Erotic Playfulness: Our Bodies are Sacred Instruments Designed to Play in the Sacred Dance of Desire: Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, Pentecost 5A

“What comparison can I make with this generation? They are like children shouting to others as they sit in the market place. ‘We piped you a tune, but you wouldn’t dance. We sang you a dirge, but you wouldn’t mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He is possessed.’ The Chosen One comes, eating and drinking, and they say, ‘This one is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. ’Wisdom will be vindicated by her actions.”

Wisdom will be vindicated by her deeds.  In Jesus’ words, we can here the dim echoes of a time gone by.  Long before Jesus came there was a character who called out in the marketplaces.   You can read about her in the Old Testament books of Proverbs and Job, in the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus.  What students of the Bible call the “Wisdom literature” is full of stories about a character who so many people have never heard of. In the book of Proverbs, she claims to have been there when God was busy with creation and she declares:  “When God set the heavens in place, I was present, when God drew a ring on the surface of the deep, when God fixed the clouds above, when God fixed fast the wells of the deep, when God assigned the sea its limits…when God established the foundations of the earth, I was by God’s side, a master craftswoman. Delighting God day after day, ever at play by God’s side, at play everywhere in God’s domain, delighting to be with the children of humanity.”   

Who is this master craftswoman?  Job insists that, “we have heard reports of her”. But, “God alone has traced her path and found out where she lives.” The writer of Ecclesiasticus admonishes the reader to: “court her with all your soul, and with all your might keep her ways; go after her and seek her; she will reveal herself to you; once you hold her, do not let her go.  For in the end you will find rest in her and she will take the form of joy for you.” In the Wisdom of Solomon, she is described as ” quicker to move than any motion; she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things. She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of God’s goodness. Although alone, she can do all things; herself unchanging she makes all things new. In each generation, she passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets.”

You may not know who she is, but Jesus certainly did. Tales of her deeds were popular in Jesus’ day. Jesus, a student of the scriptures who was referred to as a rabbi, would certainly have known who this heroine of the scriptures was. In the ancient Hebrew texts of the Wisdom Literature she is called “CHOKMAH.”  In the ancient Greek translations of these texts she is called “SOPHIA.” In our English translations of these texts she is simply known as “wisdom.” The ancient Hebrew and Greek languages were written without punctuation. There were no spaces between the words.  Until long after Jesus’ day there were only capital letters.  Upper and lower case letters were not used. Unlike our system were personal names begin with capital and are followed with lower case letters, ancient texts consist of lines of unbroken capitals. Words do not have spaces between them and so translating these texts into English is tricky. This is just one of the reasons why Sophia’s story has remained hidden from most of us.  When you read the texts that describe wisdom, it is clear that they are, at the very least, speaking about wisdom as though wisdom were a person.  Sophia is wisdom personified. Sophia is spoken of as being around from the beginning–before creation. She was with Yahweh at the time of creation; creation couldn’t happen without her presence.  Other biblical passages show her coming to be with humanity, reaching out to people to be in relationship with them.  She walks through the streets, calling out to people, trying to get them to listen–to follow her.   She’s also a welcoming hostess inviting people to her table, a bountiful provider of food, the source of all good things.  She is the way to life abundant. She is also a trickster and play is one of the ways she gets things done. You may not have heard of her, but when Jesus speaks to the people about children calling to one another in the marketplaces, the people would have remembered Sophia standing in the marketplaces and calling the people out to dance. But the people refused to join in Sophia’s playful dance. Sophia’s reputation for playfulness led the people to refuse her invitation. Jesus who came eating and drinking, called out to the people. But his reputation led the people to label him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!

Jesus declares:  “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance”. Jesus harkens back to the images of Sophia in the Scriptures and insists that, “wisdom will be vindicated by her deeds.” Sophia’s reputation as a trickster who accomplishes great deeds through play and Jesus’ reputation as a glutton and a drunkard who comes to the world eating and drinking aren’t usually emphasized by those who tout their religion in the public square.

