it also has to do with "not growing weary of doing right."
How is your work a work for God? I suspect that's a daunting question for some of you, but remember "work for God" does not mean "work for the church." It means "work for the creation."
Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Vv. 16-18: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I find these words at the same time comforting and daunting. They comfort in that they are something to aspire to, and they are "the will of God." They are daunting because I have never been able to get there. Always--without ceasing--in all circumstances. No matter how hard I try it just doesn't happen.
I think Paul would say, "Of course not." Our job is not to do these things, but to embrace that they are already being done in and through us. He will say as much in his letter to the Romans (8:26): Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
Is it good for us to be joyful, grateful and praying always as much as we can? Absolutely. But even better for us to tap into the core of joy and gratitude and prayer that is God's life in us. That fire burns no matter what the circumstances of our lives.
Monday, December 6, 2010
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Vv. 13-14 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
V. 9 Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been [God-taught] to love one another.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
v. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
v. 7b-8 But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Vv. 2-3 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor or love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.