Saturday, December 7, 2013

stop day & motherhood

Stop day.  It is a generous village tradition.  When the guest population is low enough and the staff is weary enough our leaders proclaim a ‘stop day’ as gift for everyone who lives in the village.  Even the most consistent and reliable daily rhythms of the village, like meals and worship, stop for one entire day.

Last year we were given a few stop days, but Micaela and I missed them due to our own travel out of the village. But today we actually are here and have been working hard and were very ready to live into this stop day. I brewed rich coffee and cooked up a warm breakfast for the other residents of our building; we all huddled together in our unheated space.  For some reason, our building has not received heat in the last day – and with outside temperatures hovering around 5 degrees, its cold in here.  Cold enough to sleep in a hat, wear two pairs of socks and watch a movie under two warm, blankets.

My little one put Spanglish into the DVD player after breakfast.  She knows just how to reel me in and distract me from the laundry that needs doing and the book that I want to read. I’m not a huge movie buff, but this is easily my most frequently watch movie (there is one sex scene…and no, she is not allowed to watch it).  The characters pull on all my soft and scarred heart strings.  The story follows a single mother dancing the line of motherhood, romance, identity and priorities. And while I’m not a big crier, the conversation between mother and daughter at the end always pulls a few tears from my eyes.  My favorite lines…

            “I live for myself.  You live for your daughter…none of it works.”

American women, I believe, actually the feel the same as Hispanic women about weight: a desire for the comfort of fullness. And when that desire is suppressed for style and deprivation allowed to rule, dieting, exercising American women become afraid of everything associated with being curvaceous: such as wantoness, lustfulness, sex, food, motherhood; all that is best in life.

“Caring this much about your kids is sanity, and being that sane can drive you nuts!”
   “She expressed regret that she had to ask me to deal with the basic question of my life at such a young age. And then she asked it. Is what you want for yourself to become someone very different...than me?"
Much gratitude for days open enough to stop, reflect and huddle for warmth. Turn off your phones, turn down the heat and give yourself a stop day…its rejuvenating. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thievery & Cluelessness: trademarks of Christianity

