Monday, October 26, 2009

Who Are We?

Linda Clader posted this on Facebook and I liked it enough to grab it. It's really worth repeating here and lots of places. We are hope.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Cost of Following

Today, I'm serving at St. Matthias in Richmond, Maine as supply. I've used the hymn "Will you come and follow me" a number of times in sermons and it seemed to fit today's lessons too, so here's another version. As usual, the sermon is as written, not as delivered.
Picture from Wikipedia.

In his address to the Diocesan Convention on Saturday, our bishop, Steve, talked about the changing fortunes of the parishes in the Diocese of Maine over its history. Among the things he said was: We know that we are in the midst of massive change both economically and culturally. We know that 1959 (when our Sunday Schools were chock full and everybody went to church on Sunday mornings) will never come again. We know that the economies that built and supported our communities are gone or going. We know that the things that we keep trying to do aren’t really working, haven’t worked for a long time... but we keep wishing it weren’t so and keep trying to make them work. We keep thinking that if we could only do it right, then we’d get back on top of things, and our congregations would flourish again. He then spoke of the difference between tweaking things, which he called “technical change” something we all tend to do, and “adaptive change” which means working at learning new ways to be church.

When Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho with a big crowd, they encountered Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the side of the road. Bartimaeus shouted out to Jesus quite loudly asking for mercy. Now a lot of people in the crowd didn’t like this dirty beggar disturbing the order of things, but that didn’t stop Bartimaeus from shouting until Jesus took notice nor did his blindness didn’t keep him from running over to Jesus as fast as he could go.

When Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Bartimaeus answered "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus told him it was his faith that made him regain his sight and followed him on the way. This following Jesus on the way is church. Bartimaeus joined the group of followers . Not only did he see again, he saw the path opened for him. He obviously wasn’t born blind because he said to Jesus “My teacher, let me see again.” And after his healing we hear that “he regained his sight and followed Jesus [him] on the way. The shouting until he was heard and the following were both adaptive changes. It was pretty dramatic stuff.

I don’t know if a song from the Iona Community in Scotland is familiar to you. It’s starts: “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name? One tune is found in Wonder, Love and Praise, the supplement to our hymnal, but most people know it with this melody.

1. Will you come and follow me if I but call your name. Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
 Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
 will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Jesus does call us by name, but often we seem reluctant to listen. Naming is important. Naming a new baby. Maybe choosing a new name as an adult, or choosing to use our middle name instead of our first, or when a woman chooses to use her husband’s name after marriage or when a couple decides to hyphenate both surnames. In some cultures real names are kept secret, because knowing someone’s name gives you power over them. Names are important. We don’t know the names of all the people Jesus healed, the gospels don’t always tell us, but we do of know the name of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus because he became one of Jesus’ followers.

2. Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
 Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
 Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
 Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

The God who created us both individually and collectively as church wants us to follow his Son. When we do that, we can see there is a way that is different from the way of the world. We, who are so often blind, see. One of the things we can see clearly is this world we live in that is so often marked by cruelty, vengeance, deceit, injustice; a world where so often people and governments alike lie about what is really going on in order to hide the truth of unfair dealings, exploitative relationships, and oppressive policies. When we follow the way and let God answer prayer in us we become like Bartimaeus unafraid to speak out. Because of God’s faithfulness that never lets go of us, we are set free to be the people we are called to be. This is the God who never turns away from us, even though we really never stop being sinners as long as we live in this world. Jesus sets us free to look at our lives and our communities with the point of view of the kingdom of God, where love is primary. Where love requires us to put everything on the line, to love those who are difficult to love just like we love those who are easily lovable, and to answer our unique call. We are called to adaptive change.

3. Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
 Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
 Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
 and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

I’ve often wondered what letting the blind see really means. Does it mean we are called to remove barriers to others seeing what God’s kingdom is about? What does that mean in a small church like this? It’s scary to admit to what Jesus means to us. If we admit to what he means we might have to go out and follow like Bartimaeus did. In discipleship, Jesus leads us down many paths of service in life, many activities, occupations, and roles, but the disciple is always playing as serious game of “follow the leader.” Our leader provides not only direction but the power and grace to persevere.

4. Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
 Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
 Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
 through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

How do we stop the fear we feel when we’re called to reshape the world around us? We’re all so much more comfortable with things when they don’t change, yet they change in spite of ourselves. Our prayers in community, our breaking bread together, our listening to God’s world will help us not to hide. Every time we take communion together, remember it is first and foremost, God’s hospitality to us present in the person of Jesus. All the inhospitality in the world is looked at straight in the face in the awesome mystery that Christ gave himself for us. It signals that in God’s kingdom there is room for everyone, even blind beggars.

5. Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
 Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
 In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
 Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

Jesus calls us ordinary people to follow him and leave their old selves behind just because he called them by name. Jesus calls us to serve him no matter what our work is, whether we’ve retired, or if we’ve just started out. I know that there are events in our lives that make everything else seem trivial, at least for a time. These events can be negative such as the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one, or a huge natural disaster, or a major economic crisis like we’re now in. They could be positive too, like a chance at a new opportunity or getting ready for marriage or welcoming a new baby into the family. When we think about how these events take over our lives, our minds, our feelings, we can appreciate how important being in community is. Facing these things alone is daunting, but we’re not alone. To be in community with each other, with our families and with others in this dioceses will help us live in anticipation of Christ’s coming is to live in faith and hope. It will take all of you to find out what God is calling you to become, so you can live and move and grow in Jesus as he lives and moves and grows in each of you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hunter's Orange: Hiking at Dodge Point

The four of us took a hike at Dodge Point near the Damariscotta River. We bought sandwiches and ate them in the car because it was so chilly out. Just as we were about to embark on our walk, we noticed a sign saying to wear orange because there could be hunters in the woods, so I drove back to town (10 minutes) to Reny's (a Maine institution) and bought us each an orange watch cap and Izzie an orange band for her collar. Izzie's band doesn't show in this picture, her hair is hiding it. This is at the start of our walk. Fortunately I'm not in any of the pictures. I would imagine that my purple jacket with orange hat would make me look quite odd, or festive, depending on one's PoV. We should have gone home to get Izzie's pumpkin outfit (hah).

The air was was cold, and there wasn't much sun, but the woods were quite lovely. Grandson is supposed to go on a nature walk and collect things to share at school, so we found some birch bark, acorns, pine cones, rocks and red and yellow maple leaves. We will iron the leaves between pieces of wax paper to preserve them. He can take a copy of this picture along too. We can't take living things with us out of the woods, but pictures are a great way to keep memories alive. Izzie loves hiking and had a great time being off leash. I'm glad we found this place. I saw it while driving down the road to pick up a pottery chalice and paten for Rangeley's new deacon.
Yesterday we drove up the coast to the Penobscot Narrows Observatory. Four-hundred feet above the Penobscot river on the top of one of the piers you get a great view of the town of Bucksport upriver and the sweep of the river as it moves down to the ocean. An elevator takes you to the top. It is on the site of Ft. Knox, built in 1844 to protect the river valley against possible British invasion. Maine was involved with border disputes with Canada both during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The fort, seen at the top of the point of land to the bottom left of the photo, was named after the first U.S. Secretary of War, Major General Henry Knox, who was born in Boston, but retired to Thomaston, Maine, just a ways down the coast.

My grandson loved the canons at the old fort far more than going up the elevator to the observatory. I found a book called "You wouldn't want to sail in the Spanish Armada!" and he has had his father read it to him a number of times already. He especially likes the parts where things get blown up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Something Silly

The Bangor Daily News covered the Pumpkinfest with the headline "'Something Silly' hits Damariscotta." The photo is from them as well. It's the founder of the fest on his motorized pumpkin. Grandson really enjoyed the pumpkin drop, though. Watching a 300+ pound pumpkin drop on a junker car from 200 feet is quite a sight. Silliness indeed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Damariscotta Pumpkinfest

Well, judging by the number of people walking downtown yesterday, Pumpkinfest must have been a success. The pumpkin boats raced and artists carved or painted pumpkins in front of businesses and they were quite imaginative. Izzie was a hit in her outfit. You can tell how thrilled she was to wear it in the picture on the left. She got her picture taken by so many people, she'll be famous around the country (one lady said she was from Colorado) and a man from Texas asked where we bought it so he could get one for his dog for Halloween.
The next photo is my son and grandson and Izzie on the way downtown. We'll take more pictures today.
The pumpkin drop is this morning. I have no idea what that means. It's also the last day that the homemade ice cream place (Round Top Farms) will be open until next summer. I do love their ice cream even though I'm lactose intolerant. They have vanilla lactose free ice cream, but some of the flavors are so tempting that I make sure I have Lactaid with me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Glorious Maple

