Saturday, November 6, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts.

Now that's a quote that I'm sure makes more sense in its context.  So much of what I hear in the media is from people who are really good at speculation and not looking at facts.  Or maybe it's because people don't really make "daring speculations" at all, but merely take other people's misuse of data, or refuse to consider data at all and make pronouncements that are garbage.  (I'm still grouchy over the election results.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sermon, Millinocket and Comments on Convention

I drove Izzie up to Millinocket on Wednesday afternoon, so I could drive down to Diocesan Convention and have her there for the Sunday service. It is over three hours driving each way and I wasn't willing to drive home from Convention Saturday night and have to leave at 5:30 in the morning to celebrate. I will let Izzie tell you about her experiences.  Convention was great.  It was nice having most everybody in the same place rather than having to drive from all over town.  The food was good.  And, even though there were 17 resolutions, we managed to get through them all and ended up finishing on time.  It is wonderful having our work bracketed by the Liturgy of the Word, at the beginning and the Liturgy of the Table at the end.

Me and the Jr. Warden, Feast of St. Andrew 2006.  We were piped into the church that morning.
My sermon at St. Andrew's, Millinocket October 24, 2010.  A congregation I served as an interim a while back.
Psalm 84 which has the verse "How lovely is your dwelling place, oh Lord of Hosts" was, I think, written with St. Andrew's in mind. You have no idea how many people I have told of your beautiful church and it is so nice to be back with you. It doesn't seem as though it's been over three years since I've celebrated at your altar.  God has blessed you with Fr. Bob's ministry among you for this time.
At convention, the bishop spoke about how we needed to change to thrive as church.  Notice I said thrive, not survive.  In the Press Herald this morning a columnist said Mainer's were not good at adaptive change, they preferred evolutionary change. I know You have survived many things, from your priest’s  sudden death, to the impacts on your numbers with the mill closures, and now with your current priest’s decision to leave at the end of the year.  Surviving is good, but thriving is better. That's what adaptive change is about.
So how do we move from surviving to thriving.  A lot of it has to do with blessings. The blessings we receive from God and one another and the blessings we give to others.
The Pharisee in today's gospel is acting in a way that curses rather than blesses. He says: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people, thieves, rogues, adulterers or even like this tax collector." what a way to pray to God! And its not just God who hears. People who look down their noses at others for whatever reason make the recipient of their scorn feel badly. That's what curses do.  Sometimes the people scorned feel so bad, like the rash of young people bullied so relentlessly they took their own lives.  
Most of the time though even though our curses may seem milder, they can hurt just as much. Like the mother who tells her daughter, "it's a good thing you're bright, because you certainly aren't pretty." Or the uncle who thinks teasing is funny, but it often makes the nephew feel inadequate. I think it is when we cannot accept ourselves for who we truly are, that we lay our own imperfections on others. The tax collector knew who he was and offered himself to God, just as he was.  He knew that God's mercy is wider than the sea and that God welcomes all of us sinners.
So how do we move from the way of curses to the way of blessing?  There is some help in the title of convention. It was: "there’s a wideness in God's mercy." That is a blessing for all of us!  And all of us need blessings; from a mother's first kiss on her baby's cheek, to the holding of the hand of an aging parent on their dying day.  We humans thrive with blessings. Sure, some of them are formal ones that pronounce God's blessing on a newly married couple, or on all of you as you leave this place on a Sunday morning, but we are called as Christians to bless each other on our way, every day, and in lots of tiny and not so tiny ways.
I wrote some notes during the bishops address at convention that might help St Andrew’s as you think about your future in ways that could bless you, and your town of Millinocket and I recommend that you take home a copy of his address to read and discuss.
  • Preserve mission not church—church is more than buildings it is the people and if we are not a mission oriented church we will not thrive.  Our mission to the local community and to the greater world is necessary to thrive.  It is a blessing.
  • Need to collaborate and share—many churches in Maine are declining in attendance and creative ways of collaboration and sharing will need to be thought through and tried.  Imagine sharing as a blessing rather than a burden.
  • Ministry sites for a regional church—not every church needs to do every thing.  Giving to the church through the things you are passionate about is a blessing.
  • Move from mine to ours—imagine viewing ministry done here as part of the greater ministry of the Diocese of Maine.  What a blessing that could be.
  • Adapt while maintaining episcopal way of worship—the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality doesn’t help adaptive change. Creative ways of worship, while keeping to the prayerbook are not mutually exclusive, they are blessings.
  • Priest should be into Christian formation and education, rather than administration—imagine what blessings to individual congregations would come out of that thought.  More people with an understanding of what it means to be an Episcopalian and a Christian means more people for the mission of the church.
  • Mutual ministers of the good news rather than consumers— In the hymn, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,” it states if our love were but more faithful we would take him at his word and God’s blessings would spread out into a world that sorely needs blessings.
  • Beacons of love in a hurting world—that’s a phrase I just loved. Again in the hymn it tells us that God's justice is kind, in fact it “is most wonderfully kind.”  A blessing from God to us and from us to the world.  Becoming beacons of love in the midst of injustice, hate, distrust and fear is part of our mission.
So take a copy of the bishop’s address, read it, discuss it, because what is in there is important to St. Andrew’s and to its future. 
I am closing with the blessing used at the end of convention Eucharist.
Life is short,
And we do not have much time
to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us. swift to love, and make haste to be kind.
And the blessing of God,
who made us,
who loves us,
who travels with us
be with you now and forever.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Sermon

Photo by Brian: This is how Izzie and I travel
I was asked to supply last Sunday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bridgton.  It's a lovely new church with very friendly people.  They even put up with Izzie during coffee hour, although she seemed content to stay in the car during the service.  Izzie was delighted to find that they were serving some cheese.  Driving there takes about two hours so that meant leaving our place about 6:30 for a 9 am service. Here's what I told them in my sermon:

“Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.”  This week of wonderful news about the rescued 33 miners in Chile, has touched a lot of hearts and praying a lot has been part of this story.  I’m sure that some of them did lose heart during the 17 days in that rock prison, until they were found alive, and we will hear the stories in the weeks to come, but it is clear that faith in God, faith in each other, and faith that they were being searched for helped them through those dark days.
But this parable that Jesus told is more than just praying always.  It is a parable about justice, both human justice and God’s justice.  Justice for people like the widow, who along with orphans and the stranger were to be cared for, not taken advantage of.
I think children have an innate sense of what justice is.  I remember my daughter around the age of 5 or 6 when we went to see a re-run of Disney’s Cinderella at the local theatre.  The scene when after the animals had made her a beautiful ball gown, the nasty step sisters tore it to shreds.  My daughter yelled at the top her lungs, “that’s not fair!”. Of course it wasn’t.  I remember saying that the world is not always fair.  Almost forty years later, I know the world isn’t always fair, in fact, I see more and more injustice rather than less.
What would you have done if you were in the sandals of the widow.  If you were told that no one cares about justice any more and that you would have to fight it out by yourself with your neighbor.  Just by taking on the widow’s case, she won.  In Jesus’ first century Eastern Mediterranean country, taking someone to justice was a serious matter of honor.  In modern street speak, the widow “dissed” her opponent just by having the matter heard.  She had enough faith to believe that God was on her side and that keet her going.
Perseverance is important in faith and in society.  If we take part in the justice system in our country we need faith and persistence.  It's not easy and it costs money. A person needs to be tough and determined to get through the justice system.  You really do need to believe that God works for a just society because the whole system is not only cumbersome, but the wheels of justice run slowly. 
And if you are one of the brave people who work to change an unjust society, faith and perseverance are two qualities you will sorely need.  Entrenched positions are really hard to shift.  Economic advantage or privilege and a network of injustice is hard to penetrate.  And people usually have mixed motives, wanting the change, but not wanting to change themselves.  I’m reminded of the speech the President of Chile made about changing the contract with the miners to make the mines more safe and thinking how difficult that is likely to be.  The mine they were working in produces gold and copper.  And in a contest between money and safety, safety doesn’t always win.
Even when we try to solve conflicts in our families, faith and perseverance are needed,  Broken relationships are hard to mend and people don’t like admitting they might have been wrong.  And if we think God has a quick fix for the wrongs of the world, think again.  Look at the cross.  God knows that Justice, Truth and Reconciliation are costly.  But in the parable, Jesus makes it very clear that God is on the side of justice and God does care.
The judge in this story has no respect for God or humanity.  What a contrast this is to the God of mercy and justice who needs our hands and minds and hearts to bring about God’s kingdom on this earth.  That will certainly take persistence and faith.
Notice that at no time have I talked about justice as retaliation or vengeance.  So often on the TV news we listen to people whose family members have been killed speak in their grief about outcomes that sound more like vengeance than justice.  I don’t know how I would react in such a situation, but I wonder if our justice system could do with a bit less of vengeance and more of God’s justice, which is about fairness and truth.  

Today's gospel is story that challenges us and encourages us.  And not only us, this challenge and encouragement was needed by those in the early church who heard Luke’s gospel.  After all Christ had not yet come back in glory to usher in the kingdom where peace and justice and truth would be the norm.  In the scheme of Luke's gospel, this parable is told to the disciples as they were on their way to Jerusalem with all its conflicts and the shadow of the cross looming. They needed encouragement to stay the course.  Of course, we know the story doesn’t end with the cross; there is the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit to sustain us. I don't know if you heard that many of those miners spoke of their rescue as a resurrection.  How their future will play out will depend on their listening to the Spirit working in their new lives.
Pete Seger wrote a folk song, called "If I had a hammer."  The hammer is the hammer of justice, hammering in the morning and in the evening all over the world.  Justice in that folk song hammers out danger and warning and love.  God’s will for everyone is for justice: the sorting out of what is good and true in our world, it requires our cooperation and our faith in God and each other.  After all the prophet told us to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Climate Change is Real, People

Watch this Nissan commercial.  It was aired at the New Orleans Saints' football game and it really nails the global warming issue.  Besides, polar bears are beautiful creatures to watch.  Makes me want to consider a Leaf as my next car.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.

How very true. I do wish I could say I never think of it, though.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Last Sunday in the North

Sermon for St. John's, Brownville Junction and St. Augustine's. Dover-Foxcroft
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The Rev. Amelia Hagen

I returned from a trip to the UK earlier this week.  The primary purpose was to attend a gathering and retreat of the Society of Ordained Scientists.  Of course, I also spent some personal time going to some places I've always wanted to see, York (not Maine), Whitby, the Isle of Iona and Durham.  Like many people I'm drawn to the early saints of Ireland and England.  My own sense of adventure, which is one of my core values, is why I love doing interim work.  Iona was founded by St. Colomba and 12 followers by getting into little boats and sailing from Ireland to the Scottish Islands. From there Christianity came into Scotland and northern England.  And then of course, Whitby is associated with St. Hild and the Council of Whitby where a decision was made on how to calculate the date for Easter (among other things), and then St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede in Durham.
Cellist and Pianist—Iona Abbey Church

But back to the gathering of The Society of Ordained Scientists.  Our retreat leader used science fiction as a peg to talk about theological subjects.  You'd be surprised at the number of members who are closeted sci-fi fans.  One of the short stories was by Arthur C. Clark written in 1953, called The Nine Billion Names of God. In this story some Tibetan monks are trying list all of the possible names of God.  They believe that once the naming is done, the universe will be complete and God will bring it to an end. The monks had been working on this for three centuries ever since they created an alphabet that could encode all the names of God, and an algorithm to throw out the nonsensical ones(they believed that all the names had less than nine letters). They had been doing this by hand and had estimated it would take another fifteen thousand years to complete the work. To speed things up, they decided to use a computer. So they hired two western computer programers and rented a computer. 