I can honestly say I have never heard of members of the religious right taking to the airwaves to encourage society to eat, drink, and be merry. And yet, this stuff is in the Bible. The Bible describes playfulness as an important part of the God in whose image we are created. All too often those of us who profess to follow Jesus, refuse to hear Jesus: ‘We piped you a tune, but you wouldn’t dance.”

Jesus is calling us out to play. Yes, I know it is summer and I just go out to the lake and splash and play in the water. I can’t help myself. I just want to let Jesus’ words take me back to the words of Sophia, so that we can play together in the words of the scriptures.

In the Bible, it is Sophia who is first given the task of calling God’s people out to play, and that playfulness goes way beyond dancing. Despite the church’s attempts to contain and or constrain our playfulness Jesus continues to call us out to play!

On this glorious summer Sunday, on a weekend when it is meet right and salutary to celebrate, we can listen to the tune Jesus is piping and we can dance for joy for we are wondrously and gloriously made. Weekends are not the only things designed for play, we are. In the books of the Old Testament that are known as Wisdom Literature, it is made very clear that our bodies are blessings given by God so that we might delight in them. Playfulness, includes exploring the pleasures that one body can give to another body. There’s a little book in the Bible called that we call the Song of Solomon, but that for centuries was simply known as the Song of Songs and there you will find words that can make televangelists positively apoplectic.  “Look, there my love stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me:  ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. Let my love kiss me with kisses on the mouth!”

How did this get into the Bible? The Song of Solomon, or as it is sometimes called, the Song of Songs is surely the most erotic book of the Bible. This erotic song of songs is a long poem in which a woman, “Black and beautiful,” and a man, “radiant and ruddy,” speak the language of desire, cataloguing every inch of each other’s body, every smell and every taste. The radiant young man declares to his lover, “Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.” and she tells anyone who will listen that,  “His cheeks are like beds of spices, yielding fragrance. His lips are lilies, distilling liquid myrrh,” He responds by exclaiming that her, “two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. I am my beloved’s” she exults, “and his desire is for me.”

The Song of Songs is a song about desire, and so it is also a song about the pain of separation, of missed meetings, and of absence. “O that his left hand were under my head,” the woman sings with palpable yearning, “and that his right hand embraced me!” and when her lover knocked on her door and she hesitated for a moment to open it, the woman speaks some of the sexist lines in any literature.

“My beloved thrust his hand into the opening and my inmost being yearned for him. I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, upon the handles of the bolt.” When she opens the door, however, he is gone, and she heads out into the city to search for him. “I implore you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, tell him this: I am faint with love.”

I know, I know, enough already.  This is a church! Surely eroticism doesn’t belong within the sacred walls of a sanctuary! How did this erotic love poem make it into the Bible? No one knows for sure. But scores of interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, have found in it the song of human yearning for God and God’s desire to be in intimate relationship with humanity. The Song of Songs is read at the festival of the Passover as a reminder that God delivered Israel from slavery not only because God was bound by the covenant to do so, but also because God loved the people of Israel and desired goodness for them. The ancient Christian writer Bernard of Clarvaux wrote more than eighty sermons on the Song without even making it past the third chapter. According to Clarvaux the poem provided a means by which the individual believer could come into intimate relationship with God. Like all great poetry, the Song of Songs can easily sustain a wide range of interpretations.   But it resists being read only as a spiritual text about human beings and God. Clairvaux warned young monks and nuns not to read it until their faith matured, because of the sexual feelings it is able to inspire. Continue reading

If I could explain the Trinity to you, I would, but I cannot. I’m not that good a preacher! – a sermon of sorts for Trinity Sunday

Listen to the sermon here

 

So, today is Picnic Sunday and Trinity Sunday all rolled into one. As your preacher, on Trinity Sunday my job, is to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to you. As a Lutheran preacher, I have been trained to go to our creeds in order to explore what our forbearers have traditionally confessed to be true about the nature of the Trinity. And on Picnic Sunday, my job on is to preach a short sermon so that we can move on to enjoying our picnic. I wish for all our sakes that I was that good a preacher. If I could explain the Trinity to you, I would but I cannot, so I will do my best to keep it short. As for the creeds confessed by the Lutheran Church, well I haven’t been able to profess my faith using our traditional creeds for a long time now. I can say however, that: Martin Luther himself wasn’t able to explain the Trinity even though he wrote volumes and volumes on the subject. The concept of the Trinity is an ancient tradition that attempts to make sense of the Mystery that we call God. God is a Mystery, and mysteries by definition, are in and of themselves unexplainable.

