Thursday, April 30, 2009

Psalm of Shared Pain (for Roseann)

This psalm is from Psalms for Zero Gravity:  Prayers for Life's Emigrants by Edward Hays
In pain shared, my pain is lessened;
this wisdom is hidden in Isaiah's words
when the prophet spoke in a taunting-song
of Babylon's defeated king.
Your Spirit, Loving God, hid in Isaiah's words,
in his coded mystical meanings about suffering:
"You too have become weak like us,
you are the same as we."

These words give me comfort, O God,
for Scripture also says that your son Jesus
was like us in all things but sin,
sharing our weaknesses and sufferings,
even while fully one with you, O God;
so you too share my pain.

I find comfort, then in the cross of Christ,
upon which was hung all of Earth's suffering.
So I believe, All-Compassionate One,
that you completely share my human condition,
my weakness and even this my pain,
thus making you both Almighty and All-Weak.
Comment: Suffering is a hard thing to endure and those who have someone by their side who is compassionate and has the courage to be fully present to that person's pain are fortunate indeed.  So many people do not have that comfort, but for them I pray that may they know that the Christ who suffered and rose from the dead is always present with them and for them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playing for Change: One Love

Another wonderful video from Playing for Change.  This one done in February of this year.

Playing for Change: Stand By Me

This is an awesome video. Play it!  We all need people to stand by us and they aren't necessarily those who are right next door.  This is inspiring.

Meditation For Day 29 (for Roseann)

From Celtic Daily Prayer
If I am truly poor, then I am dependent on others for everything, and I feel useless and worthless, and I realize deep within that everything is a gift from the Father.  Then in this attitude of complete dependence, I become useful again, for then I am empty of selfishness and I am free to be God's instrument instead of my own.  In poverty I begin to value everything rightly again. I see how little really matters, and I see that only that which glorifies God is of value. 

I write these words in pain, Lady Poverty, for I have wept bitter tears because I was poor and had to beg from others, and I felt like a burden to people and to God...And I have grown weary of Christ's words not to worry about tomorrow.  But in his grace I have surrendered to God's sovereignty and providence, and it has made me free...

Lady Poverty I love you.  You, my Lady, take all the sting from being poor.  In your embrace I am rich indeed, for I have someone to love.  I have you.  Perhaps, my Lady, that is why I keep submitting, surrendering my desire to control my life, my need to provide for the future.  You have stolen my heart and made me happy, and your love makes up for all the pain that loving you involves...and we know it is all worthwhile because when we look into your eyes, we see Christ Himself.
Murray Bodo
Dear Roseann, in the poverty of your illness may you find your usefulness and see Christ Himself.  You, in your wonderful spirit glorify God.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.  Amen.

Swine Flu Preparations

Telling Secrets has a great post on the fear generated by the potential flu pandemic.  In people's fear they tend to scapegoat and in this case it is Mexicans, who are often scapegoated anyway. Fear is such a basic  emotion, as is anger.  I wonder if maybe it is anger that is fueling some of the fear-particularly anger about the economy.  People who are in a negative frame of mind are not really able to make good decisions and we really need to be able to make good decisions right now.  Perhaps one of the reasons the President Obama is so well-liked is that he projects a calmness and positiveness that helps to counteract all this negativity.

Of course we really do need to be careful to help prevent the spread of flu, but we don't need to panic and "round up the usual suspects."  It is allergy season, and so many people with the sniffles don't have the flu, but do have allergies.  I'm going to ban intinction starting today at the mid-week Eucharist and talk about the potential for communion in one kind.  We will print up information materials for people to take home on how to prepare for an emergency, although the locals are pretty good in this respect since weather emergencies are not unknown here in the winter.  We'll also get our call-up list up to date and make sure that our shut-ins are taken care of.  It may take a while for this flu to get to Maine, but it is possible.  New York is not that far away and we are an isolated community with only one doctor and a clinic that is likely to be overwhelmed in the case of an emergency.  Besides, I think it would be good for our parish to  really think through what they would do in an emergency and this flu has the potential to come in waves.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just What the World Needs

