Tag Archives: thoughts for thursday

Thoughts for Thursday

You know that if you get in the water and have nothing to hold on to, but try to behave as you would on dry land, you will drown. But if, on the other hand, you trust yourself to the water and let go, you will float. And this is exactly the situation of faith. (Alan WattsThe Way of Liberation, 1983)

cat treading waterThis is me, lately. Struggling to control myself and the water and demanding gravity and fighting the current. It has been so hard to let go, to trust. Stress is everywhere, weighing me down like lead shoes. My prayer is for help in letting go, in trusting God. Help me float, Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

 

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Thoughts for Thursday

“Communion with Jesus means becoming like Him. With Him we are nailed to the cross, with Him we are laid in the tomb, with Him we are raised up to accompany lost travelers on the journey. Communion, becoming Christ, leads us to a new realm of being. It ushers us into the kingdom… There we belong to Christ and Christ to us, and with Christ we belong to God. Suddenly the two disciples who ate the bread and recognized Him are alone again, but not with the aloneness with which they began their journey. They are alone, together, and know that a new bond has been created between them. They no longer look at the ground with downcast faces. They look at each other and say; ‘Did our hearts not burn when He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?'” (Henri Nouwen, With Burning Hearts)

Have you ever felt like you were walking in a fog? Not literally a fog, but a mind-fog? Everything around you seems out of focus, you’re mind is clouded with anxiety and fear, and you’re left wondering What is going on in my life? What next?

That’s how I imagine the two disciples felt on the road to Emmaus. Some crazy stuff just went down and they are trying to figure it all out. The man they hoped was going to redeem Israel was crucified, and now nobody knows where his body is. They are doubtful about those second (maybe even third) hand accounts of angels saying He was alive. Who to believe? What does it mean? What happens now?

And then a stranger walks up and seems clueless to the world-shattering events of the previous week. Even more amazing is how he goes on to explain how those events were necessary for the prophesies to be fulfilled. This guy clearly knows his stuff, and during times of trouble, who wouldn’t want to keep someone like that close? It’s no wonder they ask this man to come and break bread with them.

I’ve been there, brothers.

How many times have I walked along my own dusty Emmaus road, my mind clouded with worry? Big things or little things, or little things that seem like big things, get in the way of seeing Jesus around me. Like the two disciples in the story I am so preoccupied with my own doubts and fears that I can’t see Jesus even when he’s standing right in front of me.

It’s only when I’m taken out of myself that the fog lifts and I can see clearly. Oh! I think. My problems and worries seem small compared to the glory of God. I may not fully comprehend what to do next, or what is going to happen next, but here’s what I do know: I am loved, and I am not alone. 

To me this is what the Eucharist reminds us every Sunday. We re-enact the Last Supper, the last thing Jesus and his friends did together. I think there is a transporting power in the Eucharist–we are not only there with Jesus and his friends, we are also with the many billions of people through the ages who have also come together to break bread. One bread, one body isn’t just about the here and now, it includes the many theres and thens as well.

When the two disciples sit down to break bread with this stranger it is only when he begins to re-enact that last meal that their eyes are opened. May our eyes be similarly opened to the presence of Jesus in those around us.

 

Thoughts for Thursday

List every job you have held since you were 18.

I sit, staring at that sentence and the seven little boxes given to list all of the jobs I have had since I was 18. There is another sentence about also listing jobs I did that were volunteer/unpaid, but if I did that then I would be up all night. I might even be up all night anyway.

I’m going to need another piece of paper, please.

I’ve been thinking a lot about vocation lately, probably a good thing since I am in discernment with my diocese. When I think about all of the jobs I have had since I was 18 (way more than seven) and look for a thread of similarity, something that binds them all together, I come up short. I’ve driven a forklift, answered more phones than I want to think about, completed mountains of paperwork, sat up all night at the desk of a dormitory. I’ve scheduled appointments for animals and people and babies. I’ve cooed over kittens and puppies and newborn babies, rejoiced over happy news of what gender or healthy deliveries. I’ve cried with people over loss and heartache, held a dying animal in my arms, hugged women who have experienced tragedy. I’ve been around the world to serve women who are so abused and mistreated that they are scared to stand up for themselves. I’ve kept breweries running in Georgia (and almost shut one down a time or two), I’ve come in on a Saturday to move boxes around a giant warehouse to make space for more people to work. I have helped people with skin problems, pampered and cared for them, put make up on hundreds of faces and told them they were beautiful without it but oh-my-gosh you need this mascara in your life.