So, let me tell you a story. It’s a story right out of the last chapter of John Shelby Spong’s book “A New Christianity for a New World.” The chapter is entitled:  “The Courage to Move Into the Future”. In it Jack tells the story of a student he had at Harvard, who was pursuing a Master of Divinity Degree; that’s the degree you need to be a pastor in a mainline denomination like ours. Kathrin Ford, like many women who have taken on the task of preparing themselves for a career in the church, was struggling with the constraints of a patriarchal institution that the church has become and was wondering if the church, as she had experienced it, would ever be open to the direction she felt compelled to travel.

Jack describes the experience of being in class listening to her preach a sermon like this: “She stood before us quite still, quite silent, then she began. Slowly at first, she painted with words the picture of a town facing a major flood. The rains came with such relentlessness and over such a long period of time that the river rose dangerously. The people formed sandbag brigades to protect the things they valued. The sandbag walls rose, but the floodwaters rose faster. Soon water covered their fields, drowning first the wheat, then the canola, then the onions. The people, seeking safety inside their homes, watched with a sense of helplessness as their livelihoods were destroyed before their eyes. They wanted to flee, but their roots were too deeply planted; they were so totally attached to the values enshrined in their farms and town that they felt they could not leave. Still the river kept rising. It now covered the first floor of their homes. As they watched their family photographs—symbols of their past—curl up and float away on the water, they felt they were losing the very meaning of their lives. Soon their physical sustenance was so endangered:  the floodwaters covering their town began to seep into the ground, contaminating their ground-water.

Their homes were becoming unlivable. If they stayed in this place, they would surely die. Yet something powerful and relentless inside themselves continued to urge them to remain where they were. Rationally they knew they had to leave, but emotionally they were immobilized.

Katie Ford described this scene with evocative images that kept her classmates raptly attentive. Yet they had no idea where she was going with the image or this theme, nor did Jack. Then with all of them caught up in her symbolic description of a killing flood, she began to speak the words of the Christian creed, beginning with the phrase, “I believe in God, the Father almighty.” This creed, she said, like that flooded town, “has become for me an unlivable place.” She then described the history of creedal formation. The creeds were “a response to debate,” she said, “designed to tell who was an insider in the Christian faith and who was not. A creed is a border-maker,” she added, fashioning her developing definition.

No Christian creed is “a full statement of faith,” she continued. It is only the Christian community’s ecclesiastical “response to arguments.” All the undebated issues, she said, have been left out. That is why in the creeds “there is no mention of love, no mention of the teachings of Jesus, no mention of the kingdom of God being present in our bodies and souls, no mention of God as the ground of life.”

The creeds have fallen on us, she asserted, like the rain over the centuries. They have been repeated endlessly, shaping our minds and our souls to the point where we cannot think of God outside the forms they affirm, or the boxes they create. They have permeated our land, shaped our values and yes, even entered the intimate assumptions of our living space. “Drop by Drop,” she said, our religion, as it come to be embodied in our creeds, has given us “a profoundly dangerous doctrine of God.” It has covered our fields, she said, and destroyed the very crops that Christians are supposed to harvest as their livelihood. It has contaminated our groundwater. “We have been drinking in the Father God our whole life.” “This creed,” she argued, “has, like that flood, rendered our traditional religious dwelling places no longer habitable.”

Yet this creed, and the definitions that arise from it, are so powerfully present in our emotions that even when we judge it to be a destructive document that is killing our very souls, still it whispers, “You cannot leave.  You will be lost if you wander. You must stay where you are.”  But we cannot stay. The price is too high. These creeds have given us a God, she said, “Who caused the death of his son, the damnation of disbelievers, the subordination of women, the bloody massacre of the crusades, the terror of judgment, the wrath toward homosexuals, the justification of slavery.”