The NY Times has an article called More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops , that I found fascinating.  In essence it's about the rise of secular humanism.  The reporting is from the southern part of the US (South Carolina to be exact) and I'm not surprised that this group, which in my opinion is much like a religious group, is getting more vocal. They say their campaign is much like the ones GLBTs have organized over the years. The article says:
Ten national organizations that variously identify themselves as atheists, humanists, freethinkers and others who go without God have recently united to form the Secular Coalition for America, of which Mr. Silverman is president. These groups, once rivals, are now pooling resources to lobby in Washington for separation of church and state.
I've always had friends who identified themselves in such ways, but have never lived in a part of the country where they felt a need to organize.  According to the article it is the support of the religious right during the Bush years that is fueling the movement.
Local and national atheist organizations have flourished in recent years, fed by outrage over the Bush administration’s embrace of the religious right. A spate of best-selling books on atheism also popularized the notion that nonbelief is not just an argument but a cause, like environmentalism or muscular dystrophy.
I have no problem with causes per se (well, not all causes-I pick and choose like most), but militancy tends to divide us in most unhealthy ways. There is nothing wrong with good honest debate and airing of views, but the religious right and the un-religious whatever end up by throwing fuel on a fire that is already veering towards the uncontrollable.  Whatever has happened to civility?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Road Trip

Izzie and I had a good time driving back yesterday.  We had a nice view of Mt. Katahdin, Maine's highest peak. There's still snow on the mountain. It was early in the morning and the sky and water were almost the same color and there was little wind.  You can see the mountain in the top picture a lot better if you click on it to enlarge.

Izzie loves road trips and is a great companion.  Looking out the window, especially on the driver's side is her favorite thing.  We don't drive with the windows down, however, and she has a seat which allows her to look out the passenger's side and NOT jump on my lap.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Thoughts

Our retreat went well.  The group worked hard on re-defining their mission and came up with a wonderful piece of art work to describe it.  The collage shows God at the center of all they do with rays going out to a diverse community and butterflies.  Their mission is to be catalysts for the diocese in developing and supporting lay ministries. 

Doorman Priest posted a video about global warming on his site and it generated a lot of comments.  For those of you who don't usually go there I highly recommend this.  It goes with my post earlier this week on how "ice out" has gotten earlier over the past century.

I've been away for nearly three days and the pond that is less than 200 feet from the house is nearly free of ice.  Just a little is left at the far end.  I noticed that the lake has streaks of open water now.  It may be that "ice out" will happen before the end of April.  Also there is green grass beginning to peek up through the dead stuff and major growth in the bulbs.  Soon there will be flowers.  The daffodils and tulips are up in full bloom down the mountain.  The retreat center had fresh cut blooms on the dining tables each day and they were even cutting the grass yesterday morning.  It's nice enough this afternoon to sit on the deck and drink a cup of tea, in fact it feels downright warm.  I even ate my supper out there and so did Izzie.

Izzie had a good time at our friend's.  She wasn't at home when I got there.  The two of them were off playing dominos.   Izzie and Oscar behaved pretty well.  There was no chasing the cat up the stairs, only an ocassional sniff as they passed each other.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good Friends

I'm going to have a very busy three days and won't be blogging.  First I'm celebrating our usual Eucharist and healing service.  Then after a bit of office work, I drive Izzie an hour to get her hair cut.  That takes about two hours, so I have time to pick up the supplies I need for a retreat I'm facilitating tomorrow and Friday.  Our Committee on Baptismal Ministry wants to rethink its mission and develop some ideas for the future.  After that I drive Izzie to one of her/our best friend's (in Maine) home to spend the next two nights.  She gets royally pampered.  When we get out of the car her tail goes like crazy and she runs up to the front door.  The only one who doesn't like her visits is Oscar, the cat.  They "tolerate" each other.  You see our friend got Oscar after she became friends with Isabelle and they both claim her as their very own special person.

Our friend is developing problems of old age.  Her memory is still ok, but it is failing and now she is developing osteoarthritis.  This lady is so full of fun and good spirits that we all hate to see this happening.  Izzie will be good company for her and I will get to spend one night too. She needs our prayers.

Prayers for our retreat as well.  The weather forecast is for rain today and tomorrow with sunshine on Friday.  This coming weekend is supposed to go up into the 70s and maybe 80s for the first time this year.  YEA.
Enrich, Lord, heart,
hands, mouth in me
with faith, with hope
and charity,
that I may run, rise,
rest in Thee.                George Herbert

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ice Out

Getting up late and sipping coffee and scratching Izzie's head are part of what make Monday mornings special.  The sky is blue this morning and the ice on the pond is slowly disappearing. Lots more open water. There was even a bit of open water on the large lake in front of the church. I noticed that the iris and daylillies are beginning to peek through the ground.  It's still below freezing at night, though.