Advent 1
Holden Village
Micah 4:1-5
Matthew 23:24-33

Grace to your from God, our Creator, and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ who will come and steal your friends from the fields and snatch you up like a thief in the night.
This is it, this is always it.  Every year the church year begins with readings straight out of the left behind series.  Apocalyptic scenes fill all of our readings for tonight, apocalyptic visions and predictions of what the end of time, the end of the world as we know it will look like.  According to Isaiah it’s unfathomable.  I find it unfathomable because Isaiah says that all nations – every single nation that currently is building boarder walls, wrongfully detaining foreigners, every nation with refugee camps and exiles, every nation with tribe hurting tribe or gang hurting innocent by-standers, every nation with corruption and homelessness and oppression of their weakest citizens – every single nation will find itself quiet and faithfully scrambling up God’s mountain…together. 
There on God’s most holy mountain will they learn from God, they will be guided in a different and new way of being nations and holy miracles, they will learn war no more.
If Scripture is inviting us into a choose your own apocalyptic-ending adventure book…I choose this one!
Another option is the ending offered in Matthew’s gospel and it is alarming.  There are people side by side, two by two.  Jesus first brings up the Noah story and rightly sets it in the apocalyptic frame of endings and death where it belongs, instead seeing cute little animals on the toy shelf or on the boarder around your baby’s nursery.  Two by two creation marched through that apocalyptic story and two by two they are in the field, one is kidnapped.  Two by two the women are in the kitchen, one is taken suddenly.
Like a thief in the night, Jesus breaks in.
We could easily make some assumptions about the texts here – and many faith traditions and a well-selling book series certainly have made some assumptions about the text here.  We could assume that one of the people in the fields was bad, the other good…naturally, the bad one was left to work endlessly in the field.  We could assume that one woman in the kitchen had faith and the other not so much…obviously; the faith-less-one was left behind.
The text is mysterious and puzzling, and that could be exactly the point for us.  The assumptions we love to make, the conclusions that are easy to jump to…they are not here, they are not a part of the story or of Matthew’s gospel.
The hope here, the pin point of light that we get to gaze upon this night is as Socrates once said, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” We do not know when, we do not know where…that is for God’s understanding so far above our own. 
Like a thief in the night, Jesus breaks in.
The openness of not-knowing carries us back to Isaiah’s mountain too.  In order for the nations to come together on that mountain, in order for them all to begin the hike towards God the nations had to admit to not-knowing.  Leaders of nations, citizens of nations had to cough up the difficult reality that their ways of governing, their ways of winning, their ways of living and being loyal to borders was not working, not even close.
Isaiah does not paint the scene before the nations get to the mountain, but I imagine it had to include some confessing, some realization that there could be better ways of living and executing justice instead of people.
So, in that spirit of un-knowing the nations gather on God’s mountain.  Not knowing what they will learn, not knowing who they will be after the mountain – yet step by step they approach God in humility and peace.
We know plenty about not knowing and I’m afraid the time of not knowing is not quite over. Even if you’ve been coming to the village for decades or if you are still one your first trip up this mountain, you did not know what construction season would be like. We did not know what the ramp down from construction season would be like.  We did not know what a guest-less Thanksgiving would feel like, or how it would work to invite friends and families of villagers and contractors alike.  We do not know what the next three weeks of no guests and all staff all the time will feel like.  Many in the room do not know what guest seasons feels like or how quickly the new construction seasons will come riding around the corner.
And for most of everyone in this room, the trip down the mountain – be it this month, next year or sometime after that, we do not know where we are going, we do not know the time or the place or the hour. 
If the village is good at anything right now, we are brilliant at not knowing.
There is freedom in the unknown.  Wide open spaces for creative newness to being to stir and move and take on new life. If we can follow up a new mountain like the nations in Isaiah, if we can claim that our ways of living are not always life-producing, in fact they are often destructive and harming…if we can stare in the mirror and name that difficult truth – then there is room and possibility and something new already swirling.
If we can hear a gospel word like the words from Matthew and imagine Jesus, the crook, stealing away beings and bringing them to God…and then believe in the God who is also in the field with the working one, also in the kitchen with the woman gone and the woman remaining…then we are imagining a God who works in mysterious and unexpected and delightful ways.
Like a thief in the night, I pray that Jesus is always and constantly and forever breaking in to our lives.
Shane Claiborne is a Christian author who leads a new-monastic community in inner-city Philadelphia. Shane and his community read the words from Isaiah, and imagined new things. Their work and living is so inspired to hear about it is to see the finger prints of the Holy Spirit all over everything.  In the not knowing something new emerges…listen to Shane describe one aspect of his life and ministry in Philly…
“It doesn't get much cooler than beating an AK47 into a shovel. We are starting to make a habit of it.
Our first weapon-conversion was on the 10th anniversary of September 11th. A welder buddy of mine took an AK 47 and transformed it LIVE, into a shovel and a rake, as part of our "Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream Event". It was so much fun we couldn't stop. I even finagled a free welding lesson from my pal, thinking I might we might keep the sparks flying. And we have.
A year or so later we heard about a group of blacksmiths who had also started melting down donated guns to make tools, after being troubled by the fact that some of the metal from the Twin Towers was used to make a battleship. Inspired by the prophets' vision of "beating swords into plows", these Mennonite metal-workers started turning guns into garden tools. They call themselves RAW tools (turning "war" around and forging peace) -
Before long we had all teamed up... with the prophetic juices flowing, dreaming of what we could do with the next donated handgun or semi-automatic. Folks started sending in their own creations from around the world - weapons disarmed and turned into art, or tools, or guitars.
Now we use one of the hand trowels from that AK47 in our garden here in Philadelphia... where we tragically see nearly one gun death per day.
It just feels good for the soul each time we beat a gun into oblivion... it feels like the world is a better place with one less semi-automatic.”[i]
Advent the time of preparing for the Christ child.  The time for waking up to something new. To claim not knowing in the face of old, old problems leaves space for another voice, another way of being.  To claim not knowing brings silence for God’s voice, for walking up the path to the mountain to learn God’s way.
And there, in our greatest unknowing, in our befuddled beings is Jesus…breaking in like a thief in the night ushering us into the loving ways of God.
Thanks be to God for the thieving, conniving ways of the coming Christ.  Amen. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A day of gifts, community and thanks.