The only common thread I can come up with is meeting hundreds of people who are very, very different from myself and loving them so much.

But how do I put that on a job application? How do I convey that I’m not just a job hopper? They are looking for stability in the job history, presumably, but my job history is anything but. Some jobs were not for me, but I’m better for the experience of having them.

And so I wrack my brain to list them all, the dates I was there and when I left. I hope and pray that I get the chance to explain it, to say what I learned and experienced and how that will help me be a good priest someday. (God-willing!)

Thoughts for (Maundy) Thursday

by Jamie Osbourne

Mystical SupperFor I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

In today’s reading from I Corinthians we read about the last meal of Jesus. We don’t have all the details about Jesus’ betrayal, but the writer assumes that we know the context. He assumes that we know one of Jesus’ inner circle, Judas, betrays him. He is also probably assuming that we know that Jesus’ disciples run off when he is taken into custody. He is most likely assuming that we know the strongest and most vocal of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, denies he even knows Jesus. We are reminded in Corinthians that on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, Jesus knew all of this was going to happen before he washed his disciple’s feet or shared his last supper with them.

None of these things catch Jesus by surprise. He institutes the sacred meal by which his life and death and resurrection and love will be known – he shares this knowing full well that he will be betrayed, abandoned, and denied by his closest friends. Knowing all of this, he looks tenderly at his friends he loves dearly, washes their feet, and lets them know he gives all of himself for them.

It strikes me that Jesus knows me in the same way. He knows the ways that I will fail him, deny him, and even betray him. Then he stoops down to the dirty task of washing my feet. After washing my dirty feet he breaks bread and gives the wine. He knows all the ways I will fail. He sees how the idol of my own pain can blind me to everyone’s needs but my own. He knows the fear deep inside of me. With soft eyes and a tender heart, he sees my moodiness and short temper that sometimes make it difficult for others to live with. He sees all the ways that I betray, abandon, or deny him in other persons.

Jesus sees it all and I can hear him say: “Come share this sacred meal with me and see that I’m giving everything I have for you. Take it. Remember it. I’m here to show you what love is because I am Love. You can throw the bread of heaven away and deny you ever tasted it. You can reach past the cup of salvation in order to drown yourself in the cheap wine of the current world system and self. But I’ll always be here, breaking my body and pouring out my very life for you and the world. And one more thing, I want you to pay attention and do this – Love like I have loved you.”

———
Jamie lives with his wife, Lauren, and their two children, Rowan and Phoebe, in Huntsville, Alabama. Jamie is a Postulant for Holy Orders and will be attending seminary this upcoming fall.

Thoughts for Thursday

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ.
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.


(St. Richard of Chichester)

I love this simple prayer. It may not be the exact words St. Richard spoke on his deathbed but they are beautiful all the same.  (You might recognize this as Day by Day  from Godspell)

How can I know Jesus better? Love him more? Follow Christ?

Those are hard questions to ponder, at least for me. I guess that’s why St. Richard is praying for help from Jesus, because he knows that these are beyond his own human understanding. And, at least according to the song, you just have to take it day by day.

One day at a time, because that’s all we really have, y’know? Every day we wake up we can find new ways to love, know, and follow. And there’s not one right answer–I think we have to figure out what that looks like for ourselves.

What can you do, today, to know Jesus better? to Love him more? to follow him?

Thoughts for Thursday

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (Samuel 16:7)

Growing up I had the best priest ever. He looked like a

marquis

Father James F. Marquis, and three guesses who the little blonde in red is sitting on his feet…. (hint: it’s me)

priest should. He
talked like a priest should. He conducted worship like a priest should. He was the epitome of Priest: snow white hair, jolly round belly, red cheeks (yes yes he kind of looked like santa clause), booming, rich voice. The entire time was growing up I had no other concept of what a priest was aside from my beloved Father Marquis.