Every year there's an "Ice Out" contest.  People guess the date and hour that the lake is navigable from one end to the other.  Last year I did a plot of the dates (actual, not guesses) and did a linear regression and, sure enough, it looks like global warming is real.  If the ice out date this year were to fall right on the curve it would be around May 3 like it was last year. There are data every year starting with the late 1800s and the average is about a week earlier.  Of course the actual dates vary dramatically, but the trend seems to be real.

Our church is working hard at energy conservation.  We've replaced all of the lights that could be replaced including putting new fixtures in the nave.  We now have programmable thermostats. We replaced the windows in the church and when the siding on the lake side was replaced, additional insulation was added.  We added a fuel catalyst to our oil furnace to help reduce the amount of oil we use.   Our next project is a windmill.  As I've mentioned in earlier blogs the wind really blows here.  Then we'll replace the hot water heating system, which comes off the furnace (that means the furnace has to run in the summer) with an electric hot water heater.  It will be interesting to see how much energy we'll end up saving.  We're going to check out the old freezers in the food pantry to see if any of them need to be replaced.  Our senior warden has been spearheading this effort and has done a fantastic job.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wombat Poo Paper

More than 250 people showed up for the funeral. It's a good thing the fire marshal wasn't there, the church holds about 200.  It was not an easy funeral and I needed a laugh after it was over. 

 Wombat Poo Paper did it. Found it at BBC News. I wonder if the good people of northern Maine could take a lesson from the Ausies. I bet Moose Poo Paper would be a tourist hit here. Like the wombat, moose are vegetarians and the area is loaded with paper mills that are shutting down, so Mainers know how to make paper. 
Wombats are herbivores and diets loaded with plant fibre make their faeces ideal for making some of Australia's most unusual paper.
Not only are moose herbivores too, they are huge and their scat should make a far greater quantity that the little wombat. The only problem I can see might be from the Air Quality people: making paper from trees smells bad enough.
Creative Paper manager Darren Simpson says the manufacturing process can be rather unpleasant. "When we are boiling it, it does smell horrific as you can imagine, but once it has been sterilised and rinsed properly there's no scent left to it. If anything it just gives you a nice organic smell," he said. He added that it was the tourists themselves who came up with the wombat idea.
I can just imagine an industry growing up around moose poo. I'm not sure I'd want to be one of the people who collect the scat, but there is a lot of moose watching in the area. People go out at dusk just to see how many they can spot, I wonder if the outings could include scat collection? On the other hand there is a wild animal park that has moose and that is likely to be a lot easier, just like in Australia.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Survival of the Witiest

Thanks to Grandmere Mimi for setting me on to News Biscuit
Evolution cannot explain existence of creationists, concedes Dawkins
In a severe blow to the credibility of evolutionary science, biologist Richard Dawkins admitted today that Darwin’s theory of evolution could offer no rational explanation for the continued existence of creationists. The process of natural selection sees genes which provide an advantage in the battle for survival being preserved across generations, but scientists can find no useful purpose for the gene which leads people to believe that the earth was created in only six days about 10,000 years ago.

‘It’s a flaw in our argument, for sure,’ said Dawkins today. ‘By any reading of evolutionary theory, creationists ought to have died out ages ago. They serve no function in the planet’s ecosystem, and no other species has survived so long while in such fundamental disagreement with observable reality. If I wasn’t such an ardent believer in secular materialism, I’d wager this is really troubling Darwin in the afterlife.’ Despite Dawkins’ concession, scientists are quick to point out that recent years have seen significant advances in our understanding of the evolutionary history of creationists. Not so long ago biology was unable to trace the emergence of the species in the fossil record, but a seemingly close correlation between modern-day American creationists and National Rifle Association members suggests they descended from a group of early hunter-gatherers who exploited another sub-group naive enough to think a man wouldn’t use deadly force to protect his property, a group that is itself all but extinct except in small British enclaves where Liberal Democrats continue to thrive.