The computer programers don't believe that listing all the names of God would do anything, but it's a job. The monks take the print-outs and paste them in the books they've been putting together for the last 300 years. After about three months the job is about ended and the programmers were worried that the monks would blame the computer, and them, when nothing happens. They bid the monk goodbye, who, by the way, gives them a strange look, and the programmers leave just before last print run. As they ride down the mountain path on ponies, under clear star-filled skies, they stop briefly. One of the programmers looks at his watch and says that it must be just about the time that the monks are pasting the final printed names into their books.  As they gaze at the stars, they notice that one by one, the they went out.

In some cultures, to know God's name is to know God's nature.  So what nature of God, does today's gospel reading, with Jesus teaching his disciples the Lord's prayer, point to? So when we pray to "Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name," what kind of Father pops into our mind. You know all of our names for God are metaphors.  God is like a Father who is both strong and caring, that is maternal as well as paternal. For Moses, God is the Great I Am (Will Be) who is present and promises to be present always with God's people. The New Zealand Prayer Book in an alternative Lord's Prayer says it by using lots of metaphors: Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven.

We really get a clue to the part of God's nature, Jesus is talking about, in the second part of the gospel reading. It is about generous hospitality. Some people think it's about pestering God until you get what you ask for, but  there are other translations of the word that we get today as persistence.  Shamelessness or impudence are two of them.  (thanks to Bosco Peters  for this idea) The neighbor asks only once, so persistence doesn't really seem to fit too well.  We know that hospitality is important in that first century culture, and still is, in the Middle East.  And avoidance of shame is also extremely important in that culture.  These first century people lived hand-to-mouth and the extravagant hospitality expected to be given to strangers could put a family in real economic trouble, yet if they didn't show hospitality they would be shamed.  Quite a predicament.  But, I would suspect that it's really not about us, although it could be, as much as it's about God.  It's about Jesus showing us what kind of God, the Father is.

We know that Jesus, the icon of the Father, was himself a radically hospitable person.  Just remember the feeding with the loaves and fishes, his healings, and his welcoming of sinners to the table.  Jesus points to a God who really is a Mothering-Father; who wants good for all of his creation. In the words of one of my favorite scientist/theologians, John Polkinghorne,  "A creator who is rational, joyful, good and holy."  Jesus points to a God who is not only rational, joyful, good and hospitable and generous and holy, but a God who is the source of hope.  Hope to those who have so little; whose daily bread is not assured. Hope to those who are not welcomed and know nothing of hospitality and generosity. We are called to put our hope and anticipation of God's kingdom come into action every day of our lives.

We are to be the impudent, shameless ones who ask, knock, seek and find until all of God's children have the bread they need for the day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trip to the United Kingdom and SOSc Meeting

Although there's a lot of putting away to be done, I've finally got all my belongings (except for my cross country skis and snowshoes) into the apartment.  It was quite an undertaking and just barely accomplished the transfer before I left for a trip to the UK and the annual gathering of the Society of Ordained Scientists.

My first stop was York.  This is one of the most charming cities in England.  I love the old streets and ability to see so much by walking.  Although very tired from my flight I walked over to the minister and wandered around, guidebook in hand. I realized I had left my camera at home, so I took no pictures of the place.  They were getting ready for a concert that evening, but I was way too tired to even contemplate buying a ticket.  I went back to my hotel, ordered tea (sandwiches and sweets) around 6 pm, took a bath and crawled into bed.  I know I was asleep by 8 pm and slept until 8 the next morning.

After breakfast I bought a camera, all the while listening to the York town pipers practically outside the door of the camera shop.  So, of course, that was the first picture I took.

York Pipers
After that I walked through the city park and then along the city walls.

You can walk on top of the wall in York.
The hosts at The Willows B&B in Whitby, suggested that I take the bus rather than the train from York.  It was fascinating going over the moors and through little villages.  It was a long ride though.  They made me a pot of tea when I arrived and I sat and watched a steam-powered bus go by, shooting flames as it came to a stop.  Took a walk through the town to orient myself, but saved going up to the abbey and its 198 steps until Sunday, the next day. The ruins are not of Hild's original abbey, but much later.

Ruins of Whitby Abbey
It was blowing gale force winds on the headlands, but it was sunny and warm enough.  I went to church at St. Mary the Virgin which is just outside the abbey grounds.  It was Morning Prayer, led by a lay person since the clergy, we were told, were off at Oberammergau.  The church itself is very strange.  The arch into the choir and sanctuary is cut off by white-painted pews which form a sort of balcony around the church.  It is very difficult to see the altar.  There is one of those three-tiered pulpits in the center of the church, with the clerk's desk on the lowest level.  Reminded me of colonial-era churches in the US where preaching rather than communion was considered to be most important.  The people, however, were very pleasant and the coffee hour nice.  The view of the town on the way down from the abbey is quite impressive.

Old Town of Whitby from Abbey Steps
After a rest I walked over to the West Cliffs (the abbey is on the East Cliffs), another headland and peered down on the bathing beach below.  The brightly painted cabins are quite a treat to view.  Since it was fairly late in the day on a Sunday there weren't many people left enjoying the sunshine (and wind).  Off in the distance was a replica of Cook's sailing ship.
Whitby, West Cliffs Bathing Cabins
The next day it was supposed to rain, and it did.  I had decided I wanted to take the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Train.  It was lots of fun and the scenery fascinating, especially going through deep valleys in the moors.  The line is run entirely by volunteers and I was told they have no problem getting them. 

