Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dis /enchanted



I heard the song from this short animation on my way home from OKC and it raised chills on my arm. I couldn't remember what it was from, but it haunted me. I finally heard the radio announcer (Weekend Radio, by the way, on NPR> Lots of fun) say it was from the Snowman. I don't know if this will take you down the same memory lane that it did for me, but you are welcome to discover something new at least.
Speaking of Christmas cartoons. I recently recorded Rudolph for us to watch as a family and almost wanted to censor Wesley from seeing it. What a backwards cartoon. I hate the message that it gives. It tries to be "if you are different, that's okay--you're still valuable. But the way I heard it was--Donner was one of those overbearing, ashamed parents who doesn't deserve a kid who has a good bone in his body. santa is a major asshole. There is nothing redeeming about the elves at all--crazy workaholic mindless drones. I just didn't like it at all. I remembered thinking it was really neat, but it seemed stuck--its not a timeless story.

Rudolph ends us saving the day and proving he is useful to a bunch of assholes who don't really change their perspective, they just see that they can USE him after all. In the end, Rudoph still remains deluded that his value is contingent upon his accpetence by his reindeer socity and some skinny fake santa (notice the absence of capital letter--jerk) I was waiting on Rudolph to say, "On my journey, I learned that you guys can just have each other and your stupid toys--I'm going to find something else to do." I also kept wondering where santa was going to take all those reject toys--"I've found a place for you after all," he said. What, is santa going to drop them off in Africa or something? Well, perhaps you don't think this much about Christmas cartoons, and you're probably better off for that--but you might pay attention to the kind of twisted morality tales we pump into our children. Of course, I watched it when I was a kid and I turned out all right......right? I suppose I am dwelling on a cartoon, so maybe I'm not alright after all. Hmmm?

In any case, I don't think there's anything bad one can say about the beutiful short called "the Snowman." It is just haunting and memorable. I got chills when I heard it, and then chills when it all came back to me as I watched it on youtube.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Better than nothing--a response to a question about icons



Hi Joy,
thanks for the question, you know me--I love icons, and questions! The legend goes that Iconography was created by St. Luke, who was reputed to have created the first icon of Mary the mother of Jesus. It developed particularly in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, with Greek, Syrian, and eventually Russian "schools" and styles. The woman who taught me (Bonnie Gillis) learned from a Syrian monk, and I have also spent time with an Orthodox hermit monk iconographer who learned in the Greek style. (Here is his website: http://www.aidanharticons.com/) Let's see, a little bit of history--well, of course you have probably heard of the iconoclasts, or "destroyers of icons" we use the word today to refer to someone who makes something completely new and disregards the old. The controversy erupted in the Eastern church in the first 1000 years among people who read the Hebrew scriptures and found them in contradiction to the practice of painting sacred images. I suppose they have a point from a literalist point of view, but in general the church has never been literalist. (thank God) The iconoclasts would go around smashing icons and painting over the beautiful iconography found in churches. In the reformation, particularly the Calvinist reformation, churches were constructed without any iconography or other holy artwork, and that influence is felt in Protestantism today. In fact, I'm willing to gamble that your churches are adorned very simply with clapboard exteriors and plain glass windows--is that true? Influenced by the iconoclasts and radical reformation! (Also quite a bit cheaper than the alternative)
I love iconography because it drives home the importance of incarnational theology. The notion that some minerals, egg yolk, wood, molded by the hands of created individuals can become conduits of God's presence--windows to the divine as they say, is an important step toward acknowledgeing God's presence and activity in the created world. And I'm all for that!
This is by no means a comprehensive "guide to iconography." I have attached a document that I wrote exploring the intersections between the theology of icons and process theology if you want to delve a little deeper. I've also linked to a picture of the icon I've painted . Hope things go well with your study and I'm glad to hear your flock is interested. Oh, yeah, one really neat thing I've heard about icons is that they are two dimensional because the third dimension is in front of the icon, so in a sense, it is not complete until it is viewd and venerated. Our encounter with the icon provided the third dimension because we stand in it. Okay, and I couldn't resist. I've also attached a photo of another icon. A living icon you could say. St. Wesley the Cutest.
Peace,
Nathan