Not all biologists are convinced by this explanation, however, and a number of mavericks still cite creationists as evidence of a process of ‘natural aberration’ in which nature sometimes gets it spectacularly wrong, a theory popularised as ‘unintelligent design’. And, like their closest living relative the ostrich, the creationists have benefited considerably from the efforts of conservationists. A vast building programme dating back centuries has provided large unheated refuges in most Western towns, and some creationists have formed closed communities to strengthen their resistance to the advances of modernity. Scientists also suspect that a strong distaste for abortion and homosexuality has probably helped keep population sizes up.
Comment:  This ought to get MadPriest going.  Two of his favorite topics, Dawkins and evolution.  Too bad he's left for vacation.

Sad News

A woman in town died earlier this week after a tragic fall.  She never recovered after surgery and her funeral is tomorrow.  May light eternal shine upon her.  This small town is likely to show up in full force at our beautiful church by the lake to say goodbye.

An Interview with John Polkinghorne

Romanesco broccoli showing very fine natural fractals 

Religion News Service has an interview by Daniel Burke with the Rev'd. Dr. John Polkinghorne, physicist/ Anglican priest. Polkinghorne won the Templeton prize in 2002 and has written many books on the subject many of which are in my library and some are well marked and read.

Christian thinkers have long employed insights from sociology, literature, and other fields to augment their ideas of how God works in the world. Yet despite the world-changing insights of science, very few theologians have drawn on physics, biology or geology in the same way.
Renowned Anglican physicist-theologian John Polkinghorne wants to change all that. His new book, “Theology in the Context of Science,” examines what topics like space and time can teach us about God, and how a scientific style of inquiry can benefit theologians.
Here are the Q and As.  
Q: Theology and science are highly specialized, often complex disciplines. Is it feasible for someone to become fully versed in both?
A: I’m not saying that every theologian has to approach theology through the context of science any more than a liberation theologian would say that everyone has to live in base community in South America. I wrote the book to encourage theologians to take the context of science more seriously ... without having to master all of the technical details.
Q: You write that theologians should be happy to operate in the “questioning” context of science, but they are often not. Why is that?
A: I’m puzzled by that. That kind of thinking impoverishes theology. Science and theology are cousins on a quest for truth. The insight of science is to move from evidence to understanding, not to start with general principles that will control the whole discussion. Scientists learn that the world is quite often surprising and doesn’t match our expectations. I am very happy to practice my religious beliefs in that sort of way.
Q: Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says physicists opened the door for her own faith, because they speak of the mysteries of the universe and, like theologians, often work with intangible evidence. Did something like that happen for you?
 A: That’s a fairly common experience; but no, I don’t have a dramatic story to tell. A word that is commonly used among scientists is wonder, though you won’t often see that word used in their scientific papers. Doing research is laborious, and often the reward for all that is the sense of wonder that people get from time to time. Scientists’ experience of wonder is, in a sense, an act of worship.
Q: A common perception in the U.S. holds that science and religion are at war. Is it the same in England?
A: To some extent. But if you’re caught in the sort of warfare, with one side constantly issuing challenges to the other, it’s not very fruitful. Each side has something to contribute to the conversation.
Q: Why should theologians read church fathers like Augustine, but scientists skip early figures like Newton?
A: Augustine and Aquinas know things about the reality of God that we need to learn. There’s not a presumption that 20th-century music is better than 18th- century music; in fact, I think it’s the other way around. There are insights that we may very well only be able to learn by apprenticing ourselves to them. Science is linear, it answers questions cumulatively. We think about creation in a different way, and I think a more helpful way, after Darwin then before Darwin.
Q: Contextual theologies like liberation theology or feminist theology are often concerned with power. Is it the same for scientific theology?
A: The use of power is less central in the context of science than the ones you mentioned, though certainly it is there. Science through technology offers us power, which can be an ambiguous gift. Theology’s role is to help science make ethically responsible judgments.
Q: There’s a lot of talk these days about so-called “God spots” in the brain. What do you make of such research?
A: I don’t think it’s terribly significant. It simply reflects the fact that we’re embodied beings; that when I think about science I use this part of my brain, when I thinking about God I use a different part. It doesn’t tell me anything about the nature of a scientific or religious experience.

Comment: I was particularly intrigued by the comment that science is linear and religion and music are not.  That scientific discoveries are built on the shoulders of those who come before is, of course true, but there are also the leaps of understanding in the works of great scientists such as Einstein and Darwin that don't seem to be so linear.  I wonder how they might be described.  At first I though it wouldn't likely to be fractal although random fractals result in highly irregular natural objects some of which have great beauty and one could think of these ideas as resulting in highly irregular thoughts of great beauty.  

