Postcards from the Wilderness: Week 4 (Sounds)

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[wil·der·ness] noun  (1) : a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2) : an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community. (3) :a confusing multitude or mass.

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 Sounds

In the wilderness, without the consistent destructive hum of ambient noise, sounds are amplified to the point where they become life; a life within the center of a moment. Once while sleeping in a tent in the Yosemite Valley, John Muir heard the ache and groan of the earth, the sound of a rumble shouting through the ground. Then, as though the world had awoken from a deep sleep, the earth began to shake.  Muir, running from his tent stood amongst the granite, and the tall woods bending and snapping screaming, “O Glorious Quake!” He was not afraid, and he rejoiced with nature. The brook sang its tune as branches snapped and swayed; the ground danced its reveille, and Muir shouted with joy. Why did he cherish nature’s sounds as words, and why do we cower at the thought of nature making itself known? Could it be that he had submitted his personal will to nature’s glory, and we try with all our might to subordinate nature to our will?

What do nature’s pure sounds say to you, and how would you respond?

Postcards from the Wilderness: Week 3 (Impermanence)

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[wil·der·ness] noun  (1) :  a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2) :  an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community. (3) : a confusing multitude or mass.

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Impermanence

In the wilderness stars come to life with clouds of radiance shining brightly above our heads. Stars light the sky beyond the horizon reflecting agelessness, returning night after night a beacon of permanence. Stars in the night sky were here long before us. Before humankind could grunt an emotion, these same stars looked upon our evolution. Name a person in history and we can say with assurance that we in our century share a common witness. Stars, however, have a life span…and who’s to say that the light we think we share is merely a reflection of a star long dead sharing it’s memory of life through the timelessness of space; the impermanence of reality, the permanence we think we know might rest in the unknown.

How does impermanence walk with the spirit, and what does it say?

Postcards from the Wilderness: Week Two (Thirst)

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[wil·der·ness] noun  (1) :  a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2) :  an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community. (3) : a confusing multitude or mass.

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Thirst

In the wilderness physical wants and needs becomes heightened and present. In the wilderness the simple act of drinking water makes one realize that thirst is a lurking reality. Quenching a thirst feeds the body, and maintains life. But what about the other kind of thirst found within an inner being, and emerging spirit? Is there an ever present thirst attached to personal relationships, work, house and home? Is there a thirst attached to a dream from long ago yet unfulfilled? Is there a nagging thirst hiding in the back of the mind waiting for nourishment to make it grow? Where is this inner thirst, and can it be defined?

In the wilderness it is time to discover the core of thirst, and claim its discovery.

Postcards from the Wilderness: Week One (Denial)

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[wil·der·ness] noun  (1) :  a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2) :  an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community. (3) : a confusing multitude or mass.

wilderness-1

– Denial –

In the wilderness living in a state of denial can be fraught with danger and can be life threatening. Is this not so in the reality of the populated world, too? Denial prevents us from accepting what is in favor of what we wish something to be. Denial can come into play within interpersonal relationships, our health, our life’s work, and the depth of our spiritual being as well. Denial is not hope, as hope has its roots in the reality of what actually is. Denial manifests when we are unable to accept reality blocking truth with a gnawing sense of fear.

In the wilderness, what areas of denial continue to choke your life, and well-being?

Loving Your Neighbor…and then came Arizona

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Vows are tricky, and sometimes difficult to adhere to. Vows should be taken seriously, and entered into with a sober mind knowing full well that there will be times where a vow can be spread out on the table of ethics to be confronted and explored. As a cleric and a Christian, I have taken two vows, one of them found within our (The Episcopal Church’s) Baptismal Covenant, and the other vow affirmed and agreed to at my ordination as Deacon. My Baptismal Vows I affirm each time a person enters into communion with the Church. We are asked this question, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” The response is, “I will, with God’s help.” A similar, yet different vow occurs during ordination when the bishop asks the ordinand, “Will you look for Christ in all others, being ready to help and serve those in need?” The response is similar, yet different, “I will.”

And then came Arizona.