PS Here's the document I attached:
When I studied abroad in the Fall of 1999 in Oxford, England, I stumbled upon an acquaintance that would turn into a friendship that would eventually deepen my understanding of the Christian tradition. Here I met Brother Aidan Hart, an Eastern Orthodox hermit monk. Aidan was giving a lecture at a college in Oxford on iconography. In his lecture, Aidan spoke of the process of painting an icon as being an experience of interconnectedness. He explained that the use of egg tempura, ground minerals and dirt, and gold leafing to create a picture that was experienced as a portal to a direct expense with God was inherently affirmative of the created world’s sanctity. I had been dissatisfied by what I perceived to be an inordinate amount of emphasis placed on the “world beyond,” and a devaluing of the “world below” in Christianity. I longed for a theology that placed more emphasis on the life lived—one that was affirming of our experience here on earth. I was fascinated by Zen Buddhism’s acceptance and value placed on the “mundane,” such as finding enlightenment in sitting and breathing, or having a bowl of tea. I was not satisfied by “pie-in-the-sky Christianity,” and thought that the only alternative was to be found outside the tradition of Christianity. After my studies at Oxford, I was hoping to make a visit to Plum Village, a meditation center in France, where Thich Nhat Hanh lives and teaches meditation. By a twist of fate, I wound up visiting Brother Aidan instead in the hills of west England, on the border of Wales. Less than twenty miles from the home of my ancestors, I found a home again in the faith of my ancestors.
Brother Aidan invited me to the hermitage that he had been sent to build by the leaders of his order on Mt. Athos in Greece. In between the time it took him to build the hermitage from the ground up, plant saplings to reforest the hills that had been deforested since the time of the Romans, and tend to the sheep that he kept on the property, he found the time to paint icons. He had been an icon painter in Greece, and had built a chapel on the grounds of the monastery that was covered with icons. He was able to share his gift of painting with the church, and use the donations to build the facilities of what would one day become a full monastery. His icons are in churches from the Russian East to New Zealand. In the chapel there at the Hermitage of Sts. Anthony and Cuthbert, the saints adorn the walls in the form of icons. In this way, he was never alone at the hermitage, but always worshipped in the fellowship of the communion of saints. I never knew then that I would one day possess the knowledge of how to paint icons myself.
In the Spring of 2003, I contacted Bonnie Gillis because I had heard that she painted icons. I asked her if she would be able to spare the time to teach me to paint an icon. Fortunately, she said she did and that she had another person in mind who would like to take a tutorial together. Soon we began the learning process in the tradition that stretched back 1900 years (or more) to the beginning of our religious tradition.
The process of painting an icon became for me a devotion—a spiritual discipline. Every week last spring, I would sit in Bonnie’s kitchen or backyard and learn how to paint the details of the face of Christ. The process started simply, with three colors. As I became more comfortable with the brush in my hand, we continued to paint finer and finer detail, until finally I had painted a tiny glint in the eyes of Jesus. One aspect of the devotion of painting an icon is the mediation on the imagio dei. In order to construct a representation of this image, the painter must first spiritually prepare him or herself. We begin with simple shapes, painting the outline of the image—like our experience with God, our experience becomes more detailed as we grow in our understanding. Eastern Orthodox spirituality is progressive—we slowly uncover the realization that the imagio dei is in us.
As I have come to understand more about Process theology, I have developed an interpretation of the icon that I think might be agreeable to those of us who uphold this theological framework. Instrumental to the notion of Process theology is the idea that God acts persuasively, not coercively. I believe the icon symbolizes this kind of relationship with God through the use of the two dimensional nature of iconography. I was told by Brother Aidan that that the third dimension of the icon is not realized until the viewer engages the icon. Icons are painted in two dimensions because the painters desire the third dimension to be in front of the face of the icon, not behind it. Instead of expressing depth, the icon expresses reverse depth—the icon invites you to participate in it. One could say that the identity of the icon depends on the identity of the person experiencing it. Certainly this is true to some extent in most art, but the icon is painted purposefully to engage the viewer instead of to express the ideas or passions of the artist. This rule is so widespread that most iconographers don’t even engage in original work until they have had years and years of training. In Process theology, God is beckoning instead of pushing. The icon sits silently in a distinct location in a home—it is a devotional object, not a showpiece. Its purpose is to beckon one to meditate on the divine, not to broadcast a certain doctrine.
Conversely, the expressionless faces of the icons do not lend themselves to another element of Process divinity: the experiencing God. Icons demonstrate the Greek ideal of dualism. The pain and suffering of the saints may be alluded to by symbols outside the person of the saint, but the face is always serene. In the Christ icons, this serenity communicates the theological blunder (according to Process theology) of impassability. The notion that God does not experience the world is one that has been upheld in traditional orthodox theology. Even though the principle of our faith is that Christ (God incarnate) came to suffer and die for our sins, our theological tradition has rejected the notion that God truly experienced or experiences pain and suffering. This ideal comes from the stoic notion that perfection entails a lofty existence above emotion. Emotion was seen as something of the earth—it was too raw and passionate to be of the divine realm. Emotion was something to be transcended. The saints of the church came to be remembered in icons as those who had transcended emotion—and their faces alluded to this sanctification.
Process theology rejects the notion of impassability—in fact it flips it on its head. Instead of God being the one being in all the universe that isn’t affected by the universe, God is the one being in all the universe that is effected by the entire universe. This notion resonates with me, and I think that it leads us to a healthier and more spiritually fulfilling existence in this world. It is, however, quite foreign to the tradition of the icons. When I was painting my icon, I accidentally dropped a brush with red paint on the face of Jesus. Bonnie was quick to remove the paint and help me fix the painting so that one would never know the blemish had occurred. I mentioned to her that though I was happy to have the painting back in great condition, I wouldn’t have minded leaving the blemish on Jesus’ face to remind me that his face was bloodied as a result of his radical ministry. Bonnie didn’t seem to think that that would be an appropriate element of an icon. She told me that icon was to represent the divinity that pervaded the Christ. It was not clear to me then why this answer didn’t resonate with me, but now that I have been steeped more thoroughly in Process theology, I can articulate why I disagreed with this notion of a Christ without blemish. Why does blood and dirt take away from a person’s divinity? The word incarnate means “in the flesh.” The Latin “carne” is a word that has more to do with the market than with Plato’s divine forms. The message of the New Testament is that God became flesh—God became meat, like us. The flesh and dirt are celebrated and sanctified in the incarnation—why should icons picture the holy and distance the holy from the things which make us human? I believe the actual process of making an icon better illustrates this notion of the sanctification of the natural world—which includes our flesh.
Icons receive their color from a mixture of minerals and egg tempura. What better natural elements to give shape and color to a representation of the imagio dei? The minerals—things of hard, static matter. Minerals are ancient rumblings of the earth itself—some are formed by impacts with the heavens. Egg yolks are viscous, organic, and life giving. They are indicative of the miracle of life on earth. If anything celebrates the messiness and motherhood of the physical world, it is an egg. Though the picture we traditionally envision of the divine is serenely indifferent of the physical world, the divine physical substance is unwittingly attested to in the very creation of that image. Somehow, the incarnate God sneaks into every corner we see as rotten.
I believe the lens of Process theology gives us a more dynamic interpretation of the icon than that theological lens which birthed the icon. God experiencing the world is a powerful message for an age that has seen so much destruction and pain. Icons seek to offer an alternative: a divine realm which is unmarred by our life experience. It is a fairy tale—one that gives humanity a skewed sense of what is divine. The icon’s construction reveals the true nature of the divine. As water gives the earth life—it is also the final ingredient for the icon. Colors are given different shades with the addition or subtraction of water. In the Christian tradition, we celebrate new birth with water—we know deep down that God is as necessary and natural to us as water and breath. Icons are not only a reflection of our own misled ideals of stoicism and impassability, they are composed of our primal understanding as God being present and experiencing in the substantive.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Now this is fun!
IS this fun?
Obviously he has an IQ of about 175

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Great Christ the King Sunday article