I need to get this latest book, although I don't think our local bookseller is open again until the beginning of May.  (I was wrong, he opened today and I did order the book) On the other hand I haven't finished the last one of his I bought. Many stores are closed right now. Most of the restaurants in town are closed too.  This is mud season.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Signs of Spring

The artist Jeff Scher looks forward to the colorful arrival of spring. 
Comment: This video was in today's on-line edition.  The video is delightful animated art work and just what those of us in the northern clime need at this time of year.

Hugging Hubble

Star-Birth Clouds in M16: Stellar "Eggs" Emerge from Molecular Cloud (NASA Hubble Photo)
From the NY Times: Last Voyage for the Keeper of the Hubble
"On May 12, he [Dr John Grunsfeld] and six other astronauts commanded by Scott Altman are scheduled to ride to the telescope’s rescue one last time aboard the shuttle Atlantis. This will be the fifth and last time astronauts visit Hubble. When the telescope’s batteries and gyros finally run out of juice sometime in the middle of the next decade, NASA plans to send a rocket and drop it into the ocean.

If all goes well in what Dr. Grunsfeld described as “brain surgery” in space, Hubble will be left at the apex of its scientific capability. As chief Hubble repairman for the past 18 years, he has been intertwined with the Hubble telescope physically, as well as intellectually and emotionally. “He might be the only person on Earth who has observed with Hubble and touched Hubble,” said Bruce Margon, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and former deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Last September, Dr. Grunsfeld and his crewmates were two weeks from blasting off for Hubble when a data router failed, shutting down the telescope until a backup could be booted up. The servicing mission was postponed so that NASA could prepare a replacement router, adding another degree of difficulty to an already crowded and high-stakes agenda.

To accommodate installing the new router, mission planners had to cut into the time allotted for the repair and resurrection of Hubble’s main camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys. That repair was originally scheduled to happen over two spacewalks, and now planners are hoping to be able to do it a few hours on one spacewalk.

If it cannot be done, Dr. Grunsfeld said grimly, the pictures that have inspired people around the world, pinpointed planets around other stars and helped investigate the fate of a cosmos dominated by dark energy will be lost.

If anybody is up to the challenge, it seems to be Dr. Grunsfeld, who will be making his fifth trip to space."
Comment: The photos from Hubble have been so awe inspiring. For me it is like being able to imagine in a very tiny way God's creative and majestic working in our universe. The beauty of seeing pictures of stars being born and galaxies spiraling and shapes is so beautiful and inspiring.  It is a reminder to me that God is still creating and we are called to be co-creators with God. When we put our energies and talents to creating whatever is good, whatever is beautiful we are faithful stewards of the creative abilities we have been given. I do hope the repairs are successful. It has been a wonderful journey and I don't want it to end.

Later on in the article there is the interesting observation: '“In space you can get in touch with your quantum self,” Dr. Grunsfeld said. “I was a human cosmic ray detector.” He said he could identify the different kinds of particles zooming through his eyeball by how bright the flashes were.'  Wow, that's pretty amazing. A human cosmic ray detector. How fun would that be.
I would love to hug Hubble and I envy Dr Grunsfeld who has and will. "It will be with mixed emotions, Dr. Grunsfeld said, that he hugs Hubble for the last time — the last time that any human will touch it. “I try and tell myself it’s just a satellite,” he said.

It isn't just a satellite, really. When they were going to let it die school children raised pennies to send to NASA so they would keep it going. Hubble is a symbol of the richness that can come from scientific research. What this research will mean eventually for the good of humankind, I probably won't be alive to see, but those beautiful pictures will continue to inspire and I hope bring some closer to the One who created everything there is and to  the Incarnate Word who was there in the beginning.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Misc. Thoughts About Easter

I really do feel good this morning.  The sun is out and I slept very late.  The coffee is now on and I have three whole days to relax.  I have a whole slice of pecan pie to nibble on.  Life is good and to repeat again:  the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