Here's a picture of the maple in the front yard. I decided to take the picture before more of the leaves fall off. They're predicting more rain tomorrow. The tree is turning bit by bit rather than the whole tree turning at once. There's still a lot of green on the top. This is my favorite time of the year even if it does mean that winter is on its way. I really missed the seasons the years I spent in California.

This and That

I finally have a place to work at home that's not the dining room table. After looking at desks and tables and such I finally settled on Elfa freestanding shelving. Since I am only renting this house, I wanted something I could take with me that was versatile. Of course trying to put it up by myself was exciting. There are cross-pieces at the top of the vertical standards that were impossible for me to pound in from a step ladder. After grousing to my friend of 35 years (he's in California) and an engineer, I followed his suggestion of putting the unit flat on the floor with the feet against the wall and putting them in that way. It worked!

In case you're wondering, that's not St. Francis on the top shelf, but St. Martin de Porres. I love it because of the dog, cat, mouse and bird on the statue. Born in Peru in 1579 of a Spanish father and Panamanian mother, this first black saint from the Americas is supposed to have set up a hospital for cats and dogs at his sister's house. His feast day (Roman Catholic) is November 3. It's pretty fragile pottery, but has survived all of my moves to various place for my interim work.

This is all part of a push to get the house finished for the visit of my son and grandson for a week starting on Saturday and then for the visit of a couple of friends the following week for a few days and then my friend Jane from Vienna will be coming in early November.

Next task to get the small bedroom in order.

Update: Making a bed with Izzie around is quite a task. She insists on jumping on the bed and gets up on top of each layer. I usually try to do it when she's pre-occupied (sleeping). I finally managed to finish. Small bedroom is ready. Now for the study.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Garrison Keillor Apology?

My friend Peach spotted this and posted in on facebook. It's a piece by Garrison Keillor found at Common It was originally posted on Salon and is titled
I Was So Wrong
Even people who oppose regulation and don't mind manufacturing hamburger contaminated by E. coli deserve healthcare

It's good satire in typical Keillor fashion that takes Republicans to task. I particularly like the bit where he says "Republicans have the same right to quality healthcare as anyone else, and you can quote me on that. Even people who are crazed stark raving berserk by the thought of a president with three vowels in his last name deserve to be treated with kindness and dignity, and shot with tranquilizer darts by game wardens and wrapped in quilts and taken to refuge."

As Peach said, Keillor is an American treasure.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Episcopal Bishop of Maine Speaks Out

I lied, I didn't post at all last week, or this week either. Today's press release from my diocese was enough to get me off my duff and post this. Yesterday, The Episcopal Bishop of Maine made a statement during a press conference sponsored by the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine. Although his whole statement may be found on his blog Round Maine with Bishop Lane, in essence what he says is that he supports voting "no" on Question 1 (Question 1 if passed would repeal the work of the Maine legislature permitting same-sex marriage). He says:
It is my belief that the right to marry is a crucial civil right, establishing both protections and obligations that safeguard gay and lesbian couples and their families.
It is core to our Christian belief that we are all children of God, created in God’s image, and, in baptism, we are all full members of the church. In the Episcopal Church, we have also determined that sexual orientation, in and of itself, is no bar to holding any office or ministry in the church, as long as the particular requirements of that office or ministry are met. In many of our congregations, both here in Maine and around the country, faithful same-gender couples and their families are sharing in their local church’s life and ministry and in service to their communities. As full members of our churches and contributing citizens of Maine, these families are as entitled to the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage as any couple.
He ends by reminding us that "Our tagline of many years, The Episcopal Church Welcomes You, has never seemed more important."

I'm proud of my bishop and the clergy and lay people who stood with him at this conference and all the people of faith who spoke. There is a video of the Dean of the cathedral who also stated his view on scripture and marriage equality, which I recommend as well.

Erratum: I changed "Proposition" to "Question". After living in California for so many years, and voting on so many "propositions" I reverted.