Archive | October 2012

Make Your Bed!

For the last two mornings I have been sleeping in. The hurricane that has been swirling around has brought gray skies along with the wind and the rain and dark mornings make it harder to get up. Sunday the clocks “fall back” which might help a bit but as for now, a couple of hours longer in bed in the morning is oh so tempting. And yet, when I fall back to sleep it is usually less restful because my “to do” mind winds its way into my dreams and I might as well be up and doing rather than dreaming about it. A later rising also means that there is less quiet time for yoga and reading. I really should just get out of bed!

So today I got out of bed early and took the time to stretch and watch the morning light break in (hurricane is past us now) and turned to my reading. Lo and behold, I got encouragement there also to not stay stuck in bed. The prophet Ezekiel, speaking for God, chastises the people of Israel for turning away from everything that they have been taught. God, through the prophet, tells them in no uncertain terms to stop blaming other people (or hurricane darkness?) for what they are ultimately responsible for, and “get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” Don’t stay stuck , just get up and get a new heart and a new spirit. Of course doing that means being willing to turn over or turn in what keeps us stuck and be willing to be change. Ezekiel continues the scolding by advising “Turn, then, and live.”

The next reading was even more direct. In the Book of Acts, (the actions of the new apostles who had been sent out to spread the good news of Jesus) Peter was out and about in the town of Lydda. The reading tells us that he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years.  He was not only stuck in bed, he was paralyzed. Peter meets him and says “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up, and everyone in the town saw him and “turned to the Lord”, which I read as they got a new heart and a new spirit, and a new life.

When I read that passage I just laughed out loud. Not only “get up and walk” which is how Jesus often instructed the lame and halt, but Peter, maybe because he is often pictured as someone who is pretty dense and always wants more information from Jesus, offers a more parental directive. “Get up and make your bed!” Don’t just get up and walk but make your bed, clean up your act, get a new heart and a new spirit and tuck in the sheet also. Who says that Scripture isn’t funny or relevant for our times?

Sometime healing comes not just by teaching new practices but through humor!

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Seize the Hope

Today’s scripture reading (Letter to the Hebrews) has a curious concept which is hope being a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” and that “we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.” In a commentary on this passage one author suggests that many people are overwhelmed by a chronic low-grade hopelessness. Adrift at sea we tend to grab anything that we think will keep us afloat. But what kind of hope really anchors our soul and not only keeps us from drifting but also gives us peace in a storm and keeps us headed in the right direction with the winds blowing over us but not knocking us over? The passage suggests that if we would  “take refuge” in God and Jesus, who are not out of our reach but are “set before us” we are anchored in hope not in despair. Hope keeps us alert, expectant, and confident that we will be cared for (remember the refuge) no matter what life tosses our way. Seize the hope suggests immediacy and full bodied active reaching out and grabbing for dear life to what is in front of us, not in a panic but with joy. It reminds me in a funny way not of boats on the sea but of  riding on one of those old fashioned carousals where your sit on a painted horse while the carousal goes round and round (and round and round) and you finally get the courage to just reach out and seize the golden ring. Seize the hope that is set before you. Those of us who find hope in the Way of Jesus are strongly encouraged to seize that hope, take it within, practice it and celebrate it and live into it not so that we are anchored or stuck in our old and worn out ways, but anchored in hope itself and hope leads to life, which is what Jesus calls us to; eternal, ever changing, life. Seize the hope!

Open Hands

This morning I sat in meditation after my yoga and reading. The Gospel today was one of those conversations that Jesus had with his disciples, the ones that reminded me of growing up one of 8 children. “A dispute rose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” Or, as we said on Fairview Avenue “Mom, which one of us do you love the best?” Because really, in the end, being the greatest is being the one most loved. Jesus, like Mom, refused to play the game and in fact turned the question upside down by talking instead about being servants. “The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

The whole idea of being the servant has been a challenging one for me. And being a “servant leader” is no easier. Women especially often recoil from the suggestion that we should be servants. We have worked long and hard to come to a place of being in some kind of authority, or at least a position of respected responsibility, after years of being second class citizens. But in fact being a servant is a place of privilege when the one who you are serving is the one who you love and who loves you beyond measure. (See, greatest does come down to love after all.) And as the conversation reminds us, it is Jesus who is the one who serves. Not us, but Jesus.

