It’s been a while, I know.  this is a sermon possibility for Sunday, 24 June 2012.  For Liturgical wonks, that’s Proper 7 – Year B.  Jesus calms the storm, and the disciples get their britches wet.

Job 38:1-11      Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32     2 Corinthians 6:1-13      Mark 4:35-41

There is a storm. A big storm.  The boats are being swamped.   Water is coming in. Grab a bucket.

Jesus, for whatever reason, manages to sleep through this. What? Sleep through this? With his head on a cushion? Was he that dead tired? Who knows?  They wake him. Why did they waken him?   Because they wanted him to fret with them?  Or because they wanted to give him a bucket, too?

Did they have a clue? I think not.

So, Jesus wakes up. He sounds a bit grouchy to me. Wouldn’t you be?    So, Jesus rebukes the wind (that’s the same Greek word as when he rebukes evil spirits).  Jesus says, Peace, be still. The Greek words lend a different sort of meaning: “Be Silenced! Be muzzled!”

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.”

And they were filled with great awe “ – the Greek says they “feared a great fear” phobeo phobos megas

If they weren’t already wet and swamped with water, they would have needed to change their britches.

Who is this” What manner of man is this? What the heck is going on? Even the wind and sea obey him!

Where is the fear, now? Is it the storm? That’s gone. It’s dead calm. No wind. What’s this fearing a great fear? It’s Jesus.    The storm was one thing. But Jesus? What the heck is going on?

Are we more afraid of the storm, or of the one who can calm it? Is it the wind, or Jesus? Which did they fear most?

And what about you?

Often, I want to blame the storms on God. Or, at least, blame God for not holding them back. Then, I wonder why Jesus is asleep in the boat. Is makes life simpler when we can blame it on God.

God did not let Job get away with that. Jesus does not let the disciples get away with that, either.

With stories like this, I am sometimes more afraid of what Jesus might do, if I waked him up.

Are we more comfortable with the storms than we are with Jesus? What might he do?

And, there is another thing. They are in sailboats. “There was a great calm”. No wind. Do you know what that means, in a first century sailboat?

Get out your oars. That’s what.

Is it time we put away our buckets, and got out our oars?

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Thanks & Thoughts

This is my latest article for the parish newsletter:

My sabbatical was a wild and wonderful adventure into silence, experiencing a different culture, and the beginning of moving into a different space, inwardly and outwardly. I am very grateful to the Vestry and people of Calvary Church for affording me this experience.

This adventure was only the beginning of the experience. Life is best not measured by achivements and activities alone. They are not ends in themselves but markers on the journey, providing new insights and different perspectives. Monastic life follows a regular rhythm of prayer, work, study, rest, and prayer. This is a balance that is tough to maintain on one’s own, I’ve found. And, our culture does not support such a balance. As Richard Rohr has said, we live with a culture (and even a spirituality) of “addition.” We think we need to add more things, more experiences, more accomplishments. This makes religion a consumer product, and God just another trophy.

Instead, Rohr speaks of the ancient ways of a spirituality of subtraction. Letting go of the need to “achieve” and sloughing off the layers of false self that we put on. Not an easy road. Jesus went the road of emptying himself. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” (Philippians 2.5-7).

The Twelve Steps talk about surrender. Emptying and surrender are not things we “achieve,” but that happens in us and through us. Even there we cannot control it. By living in to new ways of thinking, acting, and being, things begin to slip away. Surrender begins to happen. For me, as I struggle with a sense of discipline, these things do not happen easily.

Shedding fear is, for me, one of the hardest things. To live as if it is no threat; to trust that I will not be conusmed; to act as if the grace of God (that I have experienced over and over again!) will indeed be present and active in my life.

Ugh! What a wondrous and high calling we do in fact share. And not an easy one, but indeed a gracious one. Trust in grace. Rely on love. Surrender to the One who loves us most freely, yet knows us most fully.

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Ongoing Going On

God never “finishes.”  God only continues.  The Providence of God is that God keeps, continues, remains, moves ahead, grows, fills.  God is always working in our lives, our community of faith, and our hearts.

And, though my sabbatical is “finished”, I am not.  Nor God with me.  There are still many things, many issues stirring and fermenting within my soul.  It’s Life on the Edge: that sense of dangling on the precipice, stepping a little too close to the brink, staring into the Abyss.  Ugh.

A colleague friend said today that with God it is always Life on the Edge.  That is where God leads us.  Spiritually, personally, financially, in almost every way.  It’s about trusting in God and letting go our of need for control.

God does not force God’s self on us, though.

“Of all powers, love is the most powerful and the most powerless.  It is the most powerful because it alone can conquer that final and most impregnable stronghold which is the human heart.  It is the most powerless because it can do nothing except by consent.” (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, Frederick Buechner, pp. 53-4)

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Holy Week has been its usual, arduous trek.  I shouldn’t whine, it was considerably harder for Jesus!  Connecting to that First Century World it very difficult, at least, impossible at most.

Understanding and taking in all the events, what meaning they have for us, what we can wrap our minds around, and what must be left for Spirit to interpret are all tough tasks.  Then, to try and give some cogent repsonse, commentary, or meaning for others seems beyond me, right now.  But it is done.

Tonight’s Easter Vigil was wonderful.  Tomorrow is Easter Day.  I am weary of homilizing.  Yet, I hope I’ll have something either worthwhile or very brief.  Better yet, both.

Happy Blessed Easter, one and all.

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“Joyful obedience?” . . . . Oh, please

I want to be happy.  And I have interpreted that to be happy means others are happy with me.  It’s been an external. What do I want?  Whatever you want me to want.

