Thursday, August 25, 2016

An Update on My Monastic Journey



August 25, 2016

I am sure all of my regular and irregular readers of my blog (s) have been wondering why I have not written in close to a month now.  There are individuals who are friends on my Facebook timeline and in the groups I manage who must have been wondering why I have not posted updates on my formation journey with the Companions of St. Luke/Order of Saint Benedict in a very long time.  In this blog post, I am going to answer some of those concerns and/or questions.

As many of you may know, my mother passed away on November 22, 2015 after a brief illness due to vascular dementia.   Before I got the opportunity to fully grieve and heal from the loss of my mother, unfortunately the CSL decided that I was not to continue my formation with them.  The manner in which they handled giving me the news was not done very well, and was very painful.  As part of their handling my dismissal, they “asked” me to resign so that I could save myself the embarrassment of having a dismissal on my record within The Episcopal Church that a Religious Community had dismissed me.  Therefore, I did resign.   I have to be very vague in telling others why I was asked to resign.  In short, it had to do with the Communities’ inability to deal with the many challenges I have due to Asperger’s and my other mental illness issues.   The request to resign took place on March 4th, 2016 in the presence of one of my psycho therapists.  

The matter with what happened with the CSL Community left me very hurt, angry, and confused.  I have been working through the very painful grief of having lost the Community that I had grown to love so much.  It is very much akin to breaking up with someone you are dating.  The only difference is that it was the breaking up of a relationship with many people, not just one.  As part of my grief therapy and journey towards some kind of healing, I have had to cut ties with all members of the Community as was suggested by my therapists to help with the healing.   During the few months since I resigned, I have been facing feelings and emotions from all directions.  Among them are fear, anger, failure, betrayal, sadness, being lost, being completely worn out and more.  

One of the things I decided as I wrote and sent in my resignation, was that my name Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB along with my Benedictine identity, habit, etc was and is my identity.  Even though I no longer have that identity according to the CSL, I am keeping the identity, because I feel that God gave me the identity (yes through the former Abbot of the CSL at the time), and that the CSL cannot take that identity from me and my life.  They cannot take it as my identity among those who have come to know me that way, and I am free to live into that identity for as long as God gives me breath.  

The Rule of Saint Benedict has been adapted to just about every form of life throughout the centuries since it was written.   Since the dismissal, I have chosen to live what The Rule of Saint Benedict means for me as a solitary Monastic.   I have also given some thought to creating a new dispersed Benedictine Community under the name of The Contemplatives of Subiaco/The Order of Saint Benedict.  It would be a very contemplative community with a strong social justice as part of our outreach work.  I have drafted a customary that would be used to begin the Community.  I want to call others to consider becoming members of the Community, be supporters of the Community either in prayer, time or financial contributors to the creation of the Community.  I need help to make it happen.  If you are interested in helping me, I would welcome your help.  

I very much intend to remain part of The Episcopal Church and support our work of ministry.  In time, I will want the community to become a Christian Community in The Episcopal Church.  I will be talking with Priests and others about how this work is to be done.

My husband Jason and I thank you for your continued prayers and support during my formation process.  Whether a Novice or a Solemn Professed member of any Community; formation is a life-long endeavor of faith, trust and commitment to personal growth and renewal. 

I plan to begin writing blog posts on Br. Anselm Philip’s Many Thoughts until the Feast of Christ the King on Sunday, November 20th, 2016.  I will continue to write blogs in Simple Reflections for Deeper Spiritual Life during and after I discontinue my original blog.  I plan to begin writing again on Sunday, September 11, 2016.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost: Proper 7: Orlando, Prayer and Action


Today's Scripture Reading

1 Kings 19: 1-4, 8-15a

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.  He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away."

He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." Then the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus."


Blog Reflection

The horrifying and sad events of what took place in Orlando, Florida last weekend has left us all quite depressed, frightened and shaken.  The news that one gun user was able to enter a gay nightclub with an AR-15 rifle and gunned down 50+ people, killing 56 (I do not know if this number is completely correct, but I believe I am close) has gripped us all.  If the news of what happened has not left us feeling hopeless enough; the political commentary along with the usual no further action other than "thoughts and prayers for everyone killed or injured" from elected officials and church leaders can only drive us into a deeper despair. 