Steam Train from Whitby to Pickering
The next day I met some colleagues at the bus station and we were taken to Sneaton Castle (a former school) where our gathering and retreat of the Society of Ordained Scientists was held.  I didn't take any pictures there.  Whitby Abbey was visible at a distance when the fog and rain didn't hide it.  Walking the grounds of the Castle was pleasant.  The place is run by sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, who are basically a teaching order.  There is no longer a school, but a lot of their work in done in Africa.  What was a school is now a conference center, and quite well run.  The chaplain, new to the place, was originally a scientist and decided to join us for our meditations and at the admittance Eucharist, became a member along with four others.  One of the new members is Moira, from Scotland.  She and I both studied chemistry and math.  Since she offered me a lift to Edinburgh, I accepted. That was my next stop, where I spent the night with Fiona, a friend from long-ago time in Vienna.  Her condo overlooks the Firth of Forth and this is the view I woke up to in the morning.  I sat and watched the fog lift a bit while I sipped coffee.

Firth of Forth
It was then off to Oban and Iona.  I booked a tour across the Isle of Mull.  The bus driver gave us a great history of the place as we went along.  It was about a two-hour ride. The scenery was beautiful—high, green, rounded mountains with waterfalls coming down from great heights; shaggy highland cattle and of course, lots of sheep of all sorts.  The little ferry to Iona runs every 15 minutes, but the big one to Oban, not so often.  Because the weather had been so bad, the last ferry of the day had been canceled and we needed to be sure we caught the three o'clock one off Iona.  It was raining when we arrived, but the sun was out when we left.
Oban to Mull Ferry
St. Colomba's Shrine
You can read the words.
Iona Abbey Buildings

Nave of Church
There were a cellist and pianist rehearsing in the nave crossing for a concert to be held in a couple of days.  I sat down and basked in the beauty of the music and the place.  Next pictures are from the cloisters.
The Cloisters at Iona
Abbey Bell
I was getting hungry so I decided to go have lunch when it decided to rain quite hard.  The sheep in the next picture looked like it was trying to get a bit of shelter from the rain.
After lunch I went for a walk along the shore in the opposite direction of the abbey.  The sky went from grey to blue over the course of my walk.  Here are a few of the things I saw.

As you can see the sky has begun to turn blue by the last picture.  I then started to walk back to the ferry terminal.  Both the sky and water are much bluer.  People were sitting on the rocks eating their lunches and waiting for the ferry to come.  I am even more amazed now that I've seen the place that St. Colomba and his 12 companions safely made the trip from Ireland to Iona and that this lovely little island became such a place of learning an pilgrimage.
The next morning I went to church at the Episcopal Church of Scotland cathedral in Oban.  They're in the process of searching for a new bishop, so the bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness celebrated and preached.  He had just spent some time camping on Mull (lots of rain) and said he probably didn't look much like a bishop that morning.  The people really like him.  One woman told me she hoped they could find someone like him to be their bishop.  The sermon basically said we need to be both Martha and Mary, not one or the other.  The bishop asked what would a church be like if everyone were Marys?  Interesting thought.  I got a really warm welcome and am glad I went.  I then grabbed my suitcase and took the noon train to Glasgow, then Edinburgh and finally to my destination, Durham.

I really did get steeped in the early saints of Ireland and Britain.  First Colomba, then in Durham, Cuthbert and Bede.  I loved the Norman towers of Durham and the history is fascinating.
Durham Cathedral
Too short a time in Durham, just like it was too short a time in York. The train was not nearly so interesting from Durham to London as it was between Edinburgh and Durham.  I loved the vistas out to the North Sea.  Got to my hotel near Victoria Station just in time to meet Doug's train from Bristol.  We had about 2 hours for dinner and talking.  Not nearly enough time.  The next morning I went for a walk to St. James Park and took a stroll.  The duck and the flowers were little treasures, but most of the treasures were in my mind.  The first time I went to London for the IAEA I stayed on the other side of the park and went for a stroll through it.  The memories were of all the wonderful scientists I got to meet and work with:  Mike Bewers, Bill Templeton, John Shepherd, George Needler, Geoff Webb, Dennis Whitehead, Jan Pentreath, Chris Garrett, Gunnar Kullenberg and so many others whose names escape me at this time like Marion's last name.
Duck in St. James' Park
Flowers, St. James' Park

Monday, May 31, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

Jesus showed us how true that is.  It's a good quote for Memorial Day as well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Voice in Government

I fell asleep watching television last night.  I had a very strange dream.  I was in a room where we were supposed to take turns discussing something very important.  What the subject was I don't know, but it was important, and it was as though I was totally ignored.  Everyone else was given time to have their say, but no matter how much I screamed and carried on and asked for my turn, it was as though I wasn't even there.  The moderator completely ignored me.  I then went to another room, different people, but the same thing happened.  By-the-way, the people in the dream were clergy I know here in our diocese and that made it even more frustrating. When I woke up, the Republican candidates for governor were just finishing their spiels on Maine Public Television.

Wonder what this means about my thoughts on not having a voice in government?  Hummmm.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A New Place to Live

I found a nice apartment with two bedrooms and one and a half baths in downtown.  It has nice views of the harbor and is over a coffee shop and across the street from a restaurant I enjoy going to.  I'm going be moving in during the month of June so I'll be settled before I take my trip to England to the meeting of the Society of Ordained Scientists.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Celebrating Frances Perkins

Today, if it were not The Feast of the Ascension, we in the Episcopal Church, would be remembering Frances Perkins, the first woman cabinet member (under F.D.Roosevelt).    As Secretary of Labor, Frances was responsible for much of the social programs of the New Deal.