The gifts of this day 'o thanks from the princess...

My mommy

This Village (that plays games, read stories, makes faces during worship, teaches sewing and piano, goes hiking, loves endlessly)

The West Wing (yes, she loves this show)

New toys in the dining hall

Woody Ball (a crazy game of bowling, dress up, dodge ball and capture the flag brought to the village by a family that learned it in Korea)

Birdseed Salad

My in(village) family, my out(village) family

Being healthy

Chocolate covered strawberries

The gifts of this day 'o thanks from the pastor...

Pals to turkey trot with, a daughter old enough to enjoy the running


Face-paint turkeys (being a mother constantly means rising to the occasion...even if the occasion is face painting a decent turkey)
Happy Thanksgiving! 

Sensational brunch; fresh fruit and truffles

Sun crawling over the mountain on our wild games of Woody ball

The miracle of a mid-day hot shower

Bright, ringing bell choir

Feast meal; family style dessert sharing

Prayers of thanks for everything we can think of…grace for all we forgot

Banangrams (I may have an addiction)

Sore legs and a not-so-sore back

Resting under a fuzzy blanket with my overly-tired daughter

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A frame to hold you.

For those who do not live in a monastic community in the mountains and attend daily worship -- this reflection may seem particularly bizarre.  "Liturgy" is a big 'ole church word used to describe the rhythm, flow, up and down of any worship service.  Hopefully, the idea of taking the ordinary and making pausing to be grateful and present it not such a bizarre notion. 

Last week my daughter brought home an activity she learned at school.  She instructed me to create a square using my pointer fingers and thumbs of both hands.  She then covered my eyes, turned my head and lifted my finger-frame in front of my face.  “Now…open!” she squealed.  I gazed past my dry, cracked skin into the frame that now held a small portion of the snow-capped
mountains above us and the rushing creek below us.  We were standing in the middle of the covered bridge that crosses Railroad Creek, a place where it is impossible to take in all the beauty of the earth.  It is a place we see nearly every day while living in Holden Village.  Looking through my finger-frame brought focus to the wonder; the border that suddenly appeared around the snow dusted pine gave clarity and importance to details that would otherwise be missed.  Even framing my sweet girl’s face helped me to see the masterpiece that was held in the frame, her deep brown eyes were somehow more enchanting.  All these sights: commonplace and extraordinary, overwhelming and yet captured in the frame of my hands.

Every Sunday night in this village we, as a whole community, gaze through another frame.  We shuffle into the Fireside room for our weekly Eucharist service and one pastor or the other introduces the liturgy.  The rhythm of the liturgy is what connects us to ancient worship practices and contemporary gatherings around the world.  The word “liturgy” means, the work of the people, and as the gathered assembly we become the workers who move through confession and forgiveness, Kyrie and Sanctus, hymns and canticles, prayers and broken bread. The liturgical frame has the same power as the simple finger-frame.  The liturgy takes the expansive nature of faith and relationship and offers focus and heightened awareness.  In the liturgy we can use infinite and sweeping words – Gloria, mercy, alleluia, confession and amen – and in the liturgy these infinite notions come to our immediate gathering. 