The inequality for LGBT people, Latinos and other minorities continues to challenge the heart of what being an Episcopalian and Christian is about.  The further work to use the attack that took place to slander Muslims and/or divide people against one another; leads us into more problems than working towards solutions.   

Among these and many other matters is the question of how can we send a strong but gentle message that resorting to violence and hate to solve our problems is the heart of what we are confronted with here?

This morning I listened to a wonderful radio commentary about the events in Orlando, Florida on State of the Belief Radio.  The program is entitled, "In the Wake of Orlando."   As part of the program, Bishop Gene Robinson remarked about how in Christianity, Judaism and Islam we have hate messages towards LGBT people written into our most our most Sacred Texts.  Those texts are the fuel for the ammunition of hate and violence when used to encourage LGBT people to hate themselves.  They are used carelessly and recklessly to rouse up a militant response to those they condemn.  Is it any wonder why LGBTQ people are just so turned off by any form of organized religion?   What can those of us who know the loving mercy of our God who loves every person for who they are, do to "uphold the dignity of every human being"?

I am using only the text from 1 Kings today, because I think it makes an important point.   

God is in the midst of chaos and turmoil.  God is not absent from what is happening in the midst of the grief and sadness of what happened in Orlando; just as God was present to Elijah.  

Elijah had an appointment with God.  Elijah had the worst coming at him with still worse more to eventually arrive.  God wanted to speak with him.  God may have moved in the wind, earthquake and fire; but the fullness of God for Elijah was not in those.  God was in the midst of a silence through which God spoke clearly, drawing Elijah into a gentle, yet convincing way as to what God wanted Elijah to do.   It helped him find the path that God wanted for his life; and he gained the courage and faith to go in the way God planned for him.

If we are to find our way from the violence, hate and disarray in the world, the Church and for a society of peace, justice and equality for all people; we must begin with listening to what God is saying through all of life.  Even the chaos, confusion and screaming that seems to drown all other voices out.  In the midst of what is happening, we must return to that "peace which is beyond all understanding", and know in our hearts the love of God in the Person of Jesus Christ for us and for every person.   We must live into what that love means for each of us, and base our actions moving forward from this tragedy to find the path that God would take us on.  And we must understand that violence of any kind is never the will of God.  Yet, as with the terrible tragedy of what happened on Good Friday came the glorious celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Day; so we must in faith and trust move forward to all the good things God will do in this and every tragedy we encounter.

Peace be unto all who enter here.

Amen.


Prayers

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your
holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom
you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (Proper 7, The Book of Common Prayer, p.230).

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.  (Prayer for the Human Family, The Book of Common Prayer, p.815).

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
glory, now and for ever. Amen. (Prayer for Peace, The Book of Common Prayer, p.815).

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Third Sunday After Pentecost: Proper 5: When Two Parades Cross Each Other






Today's Scripture Readings

1 Kings 17:17-24 (NRSV)


The son of the woman, the mistress of the house at Zarephath, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!" But he said to her, "Give me your son." He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?" Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, "O Lord my God, let this child's life come into him again." The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, "See, your son is alive." So the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth."



Psalm 30  (BCP., p.621)


Galatians 1:11-24 (NRSV)


I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God because of me.



Luke 7:11-17 (NRSV)


Soon after healing the centurion's slave, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.



Blog Reflection

Everyone loves a good parade.  They can be festive or sorrowful.  June is the official month for pride celebrations.  There will be festivals, parades, concerts, parties of all kinds to celebrate our diversity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people.  Those celebrations will no doubt have their share of Christian fundamentalists out there quoting Scriptures and/or passing out Bibles. 

Jesus in today's Gospel Narrative, is being followed by those who saw and/or heard about Him healing the Centurion's slave.  This is only one parade that is taking place.  When Jesus healed the Centurion's slave, He stepped outside of the traditions of His time.  The Romans were considered Gentiles.  What is more, the Centurion was a guard for the empire that was bringing so much oppression to the People of Israel at the time.  So, Jesus healed the slave of a man who is the enemy.  Yet, here He is being followed by people who are just amazed at what Jesus can do.