She went on to delineate that God of history: “The Father almighty God embodied in the creeds is a deity who chooses some of the world’s children while rejecting others. He is the father who needs a blood sacrifice, the father of wrath, the father of patriarchal marriage, the father of male ordination and female submission, the father of heterosexual privilege, the father of literal and spiritual slavery.”

She examined and dismissed the ways various church people have tried to address the “unlivability” of the creeds, the no-longer-belivable quality of the Father God as traditionally defined. Some do it, she said, by nibbling or tinkering around the edges of reform. Making God-language less masculine and more inclusive is a positive step, she conceded, but it does not go deep enough.

The real issue, she continued, “is that God is not a person. God is not a being. God is Being itself.” There was stunned silence in the room as Katie drove her conclusion home. This God, who is “Being itself, is not the father of life,” she countered. “This god is life.” Our creeds, she concluded, have now made it impossible for us Christians to continue to live in the place to which these creeds have taken us.”

This story mirrors my own dilemma. These are exciting times in which to live in the church. I believe that we are living smack dab in the middle of a reformation. I’m not alone in that belief. Reformations may be exciting but they are not the most comfortable places to be. I confess that there are days when I long for the Blessed Assurance of a bygone era.  But the rains began to fall a long time ago and the waters have been rising and it’s time to go. The Church, this old boat might have sprung a leak or two, and there are quite a few souls who’ve felt the need to abandon ship. But she can still float and I believe that it’s up to those of us who are still aboard not to scuttle her, but to begin to bail her out. Fortunately, there’s still enough of us left and if we start bailing know we just might be able to through enough water over-board to get us where we need to go. Continue reading

Commemorating Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

Julian of Norwich Between pastorDawnOn this her Feast Day, let us commemorate Julian of Norwich, who is perhaps one of the greatest English Mystics. Although she has never been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church she is venerated in both the Lutheran and Anglican churches. Julian is the author of the first English book ever to have been written by a woman: Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.

Click here to listen to a meditative sung liturgy inspired by Julian’s writings

Click here to download the Worship Bulletin

which includes details of the life of Julian (designed to be printed double-sided)

Love Julian pastorDawn

The Road to Emmaus – Stephane Brozek Cordier

This Sunday the gospel text invites us to travel down our own road to Emmaus. Stephane Brozek Cordier is a poet whose words have the power to open us to our deepest wonderings as we wander down that road.

A Little Self-Involved? Try Looking Outward! – a sermon for Lent 2A, John 3:1-17

Trinity copyWhen I was just a kid, I had what can best be described as an adolescent crush on a teacher. Looking back on it now, I’d have to say that I fell head over heels in love with my teacher. It was the kind of love that only a 13 year-old girl could have; so intense and all consuming. I came to believe that this teacher was the wisest, kindest, most interesting person in all the world. This teacher knew more than anyone else, especially my parents. This teacher was cooler, funnier, more daring and definitely more in tune with my life than anyone I had ever met. I was convinced that if I could only be just like this teacher would mean that I too would be cooler, funnier, more daring and definitely more in tune with life. So, like most adolescent girls who are suffering from a crush I became obsessed with this teacher. I was young and I was in love, and like most thirteen year-old’s the I was convinced that the world revolved around me, so I set about pursuing my passion. This teacher taught English, so naturally, I decided that when I grew up I too would teach English. This teacher loved poetry, so I too became passionate about poetry.

One day this teacher announced that we could gain extra-credit if we wanted to enter a local poetry writing contest; and even though I was pretty sure that year I’d be getting a mark that would be somewhat better than an A, I began to write poetry. I was very serious about my poetry writing.  I carried a pad of paper with me everywhere I went, and I began to ruminate about my life. I don’t remember any of those early attempts to wax poetical, but I do remember that each and every one of those poems was about me; me and my life, me and my unrequited love, me and my passion, me and the horrible way that no one paid much attention to me. Me, Me, Me, Me, it was all about me.