Royal treatment - Living by the Word - Column, Mary Anderson
ANOTHER CHURCH YEAR ends on November 23 with the festival of Christ the King. Although a few folks get jazzed over this festival, most of us need to be reminded that the church year is different from the calendar year, the academic year and the budget year.
On most minor and major church festivals, I remind my congregation how ancient these festivals are. I like to wow them with the vast number of centuries the church has been observing some of them. The festival of Christ the King spoils that plan. It was first introduced in 1925, and not until 1969 was it designated the festival for the last Sunday of the church year. Since I cannot wow them with a millennium's worth of tradition, I emphasize how the church continues to create traditions and make liturgical history.
It is odd to think that the 20th-century church developed a festival centering on Christ's image as king. In America we are as distanced from the image of "king" as we are from the image of "shepherd." Popular theology is more intrigued with the image of Jesus as CEO--a leadership role, to be sure, but hardly comparable to that of a king with a kingdom.
Our American brush with royalty comes mostly from Britain. We might not be able to name any kings, but we are familiar with Queen Elizabeth and with the tabloids and tragedies surrounding her family. We would easily recognize the queen, yet many of us are unaware of what she really does from day to day and what her powers really are. Royalty is respected, it's part of the tradition, hut does it really do anything? Do we need it?
I wonder and worry that people perceive Christ's rule to be similar to the queen of England's rule. Do we view Christ as one surrounded with the art and beauty of a tradition that is more antique than active? Do we see this figure of salvation as hopelessly outdated and practically mute in these postmodern times?
If we stretch ourselves to think in royal terms, we remember that although "king" may be an unfamiliar symbol, it is a political term. Kings rule a particular piece of geography. They may rule over a particular ethnic group. They have subjects--they have "a people." What we declare on this last Sunday of the church year is: Christ has made of us a people.
Growing up in the South, I often heard the home folks ask of a sows girlfriend, "Who are her people?" They were fishing for two things: a family name and a location. "She's one of the Wingards from over Lexington way." Tiffs information could make one be embraced or shunned. I never heard "people" used outside of Family until I moved out of the overwhelmingly Christian South and lived in Chicago. Here "my people" was used for distinct ethnic groups and religious groups. And it was an unspoken truth that if any significant rubber ever hit any significant road, it was your people that mattered. A "people" was not a biological unit. They didn't necessarily share DNA but perhaps things more bonding: a common story, the foods and meals they are together, the experiences they endured and the hopes that endure through generations. I envied their sense of solidarity and identity. It's good to have a people.
Those who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Christ has made of us a people with his kingship. And that kingship is unique, unlike any earthly kingship that is bound by geographic borders. This kingdom is boundless. Christ's rule is not limited to a particular racial or national group. All are welcome, especially the chronically unwelcome ones. Christ reigns from the cross, we say. Christ rules, as many earthly rulers do, because he has waged battle and has been victorious. But Christ's enemies are sin, death and the devil, all defeated by Christ's death. In a kingdom of a lowly stable and an empty tomb, death birthed life.
To speak of kings and kingdoms, of subjects and peoples, requires a fair amount of translation for modern ears. Some, finding the translation too cumbersome, will opt for calling Jesus their CEO or therapist. But what will then be truly lost is not the title used, but the relationship implied.
To say Christ is king implies that we are subjects. The heart of this relationship is our dependence on a ruler who holds our lives in his hands. We do not choose a ruler as we elect a president, hire a CEO or contract with a therapist. We are Christ's people--we share the same eucharistic foods, we share the same story of faith, we stake our lives on the same hopes.
Here at the end of the church year, after living through another cycle of hearing the story of Jesus' life, of being taught by him in miracle and parable, we come to the coda of this hymn of praise. After another year of living our lives, burying our dead, baptizing our babies, marrying and divorcing, struggling and thriving, we bring all of the year's experiences to the climax of this day. We lay it all back at the feet of the one enthroned on the cross, giving thanks. It's great to be a people ruled in love and mercy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

and whilst on the topic of food, morality, etc.

Check out this National council of churches newsletter in time for Thanksgiving.

A tear for the seal pup

Tonight Wesley and I were watching a nice little program on animal planet about seal pups. At the end of the show, there was footage of something I've always heard about but have never seen (and have always been interested)--killer whales making sport of seal pups that they've recently captured. The narrator speculated that because the orcas keep the seal pups alive while they throw them around with their jaws, and because young orcas are present, they must be teaching the young to hunt. But then comes the indescribable--after the seal dies, the orcas fling the seals 50 or 60 feet in the air just seemingly for fun. The whole scene was amazing and disturbing.



Occasionally I can be romantic and idealistic about the natural world and its power to convey to humans the majesty and beauty of God. I don't think I could ever see this practice as beautiful though. Even carnivores hunting prey has a certain degree of beauty and necessity to it--this seems like it simply a cruel game. So--to put my own general outlook on the natural world to the test--how does this practice display God? If there is a moral underpinning to the universe, why would these animals, presumably not endowed with the faculties of morality, display cruelty? Perhaps, since they have no sense of morality, they simply do it because it entertains them? But if there is a universal undercurrent of love and compassion guiding the universe, wouldn't the default mode for creatures not able to choose the good simply be the good? So far, you see, I just have questions and no answers. I've known that orcas do this for some time, and have thought about it as a foil to some of my idealistic perspective toward the natural world, panentheism, process theology, etc.--but seeing it caused some fresh interrogation.

One thought is that Orcas playing with the dead body of a seal is no more cruel than humans throwing around a football that we have the intelligence to craft from the dead body of a cow (--of course, most footballs are synthetic leather, but you get my point--was it ever really pig-skin?). While we do have the perhaps unique ability of not choosing the good (according to classical theology), humans are also to blame for causing the earth to fall along with humankind. (Genesis 3:17)--of course, if I remember correctly, that curse was revoked after the flood as well. According to my understanding of Process theology, I would say that each creature has the capacity for "choosing" the divine aim, and while the divine aim might not be for orcas to torture seal pups, the orcas are free like anything and everything else to deviate from that Divine Aim. Of course, that seems to convey a lack of morality on the part of the orcas for engaging in "natural" behavior, and I'm not sure I can make that leap. Hmmmmm...... I need to get my Earth Bible commentary out and take a look at it. I also need the wisdom of my friend and sage Max, expert in all things Process theology. Max, are you out there? Care to comment?