Our teens (there are five of them) wanted to have a bonfire in the parking lot (it's not paved, just dirt) during the night before Easter.  I agreed that we'd do it if it were an adaptation of the Great Vigil.  We started in the parish hall (undercroft) with drumming circle in the dark, to gather our selves.  Then we lit the sacred fire in the fireplace and from that the Paschal candle and on to the Exultet.  Then each person lighted a candle from the Paschal one and took their candle outside to light the bonfire where the great stories of our faith were told, one for each hour.  At five am we renewed our baptismal vows and then at six (sunrise) we celebrated Eucharist.  In the early part of the evening (9-midnight) we had a few more teens participating.  In the undercroft were snacks and warm cider and a few things to do like folding origami cranes.  Outside on the lawn was a labyrinth ringed with votive candles.  Someone took picures of the labyrinth and the fire and I will post a picture here after I get a copy. I was there for the liturgical bits at the beginning and end and told the first story (creation).  It was chilly and we had a clear, star-filled at the beginning of the night.  In the morning  snow fell gently on us while we had communion.  A woman who was staying at the mountain for skiing heard that we were having communion at six and joined us as did the parents of one of the boys.

Only one of the teens kept awake all night.  I went home and got about five hours sleep between 11 and 4.  The rest crashed into their sleeping bags at various wee hours.  The adult who stayed all night with them is a candidate for holy orders.  We expect he will be ordained a deacon this summer.  He's also the father of three of the teens.   Last year, since Easter was so early and there was so much snow, I said no to this, there really wouldn't have been a place to put the fire.

The altar was beautiful with lilies and red tulips.  The preludes included my recorder solo "I know that my redeemer liveth" accompanied by our musician, whose piano solo was "Jesu, joy of man's desiring"  and then of the choir members sang "The Lord is my shepherd."  We had a lot of children for a change.  Grandchildren came up to see their grandparents and the families of the two children I baptized last year were there too.  It's nice to see the church so full.  It's too bad there isn't work near here and yet it's also nice there isn't.  This really is a vacation area and it's hard to think of any kind of industry that would fit.  Soon the summer people will arrive and our numbers will go up again.

I was invited for a nice Easter dinner of lamb.  Played a game of cribbage with a young man before dinner, and won.  Then Izzie (who enjoyed the scraps of lamb very much) and I walked home and I had just gotten comfortable when the phone rang and I had one of my long, but enjoyable conversations with a dear friend.  So that dear readers was my Easter.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

Ten years ago my mother was laid to rest on Holy Saturday.   My family is Roman Catholic and I had left in 1960 to become an Episcopalian after a friend took me to the cathedral in Boston and I fell in love with the liturgy.  Aside from loosing our mother, my whole family was upset at the attitude of the priest who did her service.  We understood that there couldn't be a Eucharist and we understood that she couldn't have been buried on Thursday or Friday (she died early in the week) but what we couldn't understand is that the life a woman who faithfully went to church every week for decades wasn't even mentioned in the homily.  I know he was busy.  Boy do I know, but taking a few minutes to add a few personal touches to a canned homily is not that hard. We were not asked what readings we would like.  We were not asked a single question about her.  I don't think he even visited her in the hospital her last two weeks.  (She had a stroke after surgery and never regained consciousness.)  Fortunately she was in a hospice bed in the hospital and the hospital chaplain did visit.  All of my brothers and sisters (there are seven of us) got to say their good byes and one of my brothers was with her at the end.

For the first five years after her death I could barely get through Holy Saturday.  Now this day is a very sacred and holy time for me.  I say the liturgy of the day in her honor.  What her burial service taught me is how great the pastoral needs of people are when a loved one dies and how much a careless attitude hurts and lasts.  

That Joseph of Arimathea and maybe Nicodemus and certainly Mary Magdalene and the other Mary took gentle care of that bruised and wounded body, is a reminder to me to take gentle care of people who are grieving after a death.  St. John's gospel tells us that Mary the mother of Jesus was given into the care of the Beloved Disciple, so some took care of the body and some took care of the grieving.  I have no fear of dead bodies.  Long ago when I was a hospital health physicist I had to occasionally visit the morgue and so lost my fear or repulsion.  That really helped during my internship as a hospital chaplain.  It is amazing how our life experiences all fit together to help us do what we are called to do now in our lives.  Last year there were ten funerals or burials at our small congregation.  No weddings and only two baptisms and those were grandchildren who lived away so will not be regular members.  I tell people I greatly prefer to do a funeral than a wedding.  I do love baptisms though.  It's a reminder that as we die with Christ we also rise with him.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Signs of Spring