This past year at Holden we have lifted up a variety of frames through which we see a God come near, the masterpiece of the community, the power of the gospel promises to hold even us.  During the seasons of Advent and Lent, both seasons of preparation and promise, both seasons of wonder and waiting, we were framed with Jon Hermensons’ Is this the Feast? Jon first wrote this liturgy for Lutheran ministry called MercySeat in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The title alone begs for ambiguity, the music invites the community to wonder, to listen and to sing – what a frame to capture the gravitas of the seasons, what a beautiful cradle for the work of the people.

There was another frame from MercySeat, yet another musician who built a frame that called the village to another time and place, Good News Bad News connected the village with the yearning sounds of southern gospel.  The frame carried us into the summer season, which was also construction season in the village for this year.  The strong off-beats that led us to sing “Glory to God on high…” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” lifted the paradox of triumph and sacrifice – and the community awkwardly formed a circle for the communion meal to taste and see of the triumph and sacrifice.

The beauty is not in the frame itself, but in what is illuminated within the borders.  Martin Luther himself was firm in his belief that liturgy should never become law, the liturgy can and should change and flow in anyway or shape that will help the clear, bold and direct telling of God’s love.  The liturgy is not law nor is it gospel in itself.  The picture inside, the image of the body of Christ hearing  that message, that Word is what is the holy, captivating gift that our liturgy wraps in its frame. 

The liturgy is ordinary, so ordinary its shape as been maintained for centuries of practice and observance.  The people are ordinary, too.  Hippies in the mountains, hipsters in the city, hurting souls, healing bodies, feet that wander city sidewalks and mountain trails – together the great communion of all the saints is held together in the frame. When we gaze past our own broken existence and see through the frame of the liturgy, we are connected to a God who is both everywhere and right here, and we are connected to a community that is always and right now.

Liturgy: Commonplace and extraordinary, overwhelming and yet captured in the hands of God.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sweet Dreams

Holden Village
All Saints Year C
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Luke 6:20-31

Tonight we stand in a thin place – a place between physical, rational existence: what we can see, touch and know and a place beyond all that.  A place we have only known in our reaching imagination, our nightmare scenarios, our visioning for the future of our lives…experiences we cannot touch except with our hopes.

Our Old Testament lesson is from Daniel, a man known for being thrown into the lion’s den and for seeing visions and talking about the apocalypse.  Truthfully, this reading was just crazy enough to have me flipping quickly to the incredibly rich Ephesians readings…and then Bible and Brew happened.  The craziness of Daniel was not enough to distract the faithful crew gathered for bible study yesterday morning; instead we discussed the importance, power, and perhaps even truth telling of our dreams and the dreams that appear not just in the Old Testament of the bible, but throughout the entire Living Word.

Daniel dreams of four beasts emerging out of a raging sea and an Ancient One who sits on a flaming throne…in the reading for tonight we do not get the gory details, but they are there if you are brave enough to read the book of Daniel; there is terror and earthly powers engaging in battle. And over the raging sea Daniel sees an image of hope, the Ancient One riding down on the clouds of heaven and he hears the good word, “The holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom forever – forever and ever”.

There is woe in his dream, there is blessing in his dream, and he brings this vision to another to share what he has seen and heard and now feels. Daniel does not dream alone.  

It is difficult to know what to do with dreams and visions and especially difficult to know where and what God is doing through these middle of the night trips, if God or the Holy Spirit is doing anything at all.  But even up here in the mountains we have a troupe of folks meeting regularly to share and wonder about their dream lives.  I do not remember many dreams, but the ones that stick most closely with me are the dreams that feature people I have loved that have died.  I would like to share one of these dreams with you…

