Sunday, December 13, 2015

Third Sunday in Advent

At St. Marys's this past week, our Advent theme was peace will stamp out war. I am mindful of the many kinds of wars we experience, beginning with the wars within ourselves and in our relationships. These are a very good place to begin our stamping out.With Jesus' help. 

I am reminded today of the variety of weapons we use in our individual wars.   Words.  Apathy. Selfishness. Self-centerness. Greed. Fear. 

Then there are actual physical weapons. 

I have never owned a gun, fired a gun, or even held a gun except a water pistol, which I expect doesn't count.  The only knives I have are in my kitchen. I have used my hands to injure, I am sorry to say. I am not without sin to be forgiven, that's for sure 

Because I am not personally a gun owner, I've been intentional to listen to parishioners who own and collect guns to help me understand the passion for gun ownership. I do live in Texas, after all. 

In all of our conversations, we have been united in our concern for gun safety although I wouldn't say we have come to consensus on what that looks like and how to achieve it. Of course, in my experience, if challenges were easy to solve, we'd have already done it. 

I hope we can agree to pray about the violence that leads to all sorts of war.  Then to listen for the answer God invites us to be to that prayer.  

Today is Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath and many parishes will use this litany for the Prayers of the People.   Will you pray with us?


Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in harmony and peace. Surround us with your love as we face the challenges and tragedies of gun violence.
For our dear ones, for our neighbors, for strangers and aliens, and those known to you alone, Loving God 
Make us instruments of your peace. 
God of Righteousness, you have given our leaders, especially Barack, our President, our Governor, the members of Congress, the judges of our courts and members of our legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us and to uphold our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces, Loving God 
Make us instruments of your peace. 
God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders, for police officers, firefighters and EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the lobbies, the malls and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place day after day. Give them courage and sound judgment in the heat of the moment and grant them compassion for the victims.
For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid, Loving God 
Make us instruments of your peace. 
Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope.
For all whose lives are forever marked by the scourge of gun violence, Loving God 
Make us instruments of your peace. 
God Who Remembers, may we not forget those who have died, more than 30,000 this year, in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care. 
For all who have died, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow, Loving God 
Make us instruments of your peace. 
God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Empower us to change this broken world and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change. 
For your dream of love and harmony, Loving God 
Make us instruments of your peace.
All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus the Christ. Amen

A Litany for the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath 
written by the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of Maine

A final note:  if you've gotten this far, it means you've likely prayed this prayer. I received word that someone in the parish I serve had been offended by this prayer and felt that it was part of a larger political agenda.  Please know. This is a prayer.  I'm still personally figuring out what it means to serve and follow the Prince of Peace and need all of you to help me find my way. I wonder if you do, too. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Second Monday in Advent: Be

The Society of St. John the Evangelist word today is. BE. 

A good word as I leave from retreat mode, travel on planes from Santa Fe to Denver, stop awhile, then travel from Denver to Redmond, Oregon, hoping to be in Bend for Jonas' 3rd birthday hug in the morning. 

My retreat Sunday was a glorious day in God's beauty hiking, drawing, picnicking, labyrinth walking, and celebrating Holy Eucharist with a mountain view. 

Packed up, I'm enjoying a final scone and coffee at Iconik in Santa Fe. Last minutes of retreat and quiet being before the delightful grandma shuffle being begins.  

Be:      Contentment is more about being than about doing, or acquiring, or mastering, or craving, or searching. Contentment is about being satisfied given the limitations of our present life.

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Second Sunday in Advent: A priest on retreat

These annual Advent trips to New Mexico began as vacations. They have transformed into retreats.  They are a rhythm to begin the new liturgical year--full of possibilities and surprises. 

I've been to retreats in monasteries, in people's homes, churches, camp sites. I've attended as a retreat leader and facilitator and as a participant. I've been on silent retreats and retreats that involved praying through community art. I've been on business planning meetings that were called retreats that were really work. 

These Advent retreats in New Mexico have a Benedictine flavor. They are an opportunity for a mindful balance of prayer, reading, walking, conversation and listening, friendship, play, eating, and, always, possibilities and surprises. 

There are fires and hot coffee and tea. There are skies that offer a variety of ever-changing messages throughout today. 

This is the Sunday of my retreat. A rare day to cease to work and to be. Having been able to stay out late on Saturday night enjoying a four hour dinner with friends, I allowed the sun to wake me up this morning.  

Now I am off to the Wild Rivers wilderness to hike and pray and have Communion. 