Frances was a summer member of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Newcastle,where I am attending while waiting for my next interim.  I'm enjoying singing in the choir and this coming Sunday there will be a lecture at 2 pm on her life called "Frances Perkins, heart and soul of the New Deal" by Donn Mitchell and Evening Prayer at 4 pm celebrated by our bishop, Stephen Lane.  The choir will be singing and there will be a quartet of fine voices as well.

At last General Convention, Frances was included in Holy Women,  Holy Men, the revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. For more information on both Frances and the commemoration go to St. Andrew's website.

Loving God, we bless your Name for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the special vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be maintained in health and decency. Help us, following her example, to contend for justice and for the protection of all in need, that we may be faithful followers of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fire Over the Earth from Mass on the World

Photo: Sunrise from Wikimedia Commons.
To continue on with Teilhard's Mass on the World from Hymn of the Universe—after the Offertory is a section called Fire Over the Earth.  Teilhard speaks of God as Power, Word and Fire.  The uncreated Light with which the Orthodox grace their icons, is the "blazing Spirit"called upon to transform us each and every day to new work, renewed and evolved .
Fire, the source of being: we cling so tenaciously to the illusion that fire comes forth from the depths of the earth and that its flames grow progressively brighter as it pours along the radiant furrows of life’s tillage. Lord, in your mercy you gave me to see that this idea is false, and that I must overthrow it if I were ever to have sight of you.
In the beginning was Power, intelligent, loving, energizing. In the beginning was the Word, supremely capable of mastering and moulding whatever might come into being in the world of matter. In the beginning there were not coldness and darkness: there was the Fire. This is the truth.
So, far from light emerging gradually out of the womb of our darkness, it is the Light, existing before all else was made which, patiently, surely, eliminates our darkness. As for us creatures, of ourselves we are but emptiness and obscurity. But you, my God, are the inmost depths, the stability of that eternal milieu, without duration or space, in which our cosmos emerges gradually into being and grows gradually to its final completeness, as it loses those boundaries which to our eyes seem so immense. Everything is being; everywhere there is being and nothing but being, save in the fragmentation of creatures and the clash of their atoms.
After reading this wonderful description of how the Light of the World eliminates our darkness, slowly and over God's time, not ours, I realize how impatient I tend to be over the smallest of things.  It also speaks to evolution as part of God's time and timing— patient and sure—growing to "its final completeness."  This very long view of time and creation must come naturally to geologists who see the earth layered in its millions of years of change.  And then to end the section with these most beautiful words of blessing over the living world and words of mystery for the evil around us — all living things are God's Body given for us and that the Blood shed for us are all those things bringing us to death.
Do you now therefore, speaking through my lips, pronounce over this earthly travail your twofold efficacious word: the word without which all that our wisdom and our experience have built up must totter and crumble — the word through which all our most far-reaching speculations and our encounter with the universe are come together into a unity. Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

All of the talk last week on geology reminded me of this picture I took a few years ago of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Wyoming,

And, some of Jim Skehan's quotations from Teilhard got me interested in finding out more about his (Teilhard's) "Mass on the World." I found a link to Chapter 1 of the book Hymn of the Universe and am putting down just a few quotes to get you interested.  It is a gifted, spirit-filled piece of writing.  Teilhard wrote it while doing geological (paleontology) research in China in the 1920's and is truly incarnational in its view of the world.  Teilhard starts with an "Offertory":

Since once again, Lord — though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia — I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world.
Over there, on the horizon, the sun has just touched with light the outermost fringe of the eastern sky. Once again, beneath this moving sheet of fire, the living surface of the earth wakes and trembles, and once again begins its fearful travail. I will place on my paten, O God, the harvest to be won by this renewal of labour. Into my chalice I shall pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the earth’s fruits.
My paten and my chalice are the depths of a soul laid widely open to all the forces which in a moment will rise up from every corner of the earth and converge upon the Spirit. Grant me the remembrance and the mystic presence of all those whom the light is now awakening to the new day.
Offering ourselves to God through our labors is something I keep forgetting when I am not "employed." For a few years, while working at the Lab in California, I would walk down hill to pick up my van pool.  The walk was through a cemetery and had views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.  On sunny mornings it was easy to thank God for all I had been given and to pray a walking meditation.  But even on foggy mornings, the memory of the views was still there and God's presence in that silent place gave me joy in a wonderful start to my day.  At the bottom of the hill was Fat Apples with hot coffee and wonderful pastries to eat while waiting for the van to show up.

 My habit when I drove myself to work was to recite the Jesus Prayer (Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner).  It helped the 40-mile commute go by quickly and make the sometimes insane traffic bearable.  And also, at certain times of year, I would marvel in the sun coming up over the hills. When I got to my office I would turn on the computer and say the daily office with The Mission of St. Clare. I've learned that routines make it so much easier to pray and meditate.

One of the rules of the Society of Ordained Scientists is that we pray for each other and there is a daily list of names.  This year I'm on day 10, which is today.  It is wonderful to know that I am being prayed for on the tenth of each month along with Stig, Michael and Robin.  I keep the card on my bedside table so when I do morning prayer I can pray for them.  I still use the Mission of St. Clare site.
For me, my God, all joy and all achievement, the very purpose of my being and all my love of life, all depend on this one basic vision of the union between yourself and the universe. Let others, fulfilling a function more august than mine, proclaim your splendours as pure Spirit; as for me, dominated as I am by a vocation which springs from the inmost fibres of my being, I have no desire, I have no ability, to proclaim anything except the innumerable prolongations of your incarnate Being in the world of matter; I can preach only the mystery of your flesh, you the Soul shining forth though all that surrounds us.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

North American Province of the SOSc Inaugural Meeting

Photo: Barbara Smith-Moran, SOSc
It is going to take me forever to catch up on my blog reading and I'm sure people have thought I've dropped off the face of the earth.  Last week was the first meeting of the North American Province of the Society of Ordained Scientists (SOSc).  We had a lovely retreat near Boston and our meditations were based on the ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, led by James Skehan, S.J., a geologist and Teilhard scholar.  It was wonderful installing five new members and five new associates, getting to know people better, and praying together .

