One of our writing prompts today at our clergy writing group was from this “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver:

And did you get what
you wanted from tis life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Which led me to this:

What do I want from life?  I think I may, at this point, have a clue. (more…)

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When I woke up yesterday, I was thinking about your FaceBook posting asking prayers for folks in the Oklahoma City area.  Then I found myself thinking about the recent death of my father-in-law.  Basically, I was thinking about the question “why is there suffering or evil in the world?”

I mean, this wouldn’t be a question at all.  Except we believe that God made the world we live in.  We believe that God is good.  We believe that God loves and cares for us.

If all this is true, then why do bad things happen?  Why do people suffer?  Why do people die?

Mind you, at least in my mind, a good deal of this can be put down to a combination of human free will and human perversity.  But even that is part of God’s creation.  Why would our God make that part of creation?  And certainly the facts of disease and natural disaster and death are part of God’s creation too – even if we sometimes contribute to all of the above.  Why did God make the world that way?

I don’t really have answers.

But I do have thoughts.  There are some things I think are true. (more…)

I’m attracted to money and the things that money can bring into my life.  I think most of us are.  Most of my life I was paid for my work.  It may not have been my main motivation.  I had another career started, once upon a time, that promised to be more lucrative.  Money has not been my primary motivator in discerning a call.  But I don’t think I would have done the work that I did most of my life if I had not been paid a living wage.

There was a time when my furniture consisted of a fold up mattress, a lamp for reading and some crates to hold books, and my clothing was limited and pretty much all hand me down or thrift shop (except athletic shoes) and I was perfectly happy.  Today I want (possibly even need) a comfortable bed to sleep in and a comfortable chair to read in, and my stuff (which once fit into a VW bug) easily fills a home.  That is a problem in retirement:  how do I move my old office into my home?

I found myself thinking about this after reading (in Celtic Daily Prayer):  “It is no sin to have wealth, but it is sinful to be attracted to wealth. (more…)

All of us remain, always, on a spiritual pilgrimage.  Sister Faith Anthony’s reflections on the aftermath of her life profession in the Order of St. Helena speak eloquently to this:

On January 4, the Order of St Helena elected me to make my Life Vow, and I did so on March 19 at the Church of the Good Shepherd.

The service was lovely, and so was the reception. I was in the seventh heaven that night. Yet I had not really expected any change. Yes, now I am given the big cross, and the ring, but I had been under the temporary Vow for three years, and I had been living in the same Order for five years.

However, the next morning, when I entered the chapel, I felt, “This is different!” I felt that I had crossed an invisible threshold, and I am not the same person as the day before.

What I sensed was unspoken “acceptance” and “welcome.” God confirmed the call. I said “Yes” and the Order said “Yes.” Now I am in full service for God with these sisters for my life. The sisters received me as one of theirs in spite of all my shortcomings, trusting God’s intention and my willingness to grow. This is a pure gift. And I realize that what I vowed is a far deeper commitment than I had imagined, and now I have a huge responsibility to the Order.

The honeymoon period did not last long, (more…)

So, once more, here is a draft of tomorrow’s sermon for Yuba City:

Easter 6 C

I’m going to throw you a curve this morning, and use the alternate gospel reading for this Sunday.  Not only that, as allowed by canon, I’m going to preach on a slightly longer text than is specified.  We are always allowed to expand the reading, and I’m doing it so that you hear the whole story.  Don’t worry, it’s not that long!

When the story starts, Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem, to attend a religious festival.  When he arrives, near the Sheep Gate, which may have been how he entered the city, he passes a pool of water, around which are gathered all kinds of invalids.

Why are they gathered there?  If you look at the copy of the gospel I passed out at the beginning of the service, you will see a bold footnote, number 1, just before verse 5.  — Did you notice that our reading had no verse 4?  What the footnote tells us is that the best and earliest sources did not have a verse 4.  But other sources had, wholly or in part, an explanation:  they were waiting for the stirring of the water, because when an angel stirred the water, the first one in would be healed.

One man had been waiting by the side of the pool, receiving charity from the faithful for his livelihood, for thirty-eight years.  I’m thinking he had become comfortable and complacent in his disability.  And I’m thinking Jesus thought so too.

Recognizing that the sick man had been there a long time, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be made well?”

You would think the obvious answer to this question is, “Yes!  Yes!  Please God heal me.” (more…)

I talked to a young (to me) woman last week.  I believe (I’m not entirely sure) that she would consider herself a Christian.  (I’ve actually talked to her on a number of occasions.)  She knows I’m an Episcopal priest, and she was wondering about Easter …  What happened on Easter?  What were we celebrating? (more…)

I’ve been thinking this week about how religious traditions build on the customs and sites of those who have gone before – even when those who have gone before are of different faiths.  Christmas trees are derived from non-Christian traditions in Germany, I’m told, and Halloween is derived from Celtic druidic practices – though they have been “baptized.”  A Christmas tree is not used by Christians to worship a different deity.  All Saints’ (or all Hallow’s) Eve remembers those who have died in the faith (even with all the spooky stuff about death and spirits) and who are now alive in Christ.  For that matter, Christians take the Jewish holy writings and look at them through a new lens, and Muslins take both Jewish and Christian holy writings and look at them through a lens of their own.

And it’s not like this is something new.

In chapter 12 of Genesis, when Abram first comes into the land of Canaan, he arrives at the sacred place at Shechem and comes to the oak grove of Moreh.  It is very likely that this oak grove was already a site of worship for Canaanite deities. (more…)