I first arrived at Holden Village as a musician on teaching staff in July of 2010.  We took the cross-country train trip with very little luggage, yet I was carry a heavy, unseen burden with me.  In June – just three weeks before our Holden trip, one of my very best friends died suddenly and unexpected from an undetected auto-immune disease.  Her name was Breanna, we met in college and lived together for two years with two other women.  The four of us were fused together with a mighty bond and saw each other through new jobs, sick parents, marriages, divorces, children and all the adventures of early adulthood.  Those three weeks between her death and our trip to Holden was spent in haze of grief, talking with her mom on the phone, planning the funeral and travelling to be with the small community in Minnesota that was grieving as mightily as I was. In those three weeks I got up every day and went to bed every night carrying a heavier burden of grief than I could believe.  Breanna, inspiring teacher, faithful wife and love-struck mother, fierce friend and sister – she was a saint of God and if we did not recognize it in her living, certainly her shocking and unjust death made it clear.

In the months following Breanna’s death she visited me in my dreams.  One dream began in her backyard, her handsome husband was grilling and the sprawling lawn was filled with people there for a good meal and party (which Breanna would have loved!).  I had a short and very ordinary conversation with Breanna as she bounced her baby around.  Then I found myself milling about when two familiar men approached me, in real life the two men and I were intern chaplains together and had spent many hours processing difficult ministry and life events.  In my dream I was so excited to see them so I could introduce them to my darling friend Breanna, the one I had just shard about a few days ago in chaplaincy group.  The men looked at me funny, and one of them said “You mean the friend who died?” With those words, with the acknowledgement of death and reality spoken alund the party disappeared, the dream was over.

For me that dream was holy land, after waking from the dream I knew I was in a thin place where I had seen real people I loved speaking a real truth, yet it all unfolded in an impossible place and was truly an unrealistic experience.  It was a space where I could process my current reality, a world without Breanna, a world where caring men helped me name the difficulties I could endure, a place where parties and joy and celebration can actually be the setting for such understandings.

It was a dream full of blessings, and woe and the communion of all the saints.

Blessing and woe are central words from our gospel reading where we hear Jesus teaching the disciples about life together on the earth.  Blessed are you who are poor, blessed are you who are hungry now, blessed are you who weep…and woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full now, woe to you who laugh. 

These words of Jesus have been called many things: a sermon, a teaching for his closest followers, in Matthew’s much more poetic version we call these words the beatitudes (no woes over there!) and given our scene from Daniel tonight and the spirit moving in this community, I wonder what happens to these words when we consider them a vision…or a dream.

Perhaps this is Jesus, as crazy as Daniel, spelling out what he has seen in the night when he falls asleep.  Perhaps his spirit is as troubled as Daniel’s was so he brings it to the disciples – not so they will interpret it, but so they will live it.  Jesus is sharing the dream of God for the world – that all may know fullness, that all may feel laughter, that all would have enough and that we would live, make decisions and remember one another enough to make it so.

Blessing, woe and the community of all the saints.

It has been an All Saints triduum here in the village.  On Friday night’s prayer around the cross our worship was framed in the all sinner, all saint paradox of faith.  Last night we gathered to celebrate the day of the dead.  And tonight we will read the names of the saints in our lives that have gone from this earth, but not so far from our hearts and minds and maybe even our dreams. Every life remembered this weekend – be it of an inspiring saint or be it of a scandalous sinner – every life lived is holy and beloved by God and every life lived and concluded in death is a window through which we gaze outside of this world of woe and blessing.

One biblical commentator has this to say about the world we tread in and the world beyond…she writes, “Saints do not come into the world apart from suffering.  Nor will we be able to find the light of God in our own lives, apart from ours.  For the saints are not among us to show us the way into easy, comfortable lives.  They are here to show us how to keep going in deep darkness…how to have hope in mean times.”[i]

I do not know all that is at play in our dream life, or in the spaces between living and dying.  But I know about a God who went to the place of death – the places where hopes die, where loves die, the places where nations crumble and abuse makes way for death – God went to these place, came to earth to touch and feel and known them…and now and forever promises to stay in the places of death and suffering always.  For those we have loved who have died, God was with them and they rest now in God’s love.  For those of us still living, we live with the woe, with the blessing and with the entire communion of saints and we are all bonded through God’s love.