Possibilities and surprises. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

First Saturday in Advent: Healing

The day before Thanksgiving, I woke up with a cold. I started taking zinc and echinacea and drinking lots of water, and tried to not share the cold. 

I never felt terrible, but as is the case with colds, I was slowed down. A week later, now in New Mexico, I still had symptoms and the high altitude and dry air didn't help. 

I always seem to be seeking some sort of healing, if not body, then mind and/or spirit, during my Advent retreat.  I was right on task. 

I've been mindful of the slow healing process of this cold--a small bit better everyday. I've been mindful of all the pieces of this healing process 

People have prayed and I am so grateful for those kind prayers.  Healing. 
I've had times of silence and rest. Healing. 
I had a wonderful massage, and Bonnie did all sorts of healing touch that did wonders with my breathing. Healing. 

Yesterday I took one of my favorite hikes that leads to a spacious overlook of the Rio Grande Gorge. Though I found myself feeling a bit winded from time to time, the beauty was worth every step. 

Afterwards, as I sat with a cappuccino and pumpkin shortbread in front of a fire in a gallery that housed a local weaving exhibit, I realized how much better I felt after taking those sometimes challenging steps.  They, too, had also been part of the healing process. 

I'm still getting the last symptoms expunged. Step by step. Prayer by prayer. Resting and waiting. Sometimes challenging. 

I pray the same for all seeking healing. Step by step. Prayer by prayer. Resting and waiting. Sometimes challenging. AMEN

Friday, December 4, 2015

First Friday in Advent: Worship

As a person paid to lead worship, I've thought an awful lot about what worship means. At the heart of worship, for me, is that it's all about God. Worship has a sense of intentionality and presence. 

Every morning of the Advent retreat begins with enjoying the wonder of the day's unique gift of sunrise.
A moment to give thanks to God. Worship. 

My friend builds a fire, and on the couch before the hearth, we sit mainly in silence with our coffee, reading, writing, photographing, pondering, praying. Worship. 

One of the biggest decisions to be made on the Advent retreat is where worship in community will occur. It should be a given: whatever Episcopal Church is closest, but for some reason, having this rare opportunity for choice makes it a place for me to reflect on what worship is, and not being alone, my friend's thoughts are part of the conversation, too.   

Being intimately involved in all the twists and turns of the Church, I am aware what an imperfect vessel we the Church are. It, frankly, can be a distraction. I am thankful to be reminded this cold Advent morning that worship is not about me, ever, but always about God. 

For today, I will think on Psalm 96. I will worship God in the beauty of holiness and, for now, that is enough. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

First Thursday in Advent: Repent

After lunch in Chimayo yesterday, I went to the Santuario de Chimayo to pray for the ever so many people I carry in my heart. It's a strange place full of images of dying, bloodied Jesuses. I wonder what spirituality finds consolation in that?  Yet, amidst, for me, the visually uncomfortable space, the air is thick with prayer. I was still and with God. 

The drive up the High Road to Taos was as stunning as always, with drifts of leftover snow along the way.  Having sat with God, I was keenly aware of a couple of important matters that I had left undone, not because I was too busy but clearly because of sloth. I wanted to talk to my friend about this, but was hesitant. I'm not sure why. Finding the small courage to confess, I was able to be energized to do those things I'd left undone. 

This morning, as I received some lovely responses to doing those things that had been left undone, I was struck by the Society of St. John the Evangelist word of the day:  repent.   

Repentance:The power God offers of turning a corner, changing direction, to walk with God, rather than in disharmony. 

It's like cinnamon toast and coffee enjoyed in front of a roaring fire. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent. New Mexico

For twenty years, my best friend, who lives in Georgia, and I meet in New Mexico for an Advent retreat. Over the years it has evolved into a lovely rest with a base of play, quiet, hikes, coffee and food, and visits with friends. Then there are the yearly surprises. 

I flew after work yesterday so I arrived in the dark. A quick dinner in Albuquerque fortified us for the hour drive in the dark to Santa Fe for the night. 

One of my favorite  Advent sights are the lights of the Plaza in Santa Fe and the farolitas. These lights always fill me with joy--a reminder of the joy-filled Light of Christ. 

Today I'm up early to blue sky and twenty degree cold. Filled with local roast coffee and green chile white cheddar bagel, I'm off soon to Chimayo to meet a friend for lunch and then prayers at the Santuario de Chimayo.  I'll have my eyes open for the Light.