There is hope that spring is really coming to the mountains of western Maine.  The spillway between the pond and the lake is flowing rapidly.  There are small pools of water at the edge of the pond.  The grass is still dormant, but Phil the Goose has returned from wherever it is he (or she) has spent the colder months.  We worried about Phil because he was the last goose to leave these parts as the lake froze up.  He mooches off the kids at the school and the people who come to our church.  Last fall he came right up to the door of the undercroft looking for a handout.  In addition to Phil there are flocks of birds of all sorts returning and looking for food on the lawn and flying up into the trees when Izzie gets out of the car.  I need to get out my field guide or ask the many "birders" in the congregation what they are.

This Good Friday morning I'm feeling a bit fragile.  So much to do and so little time left.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Saw another Alfred Hitchcock movie this evening, Frenzy done in 1972.  It is a dark comedy, but the bits with the Scotland Yard investigator at home with his wife who is taking gourmet cooking lessons (French) are really funny.  Good way to unwind after a busy day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chrism Eucharist

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Today I drive two and half hours to Bangor to renew my ordination vows and have lunch with the bishop and my fellow clergy.  I love the service.  It's so much more intimate here in Maine than in California.  There Grace Cathedral was filled with the hundreds of priests and deacons, retired and active that are in the diocese.  It was grand and awe inspiring, but to tell the truth, I really prefer the smaller setting here.  I couldn't make it last year because of the weather. Easter was so early and, of course, we had snow.  Of course the lazy me would prefer a half-hour drive into San Francisco even if it means spending $10 to park my car.  Probably more now.  As I leave there are flood warnings. Lots of rain yesterday and some of the rivers have ice jams in addition to melted snow and rain.  I think all the roads will be clear, but we'll see.  I'm leaving a bit earlier than I had planned.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Izzie's New Hero

Izzie's got a new hero.  Check out the story on her blog. Izzie loves to wander but there's no way she could take down a baby goat. Anyway goats don't run wild here.  She's more likely to run into bear, moose, deer and bobcat and some of those might like her for lunch.  And swimming isn't her thing either. It's a good thing Sophie Tucker lives so far away though, the old dog might learn new tricks.

The Missing Station 3H

There's more wonderfully silly stuff at Pharisaios. All about the Diocese of Wenchoster.  

Violence Breeds Violence

I am, like so many people, saddened and dismayed by all the violence of the past week and it lays heavy on my soul at the start of this Holy Week.  While rummaging through things I came across a site that has the art work for Stations of the Cross from Latin America by  Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 1980. The stations are done as Powerpoint presentation with text by a Scot, Alastair McIntosh. The text for the Third Station, which is pictured above says:
Crushed By the Cross – Jesus falls for the first time under the burden of the Cross. Brutal violence has weighted him down, just like that which afflicts peasants, farm workers and the urban poor today. In the foreground we see Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a man of peace who was assassinated at the altar when celebrating Mass on 24 March 1980. Jesus never taught “just war theory”; he taught nonviolence, telling Peter to put away his sword - “No more of this” (Luke 22:51). As such, the cross becomes the supreme symbol of nonviolence – the power of love that exceeds the love of power.
The Stations are based on liberation theology, which for me has its positive as well as problematic sides, but the brutal violence of so much of our world does weigh us down as did the brutal violence that Jesus experienced. It's not just in wars and civil wars that violence is played out: on Saturday the 4th of April a father shot dead his five children, then himself, near Seattle; on the same day a gunman killed three Pittsburgh policemen before he was wounded and caught; on Friday, April 3rd a gunman killed thirteen people at an immigration centre in Binghamton, New York, and then killed himself; and on Sunday March 29 a gunman killed seven elderly residents and a nurse at a nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina, then shot and wounded himself; and in another incident on that same Sunday a man killed five relatives and himself in Santa Clara, California. And there are the incidents that only make the local papers: the man who beats his wife to an inch of her life; the wife who shoots her husband because of long term abuse; the children who suffer violence in silence. It is all too much to bear. Then I look at what Jesus bore and I cry and I hope that I do reach out when a hand is needed and I thank God for never having had to endure such things myself. It is true that all violence is good for is more violence.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"No Them, Only Us"

This sermon is much shorter than usual, but the gospel is so much longer.  The title comes from Grandmere Mimi.