He retired in 1997 and we got a new guy. And he was really different. The adjustment was tough for most of the congregation, but he still kind of fit the idea of what a priest was: older white male. Then, a couple of years later, a younger white male came on as an associate rector, and I got a new idea of what a priest could be: young with a young family, but as an associate he was only there for a few years. He was fun though, relatable, and I felt I could really talk to him about matters of faith.

I had never really given much thought to my idea of priests. It wasn’t until I was in college that I met a female priest, or even priests of color. I was aware of their existence but I don’t think the reality had really sunk in until I sat down and talked to them and realized that you don’t have to fit a certain stereotype in order to serve God in the church.

acolyte

Y’all are lucky I love you and am willing to share awkward acolyte photos from when I was 13…

and I certainly loved serving in the church.

It hadn’t really occurred to me that I could be a priest someday, or even that I would want to or feel a calling. In my mind I didn’t fit the stereotype, the ideal of what a priest should look like and be like. It wasn’t until I became friends with a woman who was going through the discernment process that I realized, there is no one type!

It seems like a lot of people are feeling like Samuel when he went to anoint the new King of the Israelites. He was expecting the tallest, the strongest, the most capable looking son of Jesse to be the chosen one. But God reminds him that it’s not the outside that counts–it’s the heart.

That’s still an important lesson for us, today.

Over and over again in the Bible, in the stories of faith passed down to us, God chooses the unlikely. He chooses women. He chooses men. He chooses kings and fishermen and prostitutes and women who can’t have kids and women who can and children and carpenters and beggars. He chooses tax collectors and pharisees and Roman soldiers. He chooses people whose hearts he knows, he chooses them to help create the story of love and redemption he has been weaving since the beginning. He chooses you and even me.

One of my favorite tumblr’s to click through is http://thisiswhatapastorlookslike.tumblr.com . TONS of pictures of people called to be ministers in God’s church here on earth. And–spoiler!–they aren’t all older white men.

So if you think maybe, sometimes, you can’t possibly be chosen by God –think again. Listen to your heart, and listen to what God is calling for you to do. Lent is a time of reflection and preparation. Spend some time today thinking about what God might be asking of you, whether you fit the mold or not. Pray for clarity. Pray for a discerning heart. And please, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ who are also struggling in discernment.

 

Thoughts for Thursday

“..in order for us to be holy, set apart, perfect, whole; in order to be a child of God and a disciple of Jesus, we must realize that the call to love others is not in response to being loved by others— we must realize that love does not find its source in its object.”

This past Sunday I gave the sermon at St. Paul’s here in Murfreesboro. Preaching is always a little nerve wracking for me–standing up there in front of lots of people trying to preach what I hear God saying to us through the readings. I can only hope I’ve gotten myself out of the way enough to get the message through. So here’s my sermon from Sunday, I hope you find it instructive, maybe a little entertaining, but most of all, I hope it moves you to show love to all of God’s children.

***

click here for sermon audio

7th Sunday After Epiphany

Feb 23, 2014

This morning we heard the Lord say in our Old Testament reading:

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

And Jesus commands us in the Gospel:

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but most of the time I feel pretty far from being holy OR perfect.

The Old Testament and Gospel readings today are two blueprints given to us by God to guide us in the ways of being God’s people. To the Israelites, who are establishing themselves as a new nation, he gives a very lengthy law. Leviticus is a kind of How To for the Israelites and the portion that we read this morning is part of the Holiness Code. It tells the Israelites what it means to be God’s People and how they are to be set apart, or holy, from the other nations of the time.

Jesus in our Gospel reading today gives his disciples similar guidelines. In his typical “You have heard it said… but I say…” style he takes the law a step further. Slapped on the cheek? Give the other. Made to walk a mile? Go another one. He outlines the ways his followers are to be different from the rest, how they are to be perfect. Not perfect in the Hellenistic sense of “without blemish”, but the word Jesus uses here is the Hebrew word “tamim”, which means “whole” or “complete.” The directions Jesus gives lead us to wholeness, to God’s completeness.