There is another parade happening at the same time.  A woman who's only son has died.  The disgrace that would fall upon his mother as not only a widow, but now a motherless child would be cruel beyond description.

What happened when the two parades crossed each others path?   Jesus resuscitated the son and freed his mother from the fate that awaited her.  Just as Jesus had done with the Centurion's slave, He does for the widow and her son.  He saw beyond labels and cultural norms to see the dignity of each person and set them free to be who they are to the fullest of possibilities.  What was most important to Jesus was the person and including them into the community of God's people with healing and reconciliation.

We are seeing many parades colliding these days.  The presidential candidates of all parties are competing for the hearts and minds of Americans as to who can better lead the country forward.  One of them is popular by way of his wealth, fame and words that hurt and divide.  One is a woman dedicated to her country and those who are seeking opportunities to strive for a better way of life.  Another is a man who has throughout his political career stood on the side of workers, health care, seeking to address economic inequality and climate change.

In the debate about what gender can use what bathroom is the commonly accepted stereotypes such genders are to represent.  One's genitals, not one's need to relieve themselves of human waste are at the center of a debate of how things have always been (whether a good thing or not), and how things can change for the better.

Christians continue to lead parades that collide with each other over doctrine, how to interpret the Bible, women's issues, human sexuality, political affiliation the actual separation of church and state and more.

In the middle of all of these is the dignity of every human person that is at stake.  Will wealth and power determine who gets more than their share vs. "those" who are barely able to afford a studio apartment to live in?  Will the issues that continue to promote inequality over race, and out of control gun violence be addressed so that all can live in peace?  What does it take for people to rise up and be active in making efforts towards a better church and society for all people?

Jesus' actions and words in our Gospel today, provide us with some things to think about.  If we are going to see a difference in the world around us; we must begin by seeing clearly what is inside each of us that keeps us from loving God, our neighbor and ourselves with sincerity of heart.  We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us see Jesus in the marginalized and oppressed, so that we will meet Him and help Him to find healing and reconciliation in a world torn by violence, hate and cultural status.  We may even have to allow the Spirit to show us what is beyond our own beliefs, practices and traditions so that we may be led forward with a new appreciation for the presence of Jesus in those who are different from ourselves.

What might God be calling you to do when you see two parades cross each others paths?

Amen.


Prayers


O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your
inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by
your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.229).

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.815).


Saturday, May 21, 2016

First Sunday After Pentecost: Trinity Sunday: It Is About Relationships






Today's Scripture Readings

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (NRSV)


Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
"To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth--
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world's first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race."



Canticle 13 (The Book of Common Prayer, p.90).


Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV)


Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.



John 16:12-15 (NRSV)


Jesus said to the disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."





Blog Reflection

I recently had an experience on Facebook.  

Among the many posts that are appear on my feed from time to time are written to say things like, "If you love me, please copy and past this message in your status and post it.  I bet most of you won't.  If you do copy and post this message as I have asked, I will know that you love me."

I really do not like posts such as that.  Among my many reasons is that it encourages us to type and post something like that on Facebook than it is to say such things in person.  I also feel that such posts are suggestive of manipulating readers to say what the author whats to hear, rather than giving the other person the option to say something on their own.  Lastly, they often make me wonder about the genuineness of the original writer of the post and those who copy, paste and repost them.   Is it just to get it out of the way?  Is it real and heart felt?   Do we really know?   I am not so sure, nor can I be.  This is why I tend not to copy and paste them.  I will sometimes write the individual a private message to say it for real to the other person, or simply not pay much attention.

This past week, I did a whole 80 degree turn on one particular post.  The post read, "If you call yourself my family hit the like button and copy this on your status and when I see your name I'll know who my real family is, blood or not... Here we go!!😀"  Why I chose to pay attention to his and have opinions and ignore the others is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.  Well, I copied and pasted the message.  I got many really nice comments to the post on my own timeline.  One individual was quick-witted  enough to make a comment about how he does not copy and past such things followed by an emoticon with a winking eye.  My response to him was that I agreed and understood, but that this was one of those moments when I decided to do differently.  Then came one comment by someone I have rubbed shoulders with on any number of occasions.  The individual held nothing against me, but simply told me that she considers me part of her family.   Well, let me just say that that response put this Benedictine in my place as to how much I have to learn about humility.  It also provided me with an opportunity to do some genuine but tearful reconciliation with the other individual.  Something I did that was different than what I would normally do, became a catalyst for the Holy Spirit to bring about some forgiveness, healing and reconciliation for both of us.  It is something that I cannot adequately put into words, nor completely understand.  I can only write the experience of what happened; then hope that others understand what I am writing.