Well, if that muddied the waters for you--help me get them clear again. Or, let's have a mud-fight!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stalemate

As of late, I have not had much time to read or write anything but sermons. We've had all sorts of calamities that have been sapping our time. Wesley was sick, had to take him to the pediatrician. Lara got in a wreck, had to help her get x-rays, look for a new car, mess with insurance, etc. etc. Our new car is lovely, by the way. Here's a picture below our beautiful maple tree.

So--that explains the minimal effort to blog over the past couple/few weeks.
But, a couple things happened in the last couple days that jarred me out of my rut. Firstly, I was sitting on the front porch smoking my pipe in late afternoon and the light just changed. It became gold. I looked up and the setting sun was illuminating the aforementioned maple. our house faces east, so I was unaware of the setting sun until the tree started glowing. I grabbed the camera and took a photogram--


Another thing happened today. We took master Wesley to the ENT specialist and he diagnosed ANOTHER ear infection. He recommended tubes, and Wesley will be getting those next week. I didn't realize our poor boy will need to be put under to perform the surgery. I suddenly feel like a papa goose with one of his goslings being threatened. I know it will be best, but I'm nervous for him. I'm glad he's not old enough to worry. All this pales in comparison (doesn't it always) to a parishoner whose 2 day old granddaughter will be undergoing heart surgery in the next day or two to try and reroute her heart! She'll have another open heart surgery at 6 months and another after 2 years. I can't imagine being in that hospital room in Westwood holding my new baby boy and looking at the prospect of 3 open heart surgeries in the next two years. How do parents do it?????? Wesley's been strapping and healthy--I can't imagine the stress and angst and heartache that some parents feel for their newborns. What a cruel ordeal!
Through all this, I've been trying to come up with something to say about the widow's mite. I read something or other that said that the widow was able to give her all because she didn't have much in the first place. 2 copper coins wasn't going to do anything for her anyway. The rich gave a portion of their plenitude. Jesus pointed to her and said, "there's the Kingdom of God." Perhaps we are sometimes stripped bare before we are able to give our all to God. The four noble truths seem to echo in my mind associated with this story-- suffering is with us from birth: (dukkha--isn't that a great word for suffering?) The root of suffering is craving. The cessation of craving is the cessation of suffering. The path of this cessation of craving and suffering is the eightfold path. (right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration). the widow was actually rich because she expressed an absence of craving. The rich who gave more money gave out of their wealth--they weren't as impressive because they still clung to their wealth.

Well--that jumpstarted a few thoughts (not finished with sermon yet--I look forward to being able to weave in some Buddhism into the sermon) check on the church website for the finished product!
Pray for little Shelby! While you're at it, throw one in for Wes too--and his poor, worried pop!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Poor pumpkin

Posted By:Aaron

Get this video and more at MySpace.com

Monday, October 23, 2006

Little Cups

Two churches I have now pastored, and two churches who have significant numbers of people who are majorly skiddish about using a common cup to celebrate communion. This past month at charge conference our DS led communion. Because I wasn't sure what kind of turnout we would have, I simply elected to use my chalice to serve communion. We ended up having about 30 people--and that was great. As I served people the cup into which they would dip their bread, I noticed faces of apprehension and even disgust. Oh, how entrenched are we in our customs, especially around communion. It seems that the cultures I have served are perhaps concerned about the cleanliness of taking communion by intinction. Instead we use little cups.

What do little cups say about us as a culture of Christians? First of all, This Holy Mystery proclaims little cups to be the bane of eucharistic theology. Their use destroys the symbolism of the liturgy. "After the supper was over, Christ took the cup--no Christ took little plastic cups and gave one to each of his disciples, saying "Drink ye from each of thy little cups, throw them in the trash on the way out the door, and do this as often as you drink it--or once a month, whatever." I suppose it seems that I'm being a bit persnickity, but to me it is more powerful to offer a single cup. "One cup of blessing which we bless," the list goes on and on of all the references, hymns, prayers, etc. that aren't given visual representation becasue we want our own little cup.

Is the little cup indicitive of our radical individualism? When did they come into use, and why? Are they commonly used in other parts of the world?
"Are you willing to drink of my cup and share in my baptism?" says Jesus. "No thanks, I'll have my own little cup thank you," says the church.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Good program coming up

Moyers on America : “Is God Green?”

PBS Airdate: Wednesday, October 11 at 9 p.m. (check local listings). 60 minutes.

A new holy war is growing within the evangelical community, with stakes for the earth and American politics. For over a decade liberal Christians have made the environment a moral commitment. Now some conservative evangelicals as well are standing up for the earth as a Biblical imperative of stewardship. From a dynamic conservative church in Boise , Idaho to an evangelical activist group known as Christians for the Mountains in West Virginia , grassroots believers are speaking out. So are some conservative evangelical leaders at the national level who have called for action to stop global warming. But they are being met head-on with opposition from religious right political figures like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, who are pillars of the right-wing coalition that adamantly supports the Bush administration in downplaying the threat of global warming. The political stakes are high: three out of every four self-identified white evangelical voters cast their ballots for George W. Bush in 2004. The program explores how a serious split among conservative evangelicals over the environment and global warming could reshape American politics.