The bill (SB1062) allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. It also allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of their religion. (Christian Science Monitor)

It’s very difficult to look for Christ in all persons when those claiming to be followers of Christ site religion as a means to deny others services or goods. Anyone with a smattering of biblical knowledge would probably know that Jesus was forever getting into trouble breaking religious rules of his day, eating with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. I would venture to say that most people would know that Jesus championed the dignity of the poor, the outcast, and the persecuted. Few, however, might understand that Jesus was executed by the State as a subversive. Read More

The Christ Candle: Peace

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Advent Wreath All Candles

Christ Candle: Peace

In Luke’s birth narrative, the words from the prophet Isaiah are attached to the birth of Jesus saying, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In the gospels, “peace” can be seen as a silent, but predominant pulse of Jesus’ narrative. The announcement of the child’s birth begins with peace, and later the Jesus found in the gospel of John bids peace before his departure saying, “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.” Jesus’ peace is different than what others perceive as peace.

There is another word associated with peace; the Hebrew word Shalom. Peace/Shalom can also mean:

  • To make amends
  • To make good
  • To be (or to make) peace
  • To restore
  • Peace
  • Prosperity
  • Wellness

The birth narrative tells us that the reflection of God’s glory, the image of the invisible God made its appearance not as a noble warrior, or a grand king, but a baby born to humble and poor parents in an obscure grotto in the middle of nowhere. The wisdom of God became flesh and lived among us to make amends, and to make good, to preach peace among all nations, and to restore the notion that there truly is one God of All.

The child was born, and grew into maturity to demonstrate that there was a choice beyond the Roman notion of Peace through Might, War and Violence. God’s wisdom call all people to make peace, and distribute prosperity, and to do what we can to promote wellness to each and every individual. We celebrate the birth of Shalom.

This is the shalom we celebrate this day, and each day we live as we commit ourselves in making shalom visible in the world around us, in the people we meet, and those we come into contact. Let us pray this shalom descends through us, and remains in us forever.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:1-3)

 

 

 

4 Advent: Horizon

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Horizon

The view of a horizon offers a unique opportunity to experience the finite and the infinite as they join an imaginary line arching around our cylindrical earth planet; our home. An unobstructed view of the horizon allows us the unique option to witness the physical joining of heaven and earth, the meeting of the ethereal with the rough edges of our earthly experience. Viewing the horizon line allows us to view with our own eye a theological reality outside the purview of the abstract. Horizons are illusive, and can change it’s perception of reality according to our fixed position; its a live example of a physical paradox.

Having taken the channel crossing from mainland Southern California to Catalina, it can appear that the island is but a few moments away, but in reality another 30 minutes is required to reach the destination. Horizons have the ability to distort our perceptions, and notions of time. This phenomena makes known the theological statement, “Now and Not Yet.” 

“Now and Not Yet” speaks to the realization that with the birth of Christ, God’s Kingdom was introduced to all people. Humanity was offered the chance to become the midwife of God’s gift of hope, but hope which beckons us from the horizon, reaching out to us year by year, moment by moment until, eventually, the world will become a different place; a new heaven and a new earth. A planet filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding. A world filled with the spirit of knowledge, and the realization that God is good, and active in of our lives not as a nasty mean old man, but an all- encompassing mystery of unfathomable compassion; free from gender, physicality, and pretense. God entered the world as a child seeking to learn, and grow, to understand and communicate.

Paul in Romans suggests that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” The birth of the Christ child can be seen as the inauguration of what John Dominic Crossan calls, “the great cleanup of the world.” As we hear the Christmas stories read in churches all over the world about shepherds watching their flocks by night, let us take the angel’s proclamation seriously as to not be afraid. Let us participate in the reality of God’s Kingdom. Let us make hope known, and commit ourselves to doing what we can to make the gift of the horizon possible. In order to be revealed as the children of God, let us die to our old ways, and live anew within the context of the light of hope, knowing that the horizon is only the limit of our sight.

“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…” (Luke 2:10b)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Advent: Mystery

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Mystery

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” (15:51-52)

Within Paul’s context, he is writing about the promise of Resurrection, but contained within his context is the acknowledgement of mystery. Paul states that death is not death as we know it, but he is convinced that we shall be changed…however, he does not know more than this because, for him, the process is a mystery.

The understanding of things as a mystery was quite common to the ancients. Things happened, and they saw things which could not be fully explained; it was mysterious. Mystery could also mean, “wonder.” Not only was something unexplainable, it was inexorably wondrous to behold, thereby doubling the sense of mystery.