The great mystery of the Holy Trinity can be talked about, but can never be explained adequately or logically.  The Trinity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; or Mother, Child and Comforter or any other name is simply beyond our human limitations.  They are also incomplete and inadequate names.  We celebrate this great mystery every time we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism.  The Priest and congregants make the sign of the Cross with the Name of the Persons of the Trinity at various points in our worship.  Theologians of the past, present and undoubtedly in the future will write books, internet presentations, and just like me; write blog posts to meditate on this incredible part of our faith.  There are those who believe in the Trinity and what it means.  There are those who are not so sure.  Still, there are others who just do not and cannot believe in such a strange concept as one God in Three Persons.

There is one matter about the Trinity that is not written about anywhere near as much.  The Holy Trinity is more about relationships than it is about theology.   It is more about how God relates to God's Self and everyone of us.  As with many pieces of our Christian Faith which we confess in our many creeds and prayers, if we do not live into those mysteries with love and compassion for each other, the Trinity is just hogwash talk.  It is the ministry and mission of Christians to bring forth the presence of God the Holy Trinity, by living in reverence and consciousness of God's presence on others who are different from ourselves.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit "will lead you into all truth."  Jesus did not say that we would be given a truth that is once for all, stagnant and ever left in Church History and ancient Tradition.  Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit will (and does) lead us beyond our intellectual or theological dogmas, to a living reality of the God-Head present in every place and every person we encounter.  Each place, culture, person will show us a different view of God that we never understood before.  Every opportunity whether it coincides with our status quo or planned steps or not; is a moment for the Holy Trinity to live God's full reality as we allow ourselves to be led into one truth and another.

In recent weeks and days, our media is inundated with the debate about who should use which public restroom based on one's gender identity/expression.  The debate and those using transgender people as their scapegoat to demean and denigrate them; is based on ignorance and fear.   The news that one Christianist organization has been sending men into a women's restroom to help create a fear about sexual assault is just outrageously wrong.  It is fear mongering and the invasion of a transgender person's dignity, simply to make a statement as to what genitalia should be relieving themselves in what restroom. 

Honestly, do we really think the Triune God cares that much about such things?  I think the Holy Trinity is more interested in what we are saying about God when we marginalize and stereotype any person by the way of spiritual malpractice and doctrinal abuse.  Is it any wonder why people shrug their shoulders at any form of organized religion?

Maybe as we meditate on who God is in the Holy Trinity and how God is moving on our hearts with regards to our relationships with each other, we might discover our true selves.  Perhaps we might hear the Holy Spirit leading us into new truths that we would have never thought about before.  Maybe, just maybe we might receive the Holy Spirit's conversion in our hearts to learn to live into the Mystery of the Triune God-Head and make God known by love and compassion.  Maybe, the world would be a better place, and Christians will give Jesus Christ a good Name.

What do you hear the Holy Trinity saying to you?

Amen.


Prayers


Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us
your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to
acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the
power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep
us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to
see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with
the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.228).

Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal
Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in
Trinity of Persons: Give us grace to continue steadfast in the
confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.251).

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed
for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one:
Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and
obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit,
that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your
Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.255).



Saturday, May 14, 2016

Day of Pentecost: Are We Listening for The Spirit's Many Languages?






Today's Scripture Readings

Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV)

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "



Psalm 104:25-35, 37 (BCP., p.735)


Romans 8:14-17 (NRSV)


All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.



John 14:8-17 (NRSV)


Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you."



Blog Reflection

So, here we come to it.  The conclusion of the Easter Season with the Day of Pentecost.  Pentecost is often said to be the Birthday of the Church.  It is a celebration marked by a birthday cake at the coffee hour after Sunday Eucharist.