Read the small print

I switched to Blogger Beta becasue "it was a lot easier, blah blah blah." The problem is that it took all the html code I had with it. Now I have to relearn. No time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Charge Conference Time


I am soooo tired. I can't sleep a wink. I'm so--ooo---oooo tiiired. My mind is really on the brink.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Cat Snores

I'm sitting here reading a good sermon on text week on the valley of the dry bones, and what do I hear? Snoring. Not from the little boy's room, not from my lovely bride who of course never snores, but from right behind me where Lao-Tzu, our calico, is curled up on the guest bed, on some mail that has been spread out there. (Why do cats love to lay on things that are laying on things: a shirt on the couch, a newspaper on the floor, mail on the bed.) In any case, it struck me as funny and worth sharing that this cat is reminding me of what I should be doing--as I will most likely get up at around 6am this morning to begin my chock full day of preparing for charge conference, putting finishing touches on Board of Ordained Ministry stuff, and other things.
I just read the lectionary for the week I get back from vacation--a goodie, Jesus quelling his disciple's argument on "who's the greatest" by sitting a child on his lap and saying, "You welcome this child and you welcome me, you welcome me and you welcome God." He was checking their egos and their motive for following. Perhaps Jesus snored too. Even worse, perhaps he pretended to snore just to annoy his disciples. Sometimes I lay in bed and giddily pretend to snore just to get under Lara's skin--I like her to think I can just go out like a light while she lays there thinking about this and that. Sometimes I start snoring while she is in the middle of involving me in her recounting of some happening of the day. This kind of activity is usually met by a loud sigh or perhaps a pinch. I wonder if Jesus' disciples ever regretted their decision to follow Jesus because they weren't getting really good sleep on account of his snoring. Jesus identified with the least and the powerless. Whenever we tend to glamorize Jesus, perhaps we need to put ourselves in camp with the disciples, listening to Jesus snore.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Confessions of a Clothes Hound

Lately my closet has been getting thicker. I'm ashamed to admit it, because I have a "prepared speech" on consumerism, materialism, etc. for young people that I feel very strongly about. But at the same time, I can't turn up 75% off ties with an extra 30% off at Dillards. Just for the record--in the past week, I've bought two dress shirts, a "smart casual" shirt, three ties, a pair of shorts, three polo shirts, and a short sleeve button up. My closet now extends into the guest bedroom so that my stuff won't get wrinkled.
Now--excuses, since I am self-righteous and all...I haven't added much onto my frame since college (or even high school) and some things in my closet have been there since then. Also--the grand total of this past week's shopping spree totaled to less than $100, even though the original prices would have totaled more like $600, so I am getting good bargains. But technically, I have enough dress clothes to go months withoug wearing the same thing twice. With all my suits, pants, etc. I could have enough combinations to go a year, maybe years, without repeating. IF I chose to wear polo-style shirts for a whole month, I could make it more than twenty days before I'd need to wear the same one again. And I have enough hawaiian shirts to take a whole vacation without repeating.
I am experiencing the classic "conscientious liberal" guilt, especially considering I could clothe a whole African village for years. But at the same time, I believe it is time to get rid of some of my "worn out" stuff I've had for years. Am I abnormal? Here is one case that optimism is being "tamed."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Books tag

1. One book that changed your life?

The Secret of Francis of Assisi, by Christian Bobin. The lyricism of the book made me fall in love with my own faith tradition. Lara and I would read it to each other when she visited me over in Oxford. I remember limiting myself to a chapter a night so it wouldn't go by too fast.


2. One book you have read more than once?

I don't think I've ever read any book twice. I will undoubtedly read The Last Temptation of Christ several times during my life though. Here is a book that deserves more than one read.


3. One book you would want on a desert island?

I think I'd take Philip Pulmann's "His Dark Materials" series. There are so many levels to the book. Of course, I'd have to send away in a bottle for the upcoming follow up--The Book of Dust. I suppose I'd be sheltered from the movie version. That'd be a good thing or a bad thing if all the hype is true.


4. One book that made you laugh?

Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies



5. One book that made you cry?

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway. I don't remember why. The Sun Also Rises also might have jerked a tear. I think I might've cried at the end of Lord of the Rings because I knew I'd never read it again for the first time. I really don't cry that often.

6. One book you wish had been written?

On the Road. The research would be fun.


7. One book you wish had never been written?
Anything by Anne Coulter. I wish she wasn't alive. Mein Kampf too I suppose, for the sake of humanity.



8. One book you are currently reading?

It's been a while since I've picked it up--but it is great--The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier



9. One book you have been meaning to read?



The Bible--Never read the whole thing. I guess I'm a hypocrite

10. Now tag five people.
I'll just put three more recommendations here for Katherine. If you want to do this tag, fine.
Belden Lane's Solace of Fierce Landscapes
Kazantzakis--get into him.
The Faith we Sing--Since you like hymnals

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My response to a fellow blogger to describe what God isn't--my allergies are acting up, by the way

God isn't like congestion. God is easily forgettable, whereas congestion is constantly menacing. God is sometimes too subtle and too forgettable to be Divine, but still God is divine in spite of Herself. God isn't like bad breath (which is sometimes a product of congestion). You don't want to get away from God like you do bad breath. God is like pine trees or kiwis or baby's hair. God is attractive and you can't get enough of Him.
Okay--more than ten words---Sorry--for the record, God isn't like word limits. God transcends every word in every language ever written. God is more like the combination of every sense feeling the maximum amount of sensation. And then God is more than that too.

Monday, July 31, 2006


yee haw

Always has his eyes on the next big thing....One of my dad's well known parishioners was invited into the pulpit a few Sundays ago. Dad had to stay home and preach in Oklahoma. Though the announcement of where Lara and Wes were did reveal a good number of Democrats in my parish. (Hallelujah!)

Hillary Clinton and the future president of the United States (if he wants to be). You can see the back of his head in the picture.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

the Sauna

I've lived in three distinct climate regions, and I can honestly say that heat and humidity is the worst weather condition that might be sustained over a while. The people in the northern US can whine about snow all they want--and granted, humidity doesn't impair living conditions--other than the complete lack of desire to go outside. Besides, as far as how something feels to the skin, you can always put on more warm clothes, but you can't keep taking off. Even at the lake, the heat seeps into your skin and wears you out. Today is a grossly humid and hot day. Right now it is almost 8pm in Morris, OK. It is 96 degrees, and cloudy. However, the clouds in this occasion aren't welcome, because they just trap in the day's humidity. It actually feels like it is 104 because the humidity is at 45%. That's just ridiculous.

To my friends in SoCal who have been lulled into the misconception that 87 degrees with low humidity is a hot day--stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

Friday, July 07, 2006


Hockey champs Cameron and Wesley

The two I love most.