I intend to get out my yellowed copy of the Divine Milieu and tackle it again.  I also want to get started on "Praying with Teilhard de Chardin" by Jim Skehan.  He also introduced me to "The Mass on the World" which the quote below comes from.  The Mass on the World was written while he was working in China and unable to celebrate the Eucharist on a regular basis.

"Glorious Christ,
you whose divine influence is active at the very heart of matter,
and at the dazzling centre where the innumerable fibres of the multiple meet:
you whose power is as implacable as the world and as warm as life,
you whose forehead is of the whiteness of snow,
whose eyes are of fire,
and whose feet are brighter than molten gold;
you whose hands imprison the stars;
you are the first and the last, the living and the dead and the risen again;
it is to you to whom our being cries out a desire as vast as the universe:
In truth you are our Lord and our God! Amen.” (The Mass on the World, 1923,
XIII, 131-132)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

Where is Einstein when we need him.  A spirit of tolerance is sorely needed in our country now.  People are so angry and unwilling to listen to the other.  And it doesn't seem to be just here—in our Anglican Communion listening is in short supply too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I spent six days in Northern California, mostly staying with my long-time friend Dave.  The first few days were sunny and warm, and then the rain hit.  This rainbow appeared during a break in the weather.  It is springtime and everything was so green.

The primary reason for the trip was to see my advisor at CDSP about my thesis for a D. Min.  I am not happy with the data I've collected and proposed some additional work.  The thesis is on preaching in the interim time and has two parts, the first is how I use what is happening in the congregation to inform my preaching (the easy part) and assessing the feedback (if any) to see if my message is getting across. (the harder part).  I also needed to find someone to replace a member of my committee who is now at another seminary.

I also got to go up to Sebastapol and spend a day (and night) with my friends Rod and Mary.  Rod is recently retired, but seems to be working as hard as usual, finishing up work on committees for the diocese and his Rotary presidency.

I also got to go over to Sausalito to church.  It's been over five years since I did the interim there and they seem to be doing quite well.  They've put in a brand new kitchen in the parish hall that came in under expected cost and it's beautiful and so much more useful than the old one.  Of course I was there the week after Easter and there was no choir and a somewhat depleted congregation, but that's Low Sunday for you.  It was fun speaking with parishioners I knew and basking in their praise.

I really do love the San Francisco Bay Area, but the prices are still out of reach.  David took me out for some wonderful meals while I was at his house.  The most memorable of which was at a fantastic Chinese restaurant in Lafayette.

When I returned to Maine, I discovered that the forsythia was in full bloom.  The weather, which had been quite warm when I left, had turned seasonally cool and the yellow against the red barn was quite wonderful.   The lilac outside the kitchen is leafing, but there won't be any flowers until late May. The daylillies are up about a foot, although it will be a few months before we see the orange flowers.

The week that I returned has been a very busy one.  I did a workshop with a  group in a church in Auburn.  I was training them to facilitate small group meetings to start an Appreciative Inquiry process.  They are working to discover what God is calling them to be at this point in their life as a congregation and make plans on how to get there.

Then yesterday I drove to Brewer to start working with the search committee.  The fastest way to get there is to drive up the coast, and even though it was a drizzly morning, the views of the ocean along the way and the wonderful yellows of forsythia and daffodils and the occasional white blossoms on fruiting trees was  soothing to the soul.  The willows are nearly in leaf and have that pale green haze on their hanging branches.  My Izzie enjoys car trips so I had her squirmy company on the two hour journey.  The committee and I decided that it would be far more efficient to work with me via Skype than for me to make a lot of trips up to Brewer.  That suits me.

Here is a blessing for times of search:
The God of Truth bless you with the discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficiality so that you live and make decisions from deep within your heart.  Amen
The God of Understanding make you tender in the face of pain and rejection so that others can know the comfort of your acceptance.  Amen
The God of Justice make you fierce in the face of oppression and exploitation so that others can live with dignity in the midst of your respect.  Amen
The God of all Wisdom bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can lead other to do what many claim cannot be done.  Amen.
And the Blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Life Giving Spirit keep you as Jesus' friends, in your search for a new leader, and forever.  Amen.

(The blessing is from Rob Voyle's "Assessing and Discerning Calls.")

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.

If you want to know what I've been doing the last few days, go to Izzie's Blog where you'll find  an inelegant answer.  

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chrism Eucharist and Countryman's "Living on the Border of the Holy"

I don't remember where I got this image of Marc Chagall's crucifixion, but it's a reminder to me of the need to learn from people whatever their belief.  During this Holy Week, when historically, Christians have incited the persecution of Jesus' people, the Jews, it is most apt.

 Yesterday I drove to Portland to St. Luke's Cathedral to renew my ordination vows, pick up some blessed oil for baptisms and anointing the sick and to have lunch with my colleagues. The service was wonderful as always, but it seemed more meaningful this year.  Lay people were specifically included through our renewal of our baptismal covenant.  Bishop Steve spoke of how strange it felt for him to renew his vows as a bishop [at the last meeting of the College of Bishops] with only bishops present because as Episcopalians we acknowledge four orders of ministry: lay, deacon, priest and bishop. At the altar were two deacons (both female), three priests (two men, one woman) and, of course, the bishop at the altar.  There was also the Verger, the Cross Bearer and Two Torch Bearers (lay).  All four orders were visibly present.