The experience of those first Apostles in the upper room followed by the diverse languages they spoke, is symbolic of the many different ways the Holy Spirit speaks the language of Salvation.  It is the language of God's amazing love by which God offered Jesus on the Cross by which He triumphed over  death in the Resurrection.  Through those languages each person tells their stories about how God touches their lives; bringing healing and reconciliation between all people.  

The coming of the Holy Spirit is not the moment by which Christianity becomes a religion of supercessionism, making all other religions less than what Christianity is.  On the contrary, it is the moment in which the Holy Spirit empowers Christians to see a world beyond our doctrines, creeds and dogmas; to respecting the dignity of every human person; by which we share the love of Jesus with others around us.

The Holy Spirit is believed to be the feminine nature of God.  The Spirit is our advocate with God on our behalf.  The reading from Romans suggests that through the Holy Spirit, we receive the gift of being God's adopted daughters and sons regardless of how the labels the world around us might define us.  We are identified by the relationship of God to us, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit confirms this relationship through the gift of Gods amazing grace through Christ.

As the Church continues to struggle with what we are listening to from transgender bathroom bills, same gender marriage rites in the Church in New Zealand, immigration, racism and gun violence; who's stories are we listening to, and who's are we ignoring?  What new language are we prepared to learn and learn from; so that the message of the compassion and healing hands of Jesus can be felt by those yearning to be loved and included?   

The Holy Spirit continues to move upon the Church and Christians "to be lead into all truth." (John 16:13).  A truth that is living and growing as opposed to deteriorating and becoming stagnant. 

Each of us will keep the commandments of Jesus in our unique way, in the only way that God calls us to do.  The more open we are to the languages through which the stories of Salvation and Redemption are told; the greater the ministry of the Church bears better fruit.

As our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has said, "We are called to be part of the Jesus movement, to make the world a better place for all of God's People."

Amen.


Prayers


Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life
to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy
Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the
preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the
earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.227).

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior,
the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the
great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away
all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body
and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith,
one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all
of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth
and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and
one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.818).

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.815).







Saturday, May 7, 2016

Seventh Sunday of Easter: One Among Many






Today's Scripture Readings

Acts 16:16-35 (NRSV)


With Paul and Silas, we came to Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation." She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, "These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe." The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.



Psalm 97 (BCP., p.726)


Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 (NRSV)


At the end of the visions I, John, heard these words:

"See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.

"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

 

John 17:20-26 (NRSV)

Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

"Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."


Blog Reflection

Are you confused at all by this Gospel reading from John is the one being used this Sunday? It is a bit strange.  We spent the last six or seven weeks focusing on the Risen Christ.  We had three Sundays with readings about the Risen Jesus with His Disciples.  After, we had two Sundays during which we heard Jesus speak about being the Good Shepherd, followed by Jesus telling us to love one another as He loves us.  Thursday was Ascension Day.  Jesus left the Disciples to be at the right hand of God.  Now, we are back to Jesus' discourse during the Last Supper.  What might this Gospel reading be telling us?   We are awaiting the Day of Pentecost on which we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Christians to be Christ's witnesses all over the world.

We have another challenging matter with this Gospel reading.  Jesus' prayers are for Christians to be one as He and the Father are one.  This prayer is very curious.  Each of the Disciples came from very different places and had different occupations.  There were Fishers from one town.  Others were perhaps farmers or servants.  It is suggested that Judas Iscariot was a scholar.   I am sure each of them had a different approach to their faith, and experiences of the Resurrection.  Thomas after all, wanted to see the evidence of the Risen Christ.   Others had an experience of Jesus walking with them on the road to Emmaus.   I tend to believe that there were women present for this conversation, each who knew Jesus from their own perspective.

There are traditions within Christianity that would suggest that Jesus was talking about the Church being one with no denominations to support different beliefs and practices for various countries, languages and cultures.  Others would suggest that oneness is for all Christians to be opposed to abortion, birth control, equality for women, LGBTQ, marriage equality, etc.  Notice that no where in this Gospel text does Jesus make conditions about what this oneness means.  What Jesus is praying about is that Christians will be one as He and His Father are one, so that every person in the world knows that they are loved without distinction.