We are a part of this community of saints that we can touch, hear, feel and where members of this communion can feel real hunger, poverty and weeping as well as fullness, riches and laughter.  We too are a part of the community of saints that we cannot longer touch and who live in the thin spaces of our dreams or memories or through the various movements we make to honor their lives.

Tonight, together, we stand in the thin places, where God is always present to receive the dying, comfort the grieving and inspire the living with dreams that move us to that great day of unity with all who have died, all who have lived will receive the kingdom of God–– forever, forever and ever.


[i] Nancy Rockwell, A Bite in the Apple, 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The worth of being worthless.

Our gospel reading for tonight is not a neat, tidy story – instead the words are captured under a subheading that reads, “Some sayings of Jesus”.  Oh, you know, what Jesus always said or some inside joke that we’re allowed to overhear, but this kind of eavesdropping never allows for explanation or context.  So, we have two sets of words that may or may not have been said in relation to one another and Jesus may have said them once or maybe so many times that his disciples knew to roll their eyes at the beginning of these stories.  

The disciples yell out to Jesus, “Increase our faith!”.  It is a plea and prayer that has been prayed countless times over the centuries by people just like these disciples – people afraid, jealous, restless and people who hope for something more for their lives.  With Jesus standing right there in front of them, they went straight to the source in hopes that their lives would be all they had dreamed – and those disciples dreamed of some big dreams.  And so they asked or demanded really, “Increase our faith!”.

The battle cry of the fearful.

It is no wonder that the disciples are begging for more faith – they have seen unbelievable, miraculous healings happen as a result of faith.  There was the woman who threw herself at Jesus’ feet during dinner and covered his feet with her tears and silence.  Jesus answers her bold humility with the words, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  And the women who pushed her way through the crowd simply to touch the cloak of Jesus in reckless hope that she might know healing, and Jesus responds to her with the words, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace.”

I imagine the disciples, the ones in Jesus’ inner most circle, were experiencing some frustration and envy as they watched people run up to their Rabbi and receive life-altering or life-saving healing and then the affirmation that it was faith, their very own faith that had made them well.  The demand for more faith seems like a reasonable request from the men who had been at Jesus’ side.

One afternoon, not too long ago, while feeling fearful about the future I tossed out a question to my daughter, “Micaela, where should we live next year?” Without missing a beat, like she was waiting to be asked, she yelled back “Underwater!”

The disciples, feeling fearful yelled out to Jesus “Increase our faith!” and he, with a similar helpfulness of my little one yelled back, “Mustardseeds!” And these nonsensical conversations might be as logical as we can get in the conversation about faith.   If we have faith, can we get more? If we have faith, can we lose it? If we have faith, how do we know we have enough faith – can we measure it, contain it, label it and wield it to our will?

Mustard-seeds are teeny, tiny little seeds with the potential of growing into brilliant, bold and somewhat obnoxious plants.  Jesus says if the disciples had faith the size of the mustard-seed they could uproot a mulberry bush and in other gospel accounts its entire mountains that can be moved with faith the size of a mustard seed.  Jesus does not say, “If only you had faith the size of a mustard seed” as if to point out the inadequacy of the disciples, he simply states “If you have faith the size of the tiniest seed”… Jesus is telling the disciples that they have the gift of faith already, they are equipped with enough faith already.  The demand of “increase our faith!” is superfluous to the life of a disciple as they have been given faith to uproot mulberry bushes and move mountains.

But Jesus did not call the disciples to a life of super-natural landscaping, but called them for another purpose, they are following Jesus for reasons so much more powerful and transformative than using a force of faith to move pieces of nature like magic tricks.  And that purpose leads us to Jesus’ second saying tonight.