As the time drew near for us to submit our poetry to the competition, my teacher announced that there would be a special class after school, so that those of us who were planning to enter the competition could get some feedback on our efforts. So, by the end of the week, I would have to choose one of my great works for feedback. I spent hours pouring over one poem in particular. Tinkering with the words, trying to get things just right. I was so very proud of the final draft. I’d carefully copied it out on to a crisp piece of foolscap. Arranged the letters in the middle of the page so that they looked just so. I could hardly wait for school to be over so that I could rush to see what comments my beloved teacher had placed in the margin. There were barely a handful of us who stayed after school.

Looking back on that scene, we were a nerdy little crew. I was positively breathless as my teacher handed my offering back to me. To this day, I can’t remember a single line of my great work, but I can tell you word for ward what was scribbled in red in the margin of the ever so white foolscap. “A little self-involved, try looking outward.” I was devastated. How could anyone be so cruel? I’d poured my heart out only to have it stomped on by the indifference of truth. Continue reading

WHY: by Nina Simone in honour of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Recorded on April 7, 1968 – just three days after the assignation of Dr. King, recorded live at the Westbury Music Fair. There’s a rawness to this performance that speaks volumes. The song was written by Nina Simone’s bass player Gene Taylor.

Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou

Amazing PeaceOccasionally we replace one of the Sunday Bible readings with a contemporary. On the First Sunday of Advent three years ago (Advent 1A) we used the poem “Amazing Peace” by Maya Angelou. It was first recited at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington. Since then it has been illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. The poem captures the longing for peace that permeates the Advent and Christmas seasons. 

Amazing Peace Maya Angelou

Be the Crack that Lets the Light Shine In – a sermon lamenting the election

img_0693Our readings included Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and Luke 21:5-19, our Contemporary Psalm was “Anthem” by Lenard Cohen

Listen to the sermon here

“There is a time for everything,

a season for every purpose under heaven:

a season to be born and a season to die;

a season to plant and a season to harvest;

a season to hurt and a season to heal;

a season to tear down and a season to build up;

a season to cry and a season to laugh;

a season to mourn and a season to dance;

a season to scatter stones and a season to gather them;

a season for holding close and a season for holding back;

a season to seek and a season to lose;

a season to keep and a season to throw away;

a season to tear and a season to mend;

a season to be silent and a season to speak;

a season to love and a season to hate;

a season for hostilities and a season for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

 

“The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”  (Anthem by Lenard Cohen)

 

What a season we are in; a time to grieve, a time to weep, a time to harken back through the ages to seasons when our ancestors spoke of rending their garments.

Tearing their clothing, the fabric that protects them from the elements.

Tearing the fabric that adorns their body, the fashion that identifies them, shows the world who and what they are ripped and torn as they throw themselves down to the ground and wail in their grief.

In these past few days, the sound of rending garments has haunted my very being as if the fabric of civility is torn in two and our hopes and dreams as timid as we allow them to be, are ripped asunder.

Wailing and gnashing of teeth can only begin to express our grief.

What we need is the ululation, that long, wavering, high-pitched scream, the kind of howling that has long since got out of fashion in our civil society.

“We asked for signs

the signs were sent:

the birth betrayed

the marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood

of every government —

signs for all to see.”

Our hopes and dreams of a new season had barely begun to surface.

When our own demons tore the curtain asunder to reveal the reality that white supremacy and male supremacy, are not going gently into the great night.

“Ah the wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.”

Women grabbed as once again misogyny is worn as a badge of honour.

Walls erected.

People of colour taunted with lynching ropes.

Our fragile planet groaning under the pressure of our filth, threatened by the ignorance of powerful deniers who now wield the power of the richest purse. 

“Ah the wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.”

Conversion therapy is on the books again.

Tired tropes of white supremacy.

Muslim bans, deportation squads, treaties broken, pipelines built, clean coal replacing suspicious solar, as our energies are directed and distracted by promises of taking back and making great again.