“Happiness” is a slippery word.  We all want it.  And yet it can seem so fleeting, so shallow, even selfish.  All I want is to be happy.  Joy may be a better word with deeper meaning; something that is at our core, that transcends the ephemeral nature of being merely “happy.”

Whichever word one uses, the more it is an external goal (instead of an internal truth) the more fleeting it will seem, and unattainable it will be.

Ha!  Easy for me to say.  Many things are easily said.  And they are not easily, readily, quickly internalized.  Maybe there is something to the phrase “faith comes by hearing” (cf Romans 10.17).  We hear, but we must also listen.

I’m working on listening, except it is something that cannot always be “commanded.”  Just like letting go. And I’m hearing some big letting-go stuff in my soul.  I’ve preached before that, at its root, the word obey means to listen (from “ob” – to; and “audire” – listen, hear).

Not sure I’m so good at that obeying stuff.  Yet.

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Home.  Back in the (physical) spaces I left.  But my interior ‘space’ has shifted.  Now, of course, there are many things trying to jerk my back to the way-things-were.  Such is life.  It’s not an evil or abnormal thing – in fact, it’s just the way things happen.  And therein lies challenge.

What have I learned?  What sense do I make of it all?  or do I?  How will I bring with me those new things I’ve learned?  How will they fit in to the old spaces?  What difference will all of this wonderful inner experience make in this outside world  of my usual experience?  Ugh.  More questions to live with.

Slowly, I’m trying to move gently and non-judgmentally back into the rhythm-less rhythm of my life. No schedule, limited immediate responsibilities, empty space awaiting an infusion of energy, an empty canvass longing for some inspiration.  My history tells me I haven’t done so well with an agenda-less world.  And I’ve always depended on others to set my agenda for me.  So, now, one challenge is to begin (gently) exploring the new possibilities.  Gently.


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home again, home again, jiggety jog

I’m back home safely.  And with much to ponder.  But today, I’m tired!

Thanks for support, prayers, and comments.  There will be some more reflections to come. After some rest.

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Off line

I’ve been offline for a few days, and will be a few more.  Just couldn’t make the internet work on my computer.  (So, hello from Anthony’s computer).

Time in Jeffrey’s Bay has been wonderful!  We went down to Tsitsikama on Tuesday, to Storms River Mouth.  Once again, amazing!  Tomorrow (Thursday 15 March), I’m off to Port Elizabeth for flight to Jo’burg, for flight to Atlanta for flight to Ashville.  I arrive back noonish on Friday, 16 March.

There we will more to come!

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to make an end is to make a beginning

This is my last night at the monastery, and I am sad to leave.  My experience has been a good one but not without some real struggle (which ain’t over yet).  But I have made good beginning.  A very good one.

Precisely what has begun I cannot fully articulate.  The sowing has begun; what is the harvest to be?  I am learning to live with and love the questions more than fretting over what “the answers” are.  This does not fit what I want.  It may not fit what others want from me, but it is what it is.  This is about life, life with God, life with myself.  I’ve never been great with “goals” and such.  I think planning and goal setting and measurable objectives are helpful tools and important things in the business world and in the Church (to a point).  But in the Spiritual life, such things are death-dealing.  We do not “arrive” someplace, we journey and struggle into becoming someone.

The Monastery of Mariya uMama we Themba (Mary the Mother of our Hope) has been an incredible experience.  I’ll be back here again.

So, what do you do on your last day in a monastery?  Party!  The monks “day off” starts at the end of the Vesper service (which begins at 5.30 pm and ends 6ish).  So, one must scrounge up supper from leftovers in the kitchen, and this is usually a communal activity.  With Brother Daniel, I went shopping for some special items for this evening’s repast: wines, cheeses, fresh breads, ,  some very tasty paté (I don’t do liver, but I liked this), ice cream (with Bro. D’s amazing chocolate-raspberry sauce), etc.  I toasted and thanked them for their guidance, wisdom, kindness, and hospitality.  Oh, and yes, I preached this morning.  They said they liked it.

But, the Wild Sabbatical isn’t over yet. Tomorrow I’m off to visit with Anthony Sutton in Jeffrey’s Bay.  So, stay tuned!


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.    (T.S. Eliot Little Gidding)


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Well Said

Richard Rohr said well today so much of what is going on in me.  This is from his daily meditation that comes to me, via email.

Struggling with one’s own shadow self, facing interior conflicts and moral failures, undergoing rejections and abandonment, daily humiliations, experiencing any kind of abuse or your own clear limitations, even accepting that some people hate you: All of these are gateways into deeper consciousness and the flowering of the soul. These experiences give us a privileged window into the naked (read “undefendable”) now, because impossible contradictions are staring us in the face. Much-needed healing, forgiving what is, weeping over and accepting one’s interior poverty and contradictions are normally necessary to invite a person into the contemplative mind. (Watch Paul do this in a classic way from the depths of Romans 7:14 to the heights of his mystic poetry in most of Romans 8.)

In facing the contradictions that we ourselves are, we become living icons of both/and. Once we can accept mercy, it is almost natural to hand it on to others. You become a conduit of what you yourself have received.

From The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, pp. 125-126

Facing failures, short-comings, and mistakes, can feel overwhelming – and often I have been.  I regret them, feel sorry for them, lament them, but cannot change them.  Sometimes they seem to haunt me.  It is true that my life has had many good things, too.  But they seem to flyout the window.

Living in the midst of those haunting failures, I get to a point of numbness.  They are just ‘there’.  And there is nothing that can be done.  Acceptance of what has been (and I’m struggling to do that) is the way to move beyond them (I’m struggling with that, as well).

Rohr’s words feel a bit like cold comfort, but they are comfort, nonetheless.  Am I being invited into the contemplative mind?

Once we can accept mercy . . . .

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