Palm Sunday is such a schizophrenic day. We start out by waving palms and singing and welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem and end up by nailing him to a cross.

Were the same people in that crowd greeting Jesus into Jerusalem and in the crowds demanding his execution a few days later? Maybe some of the same people were in both groups. It is more likely, however, that they were two very different crowds. The first was made up of Jesus' followers and friends from Galilee and the poor, the people with disabilities, sinners and the marginalized who heard of his reputation as a healer and teacher. The second group was made up of the throngs you'd find in any city on a big holiday. Jesus’ followers were likely anyplace but there. Only his closest followers stayed near Jesus. The crowds that usually followed him probably got wind of Jesus’ arrest and that their dream had ended and they faded away into the streets. It was pretty certain that the Jewish leaders would grab Jesus and put an end to his "good news" because they viewed it as a threat to their power. It was wise to stay low until the trouble blew over.

After all a demonstration in one of the busiest weeks of the year for Jerusalem was not going to be received very well. Passover was a busy time and for the authorities even a small demonstration like this one challenged the Roman occupation and the religious authorities. From their perspective, those people who followed Jesus were troublemakers.

So why take a happy holiday like Palm Sunday and tack the Passion on to it? Mainly, because so many people don’t come to church for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services and we can’t just leap from Palm Sunday to Easter, so we really have two themes put together in one service. But there can be no Easter without the cross. Easter is more than flowers and bunny rabbits and new clothes. And, by the way, Easter isn’t enough without Pentecost. Even though Jesus’ work here on earth was done, it would take a period of time: the time between Easter and Pentecost, for things to be changed. Things would be not to be what they were but what they were to become. It’s an interesting coincidence that this year the time between Easter and Pentecost is the time when a selection of a new rector for this church will happen. A time of death and dying followed by resurrection.

Human lives seem to work that way. John V. Taylor in his little book, Weep Not for Me, said that “Death followed by resurrection, life through dying, is the way things are. It is not a truth limited to the one event of Christ’s death and resurrection, nor does it affect us only when we approach the end of our lives. It is a principle of all existence. Hang on to what you have of life and you are lost. Let go, do the necessary dying, and a fuller, richer quality of aliveness will be given to you.”

I look at certain blogs everyday. One is written by a woman in Louisiana, called Wounded Bird. She is funny and thoughtful at the same time. She wrote one blog this past week called “No Them, Only Us.” It was about an art exhibit she had seen, but my thoughts on that phrase went immediately to this Palm Sunday. I thought about the fact that there were “no thems” in the crowd that greeted Jesus. There were “no thems” in the crowd that shouted for the release of Barabbas, there were "no thems" in the crowd that went to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus.  There are “no thems” in this country or this town or this church. There is “only us.” We don’t necessarily act that way or feel that way, but the life and work and death and resurrection of Jesus was to help us live in being "only us."

Friday, April 3, 2009


Every other month the transition ministry people get together for a diocesan meeting.  That means the priests serving parishes in transition and the consultants who help the search committees.  Today was our meeting for this bi-monthly period.  It meant four hours of driving for a four-hour meeting, but the good thing is that I got to be with colleagues and talk about things that matter.   The parish I'm serving is in an isolated area and there are practically no colleagues to speak of or to, so these meetings are important to me for many reasons.  I appreciate the good spirit of the people who come to our meetings and the generous information exchange that takes place. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


My Wednesdays are always busy, but this morning I decided to start a bit earlier than usual and join some women for breakfast at the mountain. The ski trails were being groomed and the sun was shining. It was a great way to start the day. I saved a piece of bacon for my Izzie and then the two of us were off to the church for the Wednesday morning Eucharist and then an ECW meeting followed by a rehearsal for Easter with our Minister of Music. As part of the pre-service music I'm going to be playing "I know that my redeemer liveth" by James Filmore on one of my recorders accompanied by the MM on piano. It sounds a bit like a Salvation Army band piece, but it is lively and fun to play.

Wednesday evenings during Lent we have a soup supper followed by a program that this year is a video series on figures in the New Testament.  Good turnout and the soups have been great.  Then to relax I've been going to a film series of Alfred Hitchcock films.  The price of admission is a donation to the local non-profit of choice.  We're supporting two young people who are going on a mission trip this summer, so that's where my donation goes. 

By the time Wednesdays are over, I'm ready to sleep.