What the shuck is going on here?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In Memory


Paul watching Sesame Street with Wesley


Today I lost a great friend and mentor. Paul Bowles asked me to serve as youth minister at Bartlesville FUMC when I was in my last term at Hendrix. He had been the Tulsa DS, and I came to his office when I got back from Oxford, engaged to Lara. I told him that I'd be looking for a youth ministry job in the area, so to notify me if he heard of one coming available. I suppose I made a good impression on his secretary, and that turned out in my favor, because she was also his wife, Mary Jane! Paul did hear of a youth ministry job coming available, and it turned out to be at the church that he was being appointed to after coming off the cabinet. Paul and I were on the same wave-length. Once I took the position, Paul gave me his confidence. What a gift to a young, college grad. Over the next two years, he helped to guide me into the track for ministry. We always thought of Paul and Mary Jane as surrogate parents here in Oklahoma, and I know that they thought of us as "adopted kids." When we were weighing the decisions about moving back to Oklahoma from Arkansas, Paul was a wise colleague.

On the drive home from OKC today, I was thinking about the traits that Paul expressed. Paul was measured. He didn't seem to say something without really weighing it in his mind and really saying it. I don't think Paul had to backtrack very much. Paul and Mary Jane were the perfect yin and yang. Paul was more quiet and reserved, Mary Jane is more bubbly and vivacious. Paul did have an infectious little chuckle though.

What I keep thinking of today, what keeps bringing tears to my eyes, was the time that Paul shared with me the wedding liturgy that he wrote for his daughter and her groom. In the midst of him pointing out the different little points and subtle reasons he chose this or that way of saying something, I could tell he was proud of the liturgy, and it really was beautiful and poignant. I suppose what gets me is to know that he shared his pride with me--I suppose when a friend dies, we take some kind of comfort or solace in knowing we were important to that friend. Sharing pride makes us vulnerable, I believe--and that is one instance that lets me know that I was important to him as he was important to me.

For all of you reading this, do me a favor--send a prayer of comfort and healing to Mary Jane and their kids. What a sad loss. What a beautiful life.

Monday, June 19, 2006

First sermon in Morris

Until I get a church blog going here in Morris, this'll be the home of my sermons--
Here was today's--will write later about life in OK

Sermon texts
1 Sam 15:34-16:13
Mark 4:26-34

I hesitated at first to bring to you the Gospel reading today. This is the story that you’ve probably heard of as the mustard seed. It seems that God’s kingdom is not always spectacular and noticeable at first glance—in fact it rarely is. With the parable of the mustard seed, or the pine nut, as Eugene Peterson tells the story in his translation of the Bible that I read from today called the “Message,” we see Jesus comparing the Kingdom to something quite small and unremarkable.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “It’s always the last place you look.” I can attest to the truth of this statement, because unpacking boxes creates an enormous amount of mess, and I I’ve spent hours in the last week just looking for things that I had set down a few minutes before. It was only in recent years that I finally got the joke of this saying. Of course it is always the last place you look, because if you find what you’re looking for, you stop looking, right? Even if you find what you’re looking for in the first place you look, it is also the last place you look.
Jesus on several occasions shows us that what we usually don’t notice—what we call small and insignificant—are usually the most potent metaphors for God and God’s glorious kingdom. I hesitated to read this Gospel lesson today because I was just a bit concerned that those of you who helped me unload the U-haul would assume that the opposite might also be true. A 26 foot U-haul full of “stuff” is anything but inconspicuous. Lurching down 3rd street, scraping the branches of trees as I pulled it into our new home, I prayed, “Lord, give these people patience!” To my surprise and delight, we unloaded the van and even set up our bed in less than an hour! While Jesus tells us in the parables that good things come in small packages, I hope that today you might entertain the possibility that in my family’s presence with you here today, good things might also come in big packages too!
From what I’ve been able to tell from the bulletins I’ve seen, this congregation usually only hears one scripture lesson. I’ve been told that we pastors aren’t supposed to change anything in the worship service for at least a few months, and I had at first thought I’d base my sermon solely on the Samuel scripture—but this little pine nut kept coming to mind, and these scriptures go so well together.
Besides—I ride a bicycle okay, but I have never gotten up on a unicycle. Likewise, I need two scriptures to keep a sermon balanced and going in the right direction. With one I might just wobble around and fall on my face. I hope you don’t mind the change—I don’t preach a long time usually, and we’ll probably have room to hear two accounts of God’s story—our story—I think.
What strikes me about both of these scriptures that we heard today is that phrase from the Samuel reading—“the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
This is so clear in our Scriptures—that God always seems to choose those we’d least expect—Jacob and Joseph, Jonah and Ruth, Peter and Mary, even Jesus and David are unlikely candidates for God’s Spirit to stir within them. We all tend to judge on outward appearances.
Believe me, I’m aware of what my outward appearances are—young, green—and in my case the outward appearances are truly part of who I am—but thank God we have a Father in heaven that sees into our hearts--Sees our hearts not as fist-sized organs for pumping blood, but instead dwelling places large enough for God’s own Spirit!
I think this is why Jesus uses little seeds and little children and little farmers and little birds and flowers to point out the truth of God’s Kingdom. God is so immensely present in all things that sometimes it is the smallest things that give us an insight into who God is. We can wrap our feeble minds around the small things. The kingdom is indeed like a seed. Martin Luther said that the whole universe is infused with the totality of God—he said that even a grain of wheat, designed and brought into being by our creator, contains God’s presence. Meister Eckhart, a 14th century mystic and pastor, said, “Apprehend God in all things
for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature -
even a caterpillar -
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
Mark tells us that Jesus gives us the Word as we are able to hear it. It has always been inspiring to me that God wants to be known and loved so much that we are given these stories that are so profound and yet so simple. A farmer casting out seed and then falling asleep—while the kingdom sprouts in his midst without him even knowing how. The kingdom is like that isn’t it?! How many times have you simply said something very offhandedly or perhaps even been unaware of how deeply you have touched someone else? My first year of ministry taught me this humbling parable in my own experience. Every week I struggled to find the right words to convey what I believe God wants me to convey, and then after I would deliver a sermon, I usually forgot about it and moved on to preparing for next week’s sermon—
but later in the week a parishioner might come up to me and tell me how something in particular I had said had really made a difference in their outlook that week. It may have even been something I forgot about saying!
What a gift it is to see the grain ready for the harvest! What a mystery it is to know that a simple smile or gesture of good will can make such a difference to someone.
The inverse is true as well of course, the slightest wag of the tongue, the smallest little whisper of a broken confidence sometimes bears the largest consequences of all—even while we “sleep” and forget about what we have said or done, our carelessness can sometimes spiral out of control.
Saul knew of this carelessness. You might ask yourself why Saul had fallen out of God’s favor—why, as the scriptures tell us, “God regretted ever having made Saul king.” It was just the slightest slip up—God had commanded Saul to conquer and kill the Amelekites—from top to bottom—from the King himself to the scrawniest goat in his Kingdom, and yet Saul had given permission to his warriors to take the choicest livestock as spoils of war.
As the scriptures show us, God loves shepherds—God is a shepherd. But God chooses a shepherd who would lay down his life for his flock, not lay down the lives of others for their flocks. Jesus tells us that he is the kind of Shepherd who would spend all day searching for the tiniest lost lamb, and Saul becomes the kind of shepherd who chooses the best livestock for himself.
Jesus chooses the mustard seed, and Samuel calls in Jesse’s youngest son from the fields where he is tending sheep and anoints him as the next king. Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd,” and David is celebrated as a fierce defender of his sheep—an unexpected King who comes out of the pasture to defeat giants and to lead a nation in the worship of God. Who would expect this of a shepherd boy?
Samuel tells us that God doesn’t see as we see, but God looks at a person’s heart. In a sense, Jesus is telling us the same thing with the parable of the mustard seed. The heart of a mustard seed is what it will become—and God doesn’t write off the seed because it is small and inconspicuous.
I have been a pastor for the past year at a small church, so I know that at times we can feel somewhat small and insignificant in comparison to the other more “successful” churches, the churches with so much to offer, the churches with the huge programs and the new buildings. But I can tell you that God chooses us as long as we have a heart for God. I’m not saying that God chooses us and not those big churches, because many of them are doing great things for the glory of God—but what I am saying is that God chooses us in the same measure that God chooses those other places.
God loves to dwell in our hearts, and physical size has no bearing on the size of heart. I can attest to you that in my short encounter with you thus far, I see a heart open to God—I see a pine tree with an Eagle’s nest. In the outpouring of help we have received, in the welcome baskets full of brownies and fresh vegetables and salsa and canned goods, in the pounding of steaks and beef and pound cake and other goods, in the in the ministries and motivation that I have witnessed at this past week’s church council meeting,
it is obvious to me that this church witnesses God’s presence. Being welcoming is a response to God’s grace pouring into and out of a place. Jesus says in the gospel of 7th chapter of John, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let anyone who believes in me drink. And out of the believer’s heart will come rivers of living water.” The Living water is the refreshing, purifying Holy Spirit—and in my opinion the Living water is often experienced as “welcoming.” Judging on our reception here, I would proclaim it as good news that this family of faith has felt the thirst in your throats and has dug the well to the heart of Christ—and that you drink from it and are now spilling over with the Spirit’s presence.
As your pastor, I see it as my calling to remind us of our thirst—remind us that this thirst creates possibilities for others to drink from the living waters which in turn flow out of our hearts.
Thirst causes us to see pine trees in pine nuts—to see shepherd boys as kings. Living this way takes constant hope. It takes a relentless hope in the possibilities of things unseen. But—as we have heard, God sees the things unseen, and God puts stock in mustard seeds, and shepherds, and us! amen