It is a harsh telling of the relationship between master and slave.  Jesus points out that the slave should enter the house at the end of the day and fix dinner before being able to eat and drink himself.  And then Jesus turns the story onto the disciples, “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

“Worthless slave” is a rude label; it hits the ear in a very different way than “beloved child”.  Yet I believe this term is leading us to think about what we are called to do, much more than who we are.  Uprooting vegetation may not be the work which ushers in the kingdom of God to our lives and the lives of those around us…but living and giving and thinking like a “worthless slave” may get us closer to understanding our place in this world, our place at the table of mercy.

The Greek word for servant, or slave is “DooLas”, which Pastor Scott pointed out at Bible and Brew that word sounds an awful like doula…the clean and clinical definition of a doula is: a woman whose job is to give advice and comfort to a woman who is giving birth. But I think the more realistic definition of a doula is one who willingly sits in the blood and guts, the stink and the stains, who hears the screams and suffering, the one who urges for pushing and discomfort and the one who welcomes in new life.  The life of a doula, the life of the slave Jesus talks about and the life of the Christian is a life meant to serve a purpose completely outside of one’s own interest.  

That sounds like a ticket to martyrdom, and it could be…it could also be a ticket to freedom from fear and faith in God.  What does it look like to be a worthless slave serving a profoundly worthy purpose?

Perhaps it looks like a member of congress or the senate serving the people that elected them by going to work, taking a huge political loss so that they can be the civil servants they promised to be.

Perhaps it looks like concerned voters writing letters to their elected leaders explaining what a life of a worthless servant could do for the greater good, and most importantly for those who are without paychecks, social services, libraries, museums and national parks and forests.

Perhaps it looks like a renewal volunteer spending days or weeks chucking wood so people they may have met, or people they will not know can be warm this winter and stoke the community fires with ease and wood abounding.

Perhaps it looks like being with another who is sitting in the blood and guts of life, suffering and screaming, it could look like bringing comfort and light and welcoming in new life for those who are laboring.

I do not believe it looks like uprooting mulberry bushes, although we could if that was the task for the worthless slave…we could, because we have been given faith.  Through Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit we are given the free, substantial gift of faith – and it is enough to do what is asked of us as beloved, called and worthless servants, serving at the will of an all-loving and ever-giving God.

Increase our faith! Is a familiar prayer because the life and struggles before us are difficult and call for faith.  Do not be afraid to do what God is asking of you…as Jesus healed the sick and gave sight to the blind, as Jesus raised the dead and broken open systems of oppression, so also with us are we called to usher in life, as a doula, as a doolas, as a servant.  We cannot measure faith, we cannot contain it or label it and we are not given the gift of faith to bend it to our will…rather it is a gift, given to us by the Holy Spirit, and it is a gift that wields us to the will of God, the giver of life, the giver of faith. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Prayer Around the Cross: Autumn Reflection

Here in the village we worship every, single day.  As one (of many) who watches over our shared worship life, this can be a daunting daily rhythm   However, this week with my daughter experiencing some much needed healing, and the valley literally singing with the colors of autumn, I am feeling lighter and inspired and hopeful.  

Once a week our nightly worship is called "Prayer Around the Cross" (if you go to the Holden Village website you'll see one of the rotating pictures on the front page is of this worship service).  We write a script that creates a conversation around scripture, prayer, music, silence and contemporary writings.  It is a frame that holds the beautiful picture of prayer and community and lights shining in the darkness. 

Prayer Around the Cross
Holden Village
Autumn Reflection

L1:  May God be with you.    C:  And also with you.

L2:  Welcome to Prayer Around the Cross. Tonight we will spend our worship time in quiet intercessory prayer. This means we are offering our singing, our silence, our breathing, sometimes our tears, and even our whole bodies in prayer to God. We will be praying for ourselves and for each other, for our beloved earth, and all its inhabitants.

L1:  During our worship the room will be quite dark, inviting silence and stillness. The music during our prayer is simple and quickly learned: our singing is a way of breathing prayer to God.