****

Many of you are familiar with the folktale of Stone Soup, but humor me for just a moment for those who are not. The story goes like this: a group of travelers come upon a village. All they carried with them was a big pot which they filled with water, and in it they deposited a large stone.  One of the villagers observed this activity and came out to investigate. The travelers explained that they were making a delicious dish called Stone Soup and they would be happy to share it with the villagers—they just needed a few more ingredients. The villager decides he has a few carrots to spare and tosses them in. Another villager contributes some potatoes. This contributing continues until there is a wonderful soup that everyone enjoys together.

This story is a great illustration of the concept of gleaning that is introduced in versus 9 and 10 of Leviticus 19. “9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.” When everyone contributes a little there is enough for all. While the villagers in our story are kind of tricked into giving, they still did so of their own accord, and the soup would not have been made if they had locked their doors and turned away from the travelers—from the poor and the alien among them.

Jesus’ blueprints are a little tougher, I think. In verses 43 through 46 of our Gospel today he tells us “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” It’s easy to give money or produce or share the wealth with others. It’s easy to love people who already love us. It’s much more difficult to let someone slap your other cheek when they’ve already slapped you once, or to give someone your coat when they’ve already taken your shirt. It’s even more difficult to love someone who just slapped you and took your coat. Jesus isn’t telling us to be martyrs, though, to resolutely stand there and take it because of some pride in bearing up against hurts. No; Jesus wants us to see God even in our enemies, to recognize and acknowledge that we are equally God’s children—the righteous and the unrighteous, the sinners and the saints.  As Jesus’ disciples we have been set apart.

This passage makes me think of my favorite scene in the musical Les Miserables. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time, and if you haven’t seen it I hope you will the next time it’s on stage. My favorite scene is right at the very beginning, when the criminal Jean Valjean (who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister’s family) has been released from prison and is wandering, hungry and alone. As a former prisoner he is an outcast in the society he dwells in—he is a stranger, he is unwelcome, and he is bitter about it. The world has not been kind to Valjean. A kindly Bishop, however, invites him into his home, feeds him, and puts him up for the night. In a moment of weakness Valjean steals the silver and runs off into the night, only to be caught and brought back to the Bishop in the morning. The Bishop confirms Valjean’s story that the silver was indeed a gift, and by the way you left so early, you forgot to take the candlesticks too. The police leave and the Bishop turns to Valjean and tells him that there is a higher plan in this, that he must use the silver to become an honest man, and that this silver has claimed his life for God. Through this experience Valjean has been set apart for God and he experiences a transformation as he leaves the church that day. But it wasn’t the gift of silver that changed Valjean’s heart—it was the Bishop treating him as if he had a soul, as if he were still a beloved child of God despite his sins. It was the Bishop loving him without expecting anything in return.

This is the heart of the messages we hear today from Leviticus and our Gospel —in order for us to be holy, set apart, perfect, whole; in order to be a child of God and a disciple of Jesus, we must realize that the call to love others is not only in response to being loved by others— we must realize that love does not find its source in its object. This idea is quite different from what our culture tells us—most people are content to love only those who love them back. But we are different—we are set apart.

***

These ideas were pretty radical for the Jews in Jesus’ day. They are still pretty radical and it’s not any easier to live out this Gospel today than it was back then. But still we must try. Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship, and that means loving others, even those who wish us ill, or those who can do nothing for us in return. It means praying for our enemies and respecting the dignity of every human being, as we commit ourselves to doing in our Baptismal Covenant. Love is not, for us, a response, and our love does not find its source in its object. The source of love is God, and his love is abundant.

Loving those who can do nothing for us in return, like the poor or strangers, and loving people who actively seek to do us harm isn’t easy. Frederick Buechner, in his book, “Whistling in the Dark” gives us a starting place:

“Jesus says we are to love our enemies and pray for them, meaning love not in an emotional sense but in the sense of willing their good, which is the sense in which we love ourselves. … You see where they’re vulnerable. You see where they’re scared. Seeing what is hateful about them, you may catch a glimpse also of where the hatefulness comes from. Seeing the hurt they cause you, you may see also the hurt they cause themselves. You’re still light-years away from loving them, to be sure, but at least you see how they are human even as you are human, and that is at least a step in the right direction.”