But where do we see Jesus in our lives? Perhaps as the ones who live in that intersection between serving and being served. Recently I read a reflection about holy communion. The writer was thinking about the position that our hands take when we reach out to receive the bread  as being the same position that panhandlers use when asking for a handout. He quoted Martin Luther as saying “We are all beggars: This is true.” And if we are all beggars, dependent on God for everything, from breathe to bread, then who is serving us but God’s Self?  And at the same time, when we who are invited to serve communion, offer that precious bread to friend and stranger, then we too are serving and begging and being in the presence of “one who serves” and that one is and is not, us.

And so this morning I sat in my chair, as the morning light broke into the room and I prayed a prayer about Open Hands.
Here it is.

O God we are all beggars

and we are all servers.

Nothing that we have belongs to us

and nothing that we have stays with us.

Hands open to receive

hands open to give,

hands open, never clenched,

never holding back or self sufficient.

God make me a channel of Thy peace

a flume for Thy Divine love to course.

Love of God is my gift

received and given.

Alone I am hopeless.

In your service I am gainfully employed

and full to overflowing.

Open hands.

God open my hands

Empty, full.

We are all beggars.

We are all servants,

at your boundless table.

Amen.

Fractured and Healing

Last week my wife Dorrie was working on some household project and she smashed her finger while hammering. It hurt like the dickens and even though she was quick to put it in cold water and bandaged it up, the pain continued for days. Finally she went to the doctor and got it xrayed. The doctor told her that it had been fractured in at least 5 places.  This is “so Dorrie” – a nurse practitioner who hesitates to call in the medical folk and a strong woman who is known by our grandchildren as the Grandma who fixes things. I am just Nana.

Of course the grandchildren themselves were very upset to see Grandma with a bandaged finger and to know that she was still in pain, this many days later. Dylan, who is now 8 years old, went straight to the center of concern when he asked “how long will it take to heal?” Clearly he knew that Grandma might not be able to fix herself, but that she would heal and that it would take time. But how much time before she was back to normal and could again hammer without hesitation? “How long O God, how long?” asks the 8 year old psalmist.

And so, Nana who does not fix things, but who thinks about things, has been meditating on this experience in our family. I too have been wondering about fractured fingers and an undefined length of healing time. What struck me most about this situation is Dylan’s confidence that healing does happen. Neither he, nor we, knew the when or really the how of the healing but he was confident that healing would happen. After all, Grandma fixes everything so Grandma, at some time in the future, would be fixed herself.

Fracturing happens all the time. We fracture our digits and our limbs. We fracture our families. We fracture our close relationships. Our churches fracture apart even when the prayer tattooed on our foreheads is “that they may all be one.” For everything that is at one time whole, there is a good possibility of fracturing, and a good possibility of healing.

As a Nana and a Christian minister I trust deeply that fractures can be healed and made whole. My faith is built on a God whose calling was and is, to bring together what has been sundered. I remember clearly a sermon that my minister preached close to 20 years ago. Reverend Victoria Safford spoke about the way that a cup (and I imagined it to be a fine bone china tea cup) a cup can so easily shatter when it is even gently knocked about. But the cup, she said, could be mended and the places where it was  mended would be stronger. By extension, she was saying that by going through the process of allowing ourselves to be mended we may grow stronger. I am not saying that fracturing is a good thing, but that it is a common thing and a thing that has hope attached to it. We may be less perfect, and even less beautiful, but not less functional. Healing can take a long time but if a finger, a person, a community, or a church, is willing to submit to the grace and the work of reconciliation, a fracture can become a solid, functional and even stronger creation.

How long God, how long? Thanks be to God.