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I also messed with this one.

You can see one what one of the geese did to Lao-Tzu's rump. She was pretty humiliated.

Unlikely visitors

This one's taken on an old Holga.

Central Park photo shoot with my sister Haley. He is pretty intelligent, I'd say.

Here's the original. I've used hp image zone to fool with it.

Taking a break and playing with Wesley on the computer. Here we've doctored some photos. This one is "antiqued." I think it looks like it could sit in a photo album from 1978.

Tuesday Drive

A big Uhaul, two cats and a baby boy, and a lot of help. We know the way, but now you do too.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Good one

Diamonds on the Soles of my shoes



I was researching sermon ideas when I saw this photo of the Ascension by Salvador Dali. I was struck and delighted. My sermon will focus on not "gawking up at heaven" as the disciples did, but instead following the feet of Christ.

For the children's sermon, I decided to use the image to talk about my "beautiful feet." Feet are so taboo--I don't know many main-line congregations (including my own) who have the gumption to do an actual foot-washing service these days. I'll talk with the kids about how Isaiah says "How beautiful are the feet on the mountains of the one who brings [the Good News], and how that means my feet are beautiful too. Perhaps I'll talk about how I used to be ashamed of my feet because I had a big gap between my big toe and the rest of my toes--but now I'm proud of them because they bring me places where I can share the good news.
While daydreaming about the sermon, I also thought of a surprise for the kids
I'll show them the bottom of my feet and tell them I drew those crosses to remind me that everywhere I step, Jesus walks with me (name of the sermon is "Jesus Walks"--thanks Kanye). I'll ask them if their feet are beautiful too, then suggest that they carry the Good news that God loves the world--as Jesus asks his disciples to do at the Ascension.

Use it if it helps.
Peace

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Balance to biblical lighting zaps



I've always been fascinated and bothered by the story of Elijah going to the mountain and calling down a cosmic meltdown against the Canaanite priests. Here's a story from Daniel that offers another approach to foreign "wise men." God intercedes to save the Chaldeans---
Also, this story reminds me of the scene in Last Temptation of Christ when Jesus tells Pilate, "I am the stone that smashes the clay feet of the statue." Pilate is best played in all cinematic history by David Bowie in this movie. Removed but curious, like he is trifling with the Jews for his own amusement. Perfectly imagined as a Roman governor.