After we renewed our baptismal vows, the bishop addressed the deacons: "Deacons, do you reaffirm your promise to look for Christ in all others, being ready to help and serve those in need?"

Then he addressed us priests: "Priests, do you reaffirm your promise to minister the Word of God and the Sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?" 

And then all the people (lay and ordered) addressed the bishop: "Bishop, do you reaffirm your promise to share with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole church; will you sustain your fellow presbyters and take counsel with them; will you guide and strengthen the deacons and all others who minister in the Church, so that they may join in the evangelization of the world?" 

Then we ALL said together "May almighty God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and bestowed upon us the forgiveness of sins, give us the grace to uphold and perform our vows."

What this service brought to my mind was Bill Countryman's book "Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All."  I spent about 15 minutes looking for it on my bookshelf, and when I found it discovered I had put a sticky note on page 186.  I'm not sure why I marked this page before, but what struck my eye this morning and that seems so appropriate for Holy Week is on the next page:
It is love that permits us to accept the services of others as our priests [Countryman is using the term "priest" here in its most general sense].  We can trust others as priests only if we are persuaded that they have a genuine reverence for us and care more for our well-being than for their own authority.  The priest who is mainly interested in a fee of some sort is not a true priest.  The fee in question may be material, or it may be emotional or spiritual.  The priest may want to get rich, for example, or to gain intimate power over the lives of others, to get and hold a reputation for being always right or to be praised as superhumanly supportive.  There is a multitude of such temptations in the path of the priest, and the priest who loves the fee rather than the neighbor has failed an essential test of priesthood.
Love demands its own integrity.
Countryman goes on to explain that it is what we do in love, for the good of the other that is important.  When we try to get a "fee" of any sort (money, respect, compliments or reputation) we end up trying to control the other person, attaching them to ourselves rather than to God.
Love implies reverence for one another.  In every person, ourselves included, we see one who God has created, chose, loved, forgiven, welcomed, and celebrated.   We therefore see each person as a complex and beautiful mystery, worthy of all this outpouring of God's gifts......The mystery is to be honored in both of us.  Love in the honoring of it.
The honoring of the four-fold orders of the church is the honoring of the love that comes from the Creator. Each of us have gifts and, in community, those gifts can help bring about  God's kingdom. The more we see the gifts in others (and ourselves) and recognize that we all each called to be priests to each other, the more we live into the life as a follower of the Christ, the great High Priest.  We all fall short of that ideal, but with God's grace we can make a difference in our broken and needy world.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

One thing I have learned in a long life: All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike - and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

Einstein said this about science, but you could say this about all knowledge, yet I wonder if even knowledge is the most precious thing we have.  I would say that the most precious thing we have is love.  And the source of that love, in my humble opinion, is a God who gave us all there is, including knowledge.  I have no doubt, however, that our love, measured against the love that God has for us is truly primitive and childlike.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Einstein Quote of the Day

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I just love this cartoon that accompanies an article on the Climate Progress blog:  Joe Bastardi can't read a temperature anomaly map and so spins another conspiracy theory: Accuweather's "expert long-range forecaster" Joe Bastardi has now firmly established himself as the least informed, most anti-scientific meteorologist in the world.  Climate Progress suggests that the video from Accuweather is more suitable for The Onion or April 1st.

Bastardi misunderstands a map of temperature anomalies for a temperature map.
"Bastardi tells his viewers, “The picture you see here is the Goddard Institute for Space Studies temperatures for the winter and you can see it was a torrid winter according to this.”  He then spins a long conspiracy theory suggesting that these numbers can’t be true and must be due to a “magical readjustment” because sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic aren’t at record lows.
But the picture is NOT of temperatures.  It is not warmer in the Arctic than in the United States, as Bastardi seems to imply. The picture is of temperature anomaly — the local temperature compared to the 1951-1980 mean — as anybody looking at the original can tell."
Comment:  I don't use Accuweather,  I use for weather information, so I had no idea this character exists.  Apparently some people call it (in)Accuweather.  One of the comments on the post suggested: "Anyway, it seems Bastardi’s and/or AccuWeather’s M.O. is to trash all government weather/climate services to spread uncertainty and doubt and to build up AccuWeather’s business."  Someone else suggested that since Bastardi is paid he is a "professional idiot."  In some ways he reminds me of the "bimbos" who used to present the weather forecast on the evening news, except they were they to be pretty, not to pontificate on conspiracies or misuse science.  Presenting the weather versus forecasting the weather and climate research are quite different areas of endeavor

Maine's RC Bishop Agrees with Glen Beck???

This mornings Portland Press Herald has a long article about the Maine Roman Catholic Diocese withdrawing funding from a social justice program for the poor and homeless.  The group supported No. on 1 last year, supporting same sex marriage. The Preble Street's Homeless Voices for Justice group has lost $17,400 this year and will lose $33,000 next year.  The money not only comes from Maine, but also from a Washington-based Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The group Catholics for Marriage Equality is starting to replace the funds by raising $17,400 for Homeless Voices for Justice. One of the group's co-founders, Anne Underwood, said Bishop Richard Malone is punishing the homeless because of politics.
"This is petty vindictiveness," she said. "After the election is over, suddenly the money is revoked from poor people because of a political opinion held by the bishop."
Underwood said that many Catholics in Maine will now think twice before donating money to the church to help fight poverty. "People who are homeless should not be used in political games," she said.
..... Preble Street decided to join the coalition that opposed Question 1 because issues of sexual orientation are the single greatest cause of homelessness among youths. 
Comment:  I just shook my head.  I think perhaps the good bishop is listening to Glen Beck.  He seems to be agreeing that the church shouldn't preach social justice.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Climate Crock Video: Flogging the Scientists