We in the United States are children of the Enlightenment. We look to reason for answers, and think that the most common form of understanding must be arrived from logical conclusions. We are reared to embrace “logos” which can mean logic, and knowledge. Mystery (which means something secret or hidden), can be connected to mythos, which contains allegory, and metaphor to explain a greater truth. Mythos calls us to the core of the unknowable which can sometimes expresses itself in fear. Logos, on the other hand, with its reliance upon cold facts tries to explain away fear by attempting to make the unknowable less riddled with anxiety.

The Christmas story taken from Matthew and Luke draws the reader into the realm of mythos offering wondrous tales of Divine intervention, inspiration from dreams culminating with an unexplained star rising in the east. It would be very easy to allow logic to make itself at home to remove the mythos from the stories, but then the message might be lost. Sometimes as angels appear in the stories of Advent they say, “Do not be afraid!” This message fits the story, but it also is meant for the reader as well saying, “Yes, this is outside logic, but go with the meaning contained within the myth – – – stick around for the greater, deeper truth!”

Try and think of Advent as a five part mini-series where, at the end, all of the confusion fits together into concise and clear plot where the unexplainable become a clearer revelation. This third week in Advent, you are invited to allow mystery into your heart and mind so that a greater truth will be allowed to simmer and amalgamate into a greater truth.

“And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. Mary said to the angel, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:31-32, 34a)

 

 

2 Advent: Light

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 Light

This time of year, many people decorate their homes with lights. The same can be said for Christmas Trees seen sparkling from windows in various homes. For some, like me, each Sunday a candle of an Advent Wreath is lit; today the second will shine along with the first as I walk through the second Sunday of Advent.

Light and darkness seem to go hand in hand, as one can’t be appreciated without the other. The psalmist writes, “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. ” (Psalm 139:12) Isaiah writes, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; light has shined on those who lived in a land of darkness.” (Isaiah 9:2). Both light and dark must be recognized before each can be discerned and understood.

In the 21st century, we take light for granted. With the invention of the light bulb, darkness as most people knew it was vanquished; relegated to a bygone era. On any typical day darkness is removed by a flip of a switch. For those who camp, or spend time in nature, darkness is real, and can be menacing. Darkness is vulnerable, unsafe, and scary. Darkness strips away our confidence. Darkness reminds us that we are not in control.

Light, on the other hand, brings about comfort, peace, and joy. It represents knowledge, wisdom, and safety. Light speaks of knowing, and understanding. It calms our fears, and lightens our void, and turns what was once thought of as scary into something new, and bright. Metaphorically, light can also cleanse away the muck and the grime of past iniquities, reviving our inner being, rejuvenating our essence, restoring balance inside and out.

Getting through the “holiday” season is perilous. We rush like a vigilante to complete our tasks by December 25. Shopping Malls may become a gladiatorial confrontation,  as well as the act of driving from one place to another becoming the final moments of a Nascar championship. When each day becomes a countdown towards the day of reckoning, we, without realizing it, have entered into the land of darkness looking toward the abyss.

A collect from Advent asks God to place upon us an “armor of light.” What, or how might you, during the days ahead, emulate an armor of light? How might this light emanate through you to others in which you come into contact? How might you be the light of peace, calm, and understanding in a world filled with darkness? I invite you to ponder this over the next week, and seek ways to make it known,  because if we seek light, it will find us, and we shall know it, and become it, and be it.

“Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility.” ( from BCP p. 211)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Advent: Yearning

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erster-advent

Yearning

The physical and emotional act of “yearning” is powerful. It is more than merely wishing for something to take place, or a hope for the future.  Though we may yearn for something tangible, yearning acknowledges emptiness which for some may mean that the hard work of discernment is about to begin.

John the Baptist was able to tap into the yearnings of his people. As a voice crying in the wilderness,  John was well aware that religious authorities had become overly consumed with following the laws in the torah, forgetting reasons why purity laws were established in the first place. John the Baptizer understood other religious groups had fattened their wallets by collaborating with the occupying force which now ruled their region. John recognized people’s anguish, and understood a hunger for authenticity.

Nefesh  is a Hebrew word commonly translated as “soul”, but it’s a rich word which has many meanings when used in various context. Nefesh can also mean appetite. Attaching nefesh with a yearning asks us to good deep within our inner being to explore what our hopes are for not only ourselves, but for the troubled world around us.

What does the Advent 1 “Nefesh” candle say to you? What does your inner and outer being yearn for? What hope speaks louder than physical wants? What physical longings prevent you from acknowledging the authentic voice of your soul? What is your primary yearning?

As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.

My souls is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

 (Psalm 42:1-2)

 

 

 


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