“The holy dove is never free.

The wars they will be fought again,”

 water-boarding and torture back in vogue again.

Even generals cower before visions of their new commander-in-chief, promises to “bomb the shit out of them” as the generals wonder who are “them.”

Let’s build a wall. Let’s build it high.

Let’s dig a moat. Let’s fill that moat with crocodiles.

Let’s keep them out.

What a season this is.

Only the promise of winter can cheer our hearts, the drifting snow, the promised birth.

Let Jesus come.

Let Christmas mirth distract us here.

Jesus saves.

But Christians cheer.

They’ve found their saviour.

“Two Corinthians” is their guy.

Pussies be damned we hear them preach.

What a season this is.

I’ve struggled wondering what to say to you this morning; what hope can I offer?

When the message of the one we profess to follow has been used in ways that have convinced 81% of white evangelicals to vote for change such as this?

The majority of Roman Catholics joined in.

33% of the women who voted cast their lot with a misogynist.

75% percent of those who voted profess to be Christian.

Jesus weeps.

The curtain is torn.

Wars and rumors of wars.

“The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

“Here we stand.”

We Canadians.

Convinced that we are above it all.

Polite and kind are we.

Have a nice day.

Your welcome.

Excuse me.

“Here we stand.”

We who have yet to elect a female prime minister or a prime minister of colour.

Our last prime minister called for a burka ban and a barbaric practices hotline and we had already elected him 3 times.

But we’re not them.

No orange tan, just pretty locks of hair and a name that takes us back to simpler days when the just society, and multiculturalism inspired a mania whose child now feeds our arrogant notions of sunny ways.

We’re not them.

Our fingers point to the racist south while First Nations die in a slow creeping genocide.

It’s been a year since McLeans’ announced that our Indigenous peoples are incarcerated at ten times the rate as other Canadians.

 

But we are not them, despite the fact that our Indigenous peoples are murdered at more than six times the national average.

NO we are not them, even though our Indigenous peoples must survive on 40% less than the average wage in Canada.

We are not them.

139 active drinking water advisories in 94 First Nations communities across the country, more than 1000 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and to which we say,

“Have a nice day

your welcome.”

We are not them.

Even if it is true that by almost every measurable indicator Canada’s indigenous population suffers a worse fate and more hardship than the African American population in the United States.

We are not them.

We are not racist.

“The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.”

 

There is a season turn turn turn, to every purpose under heaven.

Jesus saves.

And here we stand, right smack in the middle of a season in which the Gospel and the church are associated with bigotry, racism, misogyny, sexual assault, climate change denial, and persecution of people based on ancient myths interpreted as facts.

Here we stand, an inclusive, progressive, science loving, historically critical, knowledge loving family that continues to struggle with the teachings of Jesus, refusing to take the Bible literally while trying to take it seriously.

Here we stand, convinced that we can do no other.

Opening our arms wide, extending a promise of radical welcome.

 

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

Ring the bells that still can ring:

the bells of justice

the bells of hope

the bells of peace

the bells of joy

“Forget your perfect offering.”

The cracks are there for all to see.

The light shines in.

And still we sing.

And still we stand.

Trusting that every tear will be wiped away.

That all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

LOVE will turn our mourning into dancing.

Here we stand for we can do no other.

Ring the bells that can still ring.

The LOVE that is God is the only hope I have to offer you in this strange season that we are in.

The LOVE that is God is the best hope that we have to give.

There is a crack in everything.

Be that crack.

Let the light come in.

Ring the bells that can still ring.

Be that crack.

Let the LOVE come in.

BE THE LOVE SHINING IN.