***

For the past few weeks I have been privileged to be part of our campus ministry’s Listening Station on the MTSU Campus. For two hours in the student union building (12 to 2 on Fridays…) we give students a place where they are acknowledged as beloved children of God, whether we say that explicitly or not. We look them in the eye, greet them warmly, talk for a bit, maybe even share a piece of fruit. We provide a place of compassionate listening to whatever is happening in their lives. Most of you know how difficult the transition is from high school to college, from living at home to living in a dorm room, and how unbalancing it can be. Listening Station is a place where someone will look you in the eye, offer a smile and a snack, but most importantly—it is a place where you are welcomed, embraced, and loved. Witnessing the kindness and compassion of my fellow volunteers, watching them give their time, their smiles, and their love to these students has been such a blessing. The students, most of whom are on very limited incomes, can do nothing for us in return. But by showing them this love we set ourselves apart from other booths or tables in the foyer. You can tell something different is going on at the Listening Station, and it is something very special.

So this week I want to challenge you to take a look around you. Who are the “poor” in your life, the ones you can show love to who can’t do anything for you in return? Who are the enemies, the ones who have it out for you? Do an act of love for these people. Show them that your love is not a response but a discipline. Our model for this kind of love is, of course, Jesus Christ, who came to earth to show love to those who could offer no benefit in return; to show us how we are loved even when we hang him on a cross. Doing these acts of love for the poor, the enemy—loving not as a response but because that is what we have been called to do—this is how we show we are different. This is how we are set apart, how we become holy and perfect. Amen.

Thoughts for Thursday

I hope that made you chuckle.

I was thinking about this the other day and I wanted to share it with you guys:

I love the basic human interaction of talking to another receptionist.

See, I work at a doctor’s office. I spend A LOT of time on the phone talking to people. Talking to patients, talking to relatives of patients, talking to other doctor’s offices, drug reps, law firms, pharmacies. You name it. But by far my favorite people to talk to are other receptionists.

I think what is so comforting is that when the phone lines are ringing off the hook and I’m by myself they understand when every two seconds I’m like “Ack.. hold on a sec..” “Uhh hold on let me grab this line real quick” and I get back on the line, breathless from having to quickly say the name of the place I work, plus my name, plus ‘can you hold for just a moment? thanks..’ and they know. They get it. They understand.

It’s these simple little human interactions that make me smile, that make me feel like I can handle whatever this day is going to throw at me. This feeling that I’m not alone, there are other people out there trying to do the same thing, and yeah receptionisting may not solve the energy crisis or world hunger or anything like that, but it gives me hundreds of little chances every day to make someone’s day. To be pleasant. To smile and chat warmly. To offer my own condolences and understandings to other receptionists out there.

So when you’re out there in the world this week, dear readers, smile and greet your receptionist. Make pithy comments about the weather to the cashier at the grocery store. Compliment them on their smile and how friendly they are. If they look like they’ve been there for nine hours straight with a thirty minute lunch break, do something that reminds them they are human, they are loved, and hey, maybe it’s not so bad.

And please, pretty pretty please, try not to get (too?) angry if you’ve been on hold for five minutes. I promise we’re not just sitting there twiddling our thumbs. We’re frantically handling five phone lines, maybe by ourselves, and we’re doing the best we can. Show us some grace, some compassion, and I promise whatever it is you’re calling about will get treated just like the other four calls that might have been in front of you. We all need a little kindness, and we’re only human.

Thoughts for Thursday: Tallis Edition

If ye love me, keep my commandments,
and I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter,
that he may bide with you for ever,
ev’n the spirit of truth.

It’s Thursday and I have another confession to make. (Maybe I need to change my day to the Thursday Confessional Booth or something…)

I’m in love with Thomas Tallis.

I think it happened years ago when I first heard Tallis’ Canon. (Ok everyone, flip open your hymnals and turn to Hymn 43.) I love it. I love the simple little melody and the fact that you can sing it in a round and in parts or just all by itself. Sometimes when my one year old nephew Joshua is squalling his little head off I rub his back and hum the melody. It does more to soothe me than him I think, Continue reading

Quote

Thoughts for Thursday

We have some strange thought that God has predestined everything, that God has willed everything like it is. God’s will is in process, and you’re in the process with God. God works with us, and God works for us.

-Michael Pfleger, U.S. Catholic, July 1992