This video is a bit long (about 10 minutes), uses dry humor (I like that sort of thing), and it is fascinating.  Peter Sinclair makes it his business to "de-crock" the anti-science crowd.  In this video he uncovers the lies in The Daily Mail (not a newspaper I would go to for news anyway) and the outrageous people calling for violence against climate scientists.  In a March 2, 2010 article Climate Progress cites a Scientific American piece on cyber bullying subheaded:

Researchers must purge e-mail in-boxes daily of threatening correspondence, simply part of the job of being a climate scientist

This is part of the nastiness that is so rampant in the religious right too.  If you read the article from Scientific American you will see not only do scientists get volumes of e-mail, they are called things like frauds, deceitful, or criminal.   Sometimes they get threats.  All of this is fueled by media like Fox News and the Daily Mail.  Makes me so angry.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sermon on the Mount: à la Beck

Found this in the Washington Post. I like Tony Auth's style.   Beck's audience seems appreciative.  I wonder if Beck has ever read the Screwtape Letters?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Couldn't Resist Another Cartoon on Anti-Science Stupidity

Climate Change posted this Tony Auth political cartoon along with an article entitled "The Dark Ages return: Texas Board of Education rewrites the Enlightenment".  They agree with the magazine Nature that "science is in a street fight with anti-science."  And the Texas State Board of Education seems to be leading the anti-science charge.  The Board has removed Thomas Jefferson as one of the Enlightenment's leading thinkers on  political revolution and replaced him with Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.  They've also removed the reference to Enlightenment ideas.

Comment:  I do hope this isn't what post-modernism is all about.  Science is, of course, built upon facts, logic, reason, testing hypotheses, and a lot of other ideas that come from the Enlightenment.  We've moved a long way since then and our understanding of our world has grown, but it's scary to think we could go back to where superstition and the loudest voices win the day.  We are called to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls.  Leave out our minds and there's a great big hole left to be filled with nonsense.  One commenter asked if Jefferson wasn't being replaced by Calvin and Hobbes (instead of Aquinas).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Best Argument Against Climate Change

From Climate Progress.

Here is the best argument against global warming:
. . . .
Oh, right. There isn’t one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Glen Beck and Sister Marie Claude

Joan Chittister's newest post on her blog is called "The Nun and Glen Beck: a Standoff,"  It's about a nun from Syria who is here to receive an award from our State Department as one of ten "International Women of Courage."  Her work for 50 years has been to help marginalized women reintegrate into society, by providing shelter for battered women no matter what race, religion or nationality.  Joan spoke with her and quoted Glen Beck's comment: "Yes but ..." I asked finally. "Should you be doing these things as a nun, as a religious? A commentator here advised his television audience last week against 'social justice programs in the church.' "
"I beg you," he said, "look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words (for socialism.) Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"
I heard Marie Claude Naddaf, a Sister of the Good Shepherd, gasp on the other end of the phone. "Noooooooo," she squealed. "This is the work of God. The spiritual life gives us the energy we need to do justice. There is no contradiction! It's a circle!"
Then she said, "Invite this man to come and see me in Syria. I will show him." And one more thing. "Tell your government that it must do something to help the Iraqi refugees in Syria. They need resettlement programs and financial support for widows and children." Her meaning was clear: The United States started the war that put millions of people adrift "but Syria has borne the whole expense of it."
From where I stand, it's clear why the Glenn Becks of the world would not want to hear anything about 'social justice' from a church. Certainly not about women and war. Or about Sister Marie Claude either. Let's hope he takes the invitation.
Comment:  I can just imagine Glen Beck accepting her invitation (not).  Can you imagine him going to Syria and speaking with a nun, even though she's Christian and not Muslim?  I can, however, hear him scoffing at the idea that Syria is paying the expenses of displaced Iraqis.  I also hear him scoffing at the notion that Christians are called to care for the helpless, the poor and needy of the world.  Social and economic justice are what Jesus was about.  Our loving God, loves indiscriminately and abundantly.  God Bless Sister Marie Claude's work. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anti-Science Disinformation and How it Works

If you have an hour and are really interested in how anti-science disinformation works, listen to this University of Rhode Island lecture by a gifted woman professor from UC San Diego (Naomi Oreskes)who speaks on "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscure the Truth About Climate Change."  She has an upcoming book (late May) with that title.

Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly—some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is “not settled” denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. “Doubt is our product,” wrote one tobacco executive. These “experts” supplied it.

Comment:  Oreskes says we need a more realistic view of science and I agree.  Just because we say things are complicated or lack certainty, doesn't mean the data are not real and that we don't need to pay attention.  We work through the issues and if the data do not support our hypothesis, the hypothesis goes away and does not survive.  If the evidence is there, the science is accepted by consensus.  This does not mean that every scientist is on board, but it does mean that most are.

We have  released increasing amounts of carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began and have exceeded the capacity of our planet to cope.  We in the industrial world have benefited greatly from this development, but if we do nothing, our children and grandchildren are going to pay a terrible price.

It's All the Same: Climate Change and Health Care Reform

This was posted by Climate Progress and comes from Toles of the Washington Post, but it applies equally well to the Health Care debate.

Climate Progress refers to it as "Senators vs. the species homo sapiens sapiens."
Actually, we have most of the 60 now.  It’s probably 6 to 12 swing Senators that will determine whether we have a domestic climate bill and hence a global deal (see “The central question for 2010: Will anti-science ideologues be able to kill the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill?
Just change science to heath and ask the question about the health care bill, which unfortunately is not in the least bipartisan.