                            

 

Baptism Opens Us to MORE – a sermon on Psalm 139 and Luke 18:15-17

wesleyListen to the sermon here

Copy of the Baptism Liturgy here

Know Thyself – a sermon for Advent 2C – Luke 3:1-6

knowThyselfQuotes from John Shelby Spong’s essay “Looking at Christmas Through a Rear-View Window” and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem Gnothi Seauton: Know Thyself

Listen to the sermon here

Baptism – Opening to the MORE – two baptism sermons

Evelyn AdeleThe opportunity to baptize my lovely granddaughter brought with it the task of preparing a sermon on the sacrament of baptism. So, I diligently prepared a carefully thought out sermon for the occasion. Standing in the pulpit after reading the Gospel text from Matthew  19:13-15, the sight of all seven grandchildren challenging the abilities of their parents and grandparents to maintain order and decorum gave me pause. Fortunately our pulpit at Holy Cross is on wheels, so I quickly pushed it aside and reached into my missal for a folder I had placed there so that during the announcements I could draw the attention of our members to some very good news about the success of a child of the congregation. The folder contained a story which I proceeded to tell in place of my carefully prepared sermon. You can listen to the story here. I am indebted to the author, Travis Dermott for providing the good news on this very happy occasion. As promised, the text of the carefully and lovingly prepared, undelivered sermon is provided below. 

Listen to the story here

When someone places a newborn human in your arms, it opens you to MORE. Humans have a strange relationship to MORE. Most of us spend our entire lives longing for more, looking for more, hungering for more, desiring more, striving for more, waiting for more, searching for more. Holding a newborn in your arms opens us to the power of MORE. I’m not talking about the more that the world so often gets caught up in seeking, more stuff, more money, more things, more wealth, more land, more resources, more power, more sex, more popularity, more gadgets, more food, more, more, more, more, for me and mine, more. I’m talking about the MORE with a capital M. MORE. The kind of MORE a newborn baby lying in your arms opens us to is the kind of MORE that poets, storytellers, artists, musicians, and messiah’s have been trying to capture for centuries. Holding a newborn in your arms opens us to this MORE because the reality of this new little being connects us to some Beyond ourselves.

Cradling a newborn you can’t help but wonder and marvel at the miracle of life itself. Gently rocking a newborn in your arms opens you to the powers of the cosmos coming together for billions and billions of years to create life. Gazing down at a newborn softly breathing in your arms fills your heart with emotions so powerful that in just an instant you can fall in love. Adoring a newborn in your arms transforms you out of the confines of the ordinary and mundane and into the reaches of time itself as you search for signs of ancestors long gone in tiny features that draw us into futures as yet unknown. And just when you think your heart is going to explode from the shear magnificence of the miracle in your arms, suddenly the newborn in your arms opens up the power of their new little lungs and you can’t help but be stunned by this tiny little creature’s ability to turn your world upside down. Continue reading

Raging Storms are All Around Us – a sermon for Pentecost 4B – Mark 4:35-41

lift every voiceIn addition to being Fathers’ Day, today was National Aboriginal Day, the beginning of Pride Week celebrations, and yesterday was International Refugee Day. All of these events were overshadowed by the tragic events in Charleston on Wednesday. The Gospel text from the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus stilling the storm and calming the waters. Our worship begin with the singing of what has become known as the African American anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.  Listen to the sermon here

A Little Self-Involved? Try Looking Outward! – a sermon on John 3:1-17

Trinity copyWhen I was just a kid, I had what can best be described as an adolescent crush on a teacher. Looking back on it now, I’d have to say that I fell head over heels in love with my teacher. It was the kind of love that only a 13 year-old girl could have; so intense and all consuming. I came to believe that this teacher was the wisest, kindest, most interesting person in all the world. This teacher knew more than anyone else, especially my parents. This teacher was cooler, funnier, more daring and definitely more in tune with my life than anyone I had ever met. I was convinced that if I could only be just like this teacher would mean that I too would be cooler, funnier, more daring and definitely more in tune with life. So, like most adolescent girls who are suffering from a crush I became obsessed with this teacher. I was young and I was in love, and like most thirteen year-old’s the I was convinced that the world revolved around me, so I set about pursuing my passion. This teacher taught English, so naturally, I decided that when I grew up I too would teach English. This teacher loved poetry, so I too became passionate about poetry.