While many Christians are waging political and social debates about transgender people using the "proper" public restroom, or declaring every Muslim not able to enjoy their religious freedoms, or supporting racism, sexism; the ministry of healing and reconciliation on the part of Christians being one is being made a scam.  Jesus did not make a condition on what oneness would mean.  Christians on the other hand, have been for centuries deciding what divides us from seeking the common good and respecting the dignity of every human person.  This prayer of Jesus is that we will be one in loving others who are different from ourselves, and welcoming them to be part of the Body of Christ with no distinction.

How will you answer Jesus' prayer to be one among many Christians?

Amen.


Prayers

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son
Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to
strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior
Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.226).

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed
for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one:
Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and
obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit,
that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your
Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p.255).


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sixth Sunday of Easter: The Love and Peace of The Risen Christ

Today's Scripture Readings

Acts 16: 9-15 (NRSV)

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.


Psalm 67 (BCP, p.675)


Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 (NRSV)

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.

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day-- and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.


John 14:23-29 (NRSV)

Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, `I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe."


Blog Reflection

I think all of us can pray Psalm 67 with some sincere pleading.  We need God to bless us with saving health for all nations.  The election campaigns, the anti-transgender bathroom bills, the racism, the experiences of those who rely on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid hearing politicians and business executives wanting to privatize them; tell us a lot about what is a priority these days.

Jesus is telling us to not let our hearts be troubled.  He also tells us to love Him and keep His word so that God can make a home in us.  Jesus promises the Holy Spirit who will remind us of what Jesus told us, and He offers us peace to be left with us.  So many tidbits, but a lot to meditate on.

Philip Heinze in Living the Lectionary wrote,

the peace that precedes the “do not let…” is not put on a happy face and the whole world smiles with you because the sun will come up tomorrow bet your bottom dollar solution to real life strife. In the same way, “believe in me” does not mean just get over it. Nor does it minimize trouble because it could be worse even if it clearly could be. That would be worldly peace. The peace of the world is temporary and illusionary as it denies sorrow, medicates pain with costly pleasure, or seeks solace by seeing to it that other hearts are equally troubled. The peace that Jesus gives embraces suffering and dies to destroy the power of death. Called to cling to the cross by which Jesus overcomes the world, and all the trouble in it, the people of Jesus’ peace believe that trouble is temporary while peace is eternal. 

It is difficult not to notice that at the very top of the Medal of Saint Benedict is the word Pax.  In case I have readers who have never read or heard that word, it is Latin for peace.  At the entrances of many Benedictine Monasteries in Europe are the words "Pax intrantibus", meaning "Peace be with all who enter here."  It is the same peace that Jesus offers.  A peace that embraces us in any and all situations of our lives, and draws us closer to God and each other.  It is that "peace which is beyond all understanding" that we can only lose if we give it over to something or someone willingly that brings us temporary pleasure in our false-sense of self; but deprives us of the Holy Spirit who longs to united us with our true selves.

Keeping the word of Jesus is not limited to Jesus alone.  It is the love of God that is not limited to human labels, our brokenness we inflict on each other and ourselves.  It is a love and a peace that invite us to listen to what Jesus is saying to us as we receive Him in the guest, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring us healing and reconciliation with those who are different from ourselves.    

I am having a very difficult year with many losses.  More than I can write about in greater detail.  I am experiencing emotions that are all over the place.  My Asperger's and many of my other personal challenges can make things pretty intense.  In the middle of all this, God has placed in my life two amazing individuals who understand me, and are helping me to just feel everything with no judgments or expectations.  They are loving me as I am, and making room for me be very kind and gentle with myself and provide a safe place for me in my grief.  They are determined to help me love God as others love me with that same love, and to search for peace at a time when it can be very difficult to feel let alone find.

I believe that what I have just described above is a great example of the love and peace the Risen Christ gives us through our Advocate, the Holy Spirit.  It is the love and peace we share with each other when life is cruel and harsh on ourselves and others beyond us.  Our Baptismal Vows call us to strive for this peace with justice and to uphold the dignity of every human person; regardless of who they are or what condition their lives are in.  In so doing God makes a home with us, and our home is made with God in this life and in the life to come.

Amen.


Prayers

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good
things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such
love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above
all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we
can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 225).

Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right
judgements, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that
peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be
fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered
from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness;
through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.  (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 123).