CHANT: Kindle a Flame p. 20
the cantor can speak the words while the piano plays through the chant, the cantor then sings the chant one time alone and the congregation joins in for one or two repitions of the chant

L1:  The late mountain air tells the story of seasons change.  The crisp, cool worship space brings us together to huddle, to share warmth, to anticipate the crisp, cool days ahead.

L2:  The turning of trees and the vibrant colours on the mountain side paint a scene of beauty and wonder, the brilliant Holy Spirit-Artist inspiring and impressing all creation that dares to stop and watch the artist at work.

L1:  With chill in our bodies and the whirling of change in the air, we gather as a community to pray, to huddle together, to whisper with the Holy Spirit-Artist among us now.

CHANT: Kindle a Flame p. 20
All sing the chant through one or two times.

L2: The ushering in of this season means we look at the aging earth, put to sleep for the season and the fragility of life is staring back at us.  Does the onset of autumn bring fears of death and decay? Does the onset of autumn bring the thrill of winter and change?

L1: We praise God who brings us each season, yet each season is a time for marking the movement of our lives – placing us where we have always been, in the cycles of creation, in the story of the earth.

L2: Poet Carl Sandberg wrote of the beauty and despair that autumn brings us way when he wrote, 
         I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

  The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

         The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things
         come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go,
         not one lasts.

CHANT: Kindle a Flame p. 20

L1: Another poet sings the wonder of a Creator who nourishes the creation, season after season.  The turning to autumn is not only for turning and sleeping, but a gateway for joy. Season after season the crafted earth and the people of God are brought together to shout and sing for joy.  From Psalm 65
8 Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. 

9 You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
   you provide the people with grain for so you have prepared it. 
10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges,
softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. 
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
   your wagon tracks overflow with richness. 
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
   the hills gird themselves with joy, 
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
CHANT: Kindle A Flame p. 20
 (all sing the chant repetitively while 2 people light the single taper candles in the boxes and bowls)

L2:  Sandberg’s poem rightly mourns the loss of beauty and life that once was, yet he languishes with no hope or acknowledgment of the coming seasons.  How often we cling to what we know, what was beautiful was vibrant and full of life…

L1: How often we place our hope in the past or present and disregard the future God holds out in front of us.  Yes, the beautiful things pass away, yes the life we know will leave us as well.  Yet, the most beautiful of all, the Love of God, will remain.  The coming season will usher in a new way of experiencing the Love of the Creator, the new stroke of the Holy Spirit-Artist will awaken us again to new beauty, new life, new season.

L2: For if we live we live to the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord.  So then whether we live, or whether we die, we are God’s.[i] We belong to the Creator, we are again brought to gaze at the beauty of God in the new season.

L1:  When our chanting begins again, you are invited to come to the cross and pray. If you would like to pray alone, come to one of the boxes.  If you would like to pray with the support and presence of others, come to one of the bowls.

L2: Light a candle, lighting the way for the coming season, experiencing the warmth one small beacon of hope can bring to a whole people. Come when you feel drawn.

The musicians lead the 3-4 chants as the community moves through prolonged time of prayer.  May the Spirit guide your repetitions of the music and as you come to the end of one piece, another chant or piece of music should follow.  This section typically lasts anywhere from 8-15 minutes.

Kindle a Flame p.20

Pacem in Terris p.33

Though the Earth Shall Change p. 42

If We Live, We Live to the Lord p.16[ii]

L2:  Let us pray…Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for your love that gathers up and heals all creation with the Love of God. To you we turn, in you we live.  Amen.[iii]

L1:  Those who wish to remain in silence for prayer are welcome to stay.
When you leave, please leave quietly. Go in peace and serve the Living God.

[i] Romans 14:8
[ii] All chants from Singing our Prayer, a companion to Holden Prayer Around the Cross
[iii] Adapted from ELW Creation’s Praise prayer, pg. 81