One day this teacher announced that we could gain extra-credit if we wanted to enter a local poetry writing contest; and even though I was pretty sure that year I’d be getting a mark that would be somewhat better than an A, I began to write poetry. I was very serious about my poetry writing.  I carried a pad of paper with me everywhere I went, and I began to ruminate about my life. I don’t remember any of those early attempts to wax poetical, but I do remember that each and every one of those poems was about me; me and my life, me and my unrequited love, me and my passion, me and the horrible way that no one paid much attention to me. Me, Me, Me, Me, it was all about me.

As the time drew near for us to submit our poetry to the competition, my teacher announced that there would be a special class after school, so that those of us who were planning to enter the competition could get some feedback on our efforts. So, by the end of the week, I would have to choose one of my great works for feedback. I spent hours pouring over one poem in particular. Tinkering with the words, trying to get things just right. I was so very proud of the final draft. I’d carefully copied it out on to a crisp piece of foolscap. Arranged the letters in the middle of the page so that they looked just so. I could hardly wait for school to be over so that I could rush to see what comments my beloved teacher had placed in the margin. There were barely a handful of us who stayed after school.

Looking back on that scene, we were a nerdy little crew. I was positively breathless as my teacher handed my offering back to me. To this day, I can’t remember a single line of my great work, but I can tell you word for ward what was scribbled in red in the margin of the ever so white foolscap. “A little self-involved, try looking outward.” I was devastated. How could anyone be so cruel? I’d poured my heart out only to have it stomped on by the indifference of truth. Continue reading

Commemorating Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

Julian of Norwich Between pastorDawnOn this her Feast Day, let us commemorate Julian of Norwich, who is perhaps one of the greatest English Mystics. Although she has never been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church she is venerated in both the Lutheran and Anglican churches. Julian is the author of the first English book ever to have been written by a woman: Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.

Click here to listen to a meditative sung liturgy inspired by Julian’s writings

Click here to download the Worship Bulletin

which includes details of the life of Julian (designed to be printed double-sided)

Love Julian pastorDawn

Mary Speaks: “The Testament of Mary” and “The Confession Stone” a Midrash for Palm Sunday

Palm Sunda 2015Judas, Peter, Pilate, Caiaphas, and John – these are the names most often heard in the stories we hear during Holy Week….the men who failed Jesus or who conspired against Jesus, their names we hear during this holiest of weeks. But what of the women who stood by Jesus, who wept for Jesus, who bore witnesses to the betrayal, the trial, the execution, and the death of Jesus. Where are their stories during this week of weeks? For centuries, the church has failed to listen to the voices of the women whose lives were intertwined with Jesus’ life. The stories of these faithful women have been hidden in the mists of time. This Palm Sunday we turned to one of those women; to Mary the mother of Jesus. Her voice has been silenced by the church. She has been confined to works of art that speak not with words. 

So, as we enter Holy Week we turn to two new works of art that give voice to Mary’s story. Anne Keith and I will do our best to give voice to Mary’s story using the words of the Irish writer Colm Tóibín whose book, “The Testament of Mary” imagines Mary as an old woman, nearing the end of her life, looking back on the life of her beloved child Jesus. You will hear cynicism in the voice of Mary who is visited by the men who will tell her son’s story; men who are determined to make a particular meaning out of Jesus life and death. Mary does not share their enthusiasm for the tragedy that robbed her of her child, nor will she twist her own story to suit their needs.

Mary’s voice will also come to you through music. Mezzo soprano, Linda Condy, accompanied by our Musical Director: Marney Curran, B.S.M., A.R.C.T., will preform “The Confession Stone: Songs of Mary” composed by Canadian Robert Fleming based on the poems of Owen DodsonOwen Dodson was an African-American poet whose work is part of what has been dubbed the Harlem Renaissance. Dodson’s poetry brings a lively humanity to the Mary empowering her voice to evoke the passion of a mother’s loss.

Both Owen Dodson and Colm Tóibín provide a powerful midrash with which to begin our Holy Week. 

Celtic Night Prayer

Video: Halianna Burhans: Music:  Rev. Will Burhans – Weight of Grace Text: John Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction: Morning and Night Prayer