5 reasons I think I'm cool

Here's an interesting tag--Actually, I don't quite know how a tag works, but I've seen the phrase on Katherine's blog and it's usually followed by a list. So here one that I thought of that's sincere and funny, and perhaps revealing. IF you want to try out the list in the comments, or on your own blog--have at it. The idea for this list was sparked when I was trying to get something off my computer that was bugging me, and I noticed that when we had gotten our new computer, I had named it HAL. I had forgotten that I had done that, so when I remembered that I had at one point, I felt really cool. Are there things that you feel are cool about you? I recommend getting them out in the open--it is quite liberating.

1. I named my computer HAL
2. I liked Bottle Rocket when Wes Anderson first gained a following. I remember making my high school friends watch it and feeling really cool that I liked it better than they did, and then Wes Anderson became a fairly respected director.
3. I have a scar on my knuckle where I punched a guy in the tooth in 7th grade gym class. He kept gleeking on me, and I told him to stop or else I'd spit a hawker in his face because I couldn't do it. So, he did and I spit a hawker in his face and hit him in the tooth. That was cool of me. Steve McQueen in training.
4. I've gotten comments lately on my posts--they are from people who I think sound really cool--so that means I must sound really cool.
5. Most of the time I drink plenty of water. I'm healthy.

Hmm, that was interesting. I felt like my ego took a nice, big stretch.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Look how my buddy Chad's stance is mirrored by the tree. I suppose they're both trying not to slide down the hill. This is at a little pull off on the interstate through the Smokies in North Carolina/Tennessee border.

I've always liked this country diner in Ola, Arkansas. I had my camera last time I went to Little Rock.

Champion of cuteness vs. the ugly ducks

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Preparing to Confirm

This coming Sunday I'll be baptizing two "tweenagers" and then confirming them and three others in our Sunday service. Look for pix after the event on the church website. This is the third time I've taught or helped to teach confirmation, but the first time I'll be serving the "priestly function." For some reason, confirmation has always seemed very important to me. It is the time when kids take some time to consider an adult decision, and then most likely return to being kids. The event is usually understood better in retrospect, like when the two disciples who walked with Jesus to Emmaus thought after Jesus had disappeared from their midst, "How our hearts burned within us when he was walking with us and opening the scriptures."
With my own confirmation, I remember sitting in my dad's office at Sequoia UMC in Fayetteville. I don't remember much of the content. I remember going to a Shabbat service at the local synagogue and being mystified, then bored when the entirety (or what seemed like the entirety) of the service was conducted in Hebrew. I remember the Rabbi taking the scroll around the small congregation of people, and the way the people's eyes followed the Torah. I remember standing outside after the service was over and seeing a satellite drop out of the sky. I think I remember seeing it so clearly that I could actually make out the shape of the satellite. That's all I remember about confirmation. I don't remember any of the content. I think I actually remember the service when folks in the church lay their hands on me. I remember that being powerful and feeling really good. I remember feeling the pride and prayers of the people there coursing through their hands and into my hair and spine and shoulders. It really is a empowering feeling.
I suppose that's what I'm looking forward to most about this weekend. I hope that my confirmands remember that ritual. They can forget the content of the lessons we have had (I did), and they will probably remember the same things. We'll be visiting a Catholic, Episcopal, and Shabbat service this coming Friday, so they'll probably remember that and the service. Who knows? Maybe something will drop out of the sky and stamp the event in their mind too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

OKLAHOMA

Here's why I haven't posted in so long--We've been in the process of getting information about my new church in Morris, Oklahoma (south of Tulsa and right outside Okmulgee) I just received the directory the other day--looks like a great church with lots of life and fun. I knew I'd fit in when I saw a caption of one of the pictures of the congregation re-painting and carpeting the sanctuary. The picture had a kid painting a wall with a grown up behind him--the caption read, "Paint the fence, Daniel-son." I laughed and then delighted that someone else brings up a Karate Kid reference 20 years after the move came out.
I really like the guy who is presently my DS, but he's moving to Tulsa to a church. He promises that the incoming DS is very competent and even better looking. I like Okies. We had a bang up Easter Sunday--107 in worship--that's the best in years I think. Everyone was really proud of the worship service, and we had a full-blown processional. See the church blog for pix.
Lara and I haven't begun to pack yet--too busy. I recently coordinated a regional conference for the NCC in Little Rock on the subject of Climate change, Creation, and the Church. It was a hoot. And now that we're getting close to 100 degrees in April, I doubt many will find the subject that laughable.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Rubber duckie, you're the one.

yum

Birthday cake boy, with moms and pops

St. Patty's day birthday boy. Surrounded by his weight in toys

A very hard thing to do

I told my congregation on Sunday that Lara and I would be moving this coming June. We're really excited about our move, and sad at the same time because we're leaving beautiful people.
For all you preacher's out there--it is muy dificil. i remember standing there speaking and feeling like I was outside myself. I literally saw myself from behind nad heard myself talking, and being like "Okay, you've said enough, sit down and get to the worship service, that's why people are here."
Very surreal experience.
If you want to read the feeble words I was able to compose for that Sunday, go the church blog
peace

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


My happy little boyoyoyoyoy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Finally, someone said it!

"[T]he main objective of my writing today, is to nail the lie that to reject Zionism as it is practised today is in effect to be anti-Semitic, to be an inheritor of Hitler's racism. That argument, with the Holocaust in the background, is nothing other than moral blackmail. It is highly effective. It condemns many to silence who fear to be thought anti-Semitic. They are often the very opposite. They are often people whose heart bleeds at Israel's betrayal of its true heritage."


- Paul Oestreicher, chaplain at the University of Sussex, former member of the Church of England's general synod, and director of the Centre for International Reconciliation.



Oestreicher describes his heritage: "I say this as the child of a German Jewish-born father who escaped in time. His mother did not. I say it as a half-Jewish German child chased around a British playground in the second world war and taunted with 'he's not just a German, he's a Jew.' A double insult. But I say this too as a Christian priest who shares the historic guilt of all the churches. All Christians share a bloody inheritance."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Procrastinate? I don't think twice, Cause I'm livin' in a map geek's paradise.


Google Earth. My new procrastinating tool of choice. It is so cool. Zoom in on real photos of your car parked in front of your house from space.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I'm spying on you!

I've got a new page counter. Now I can see how big a loser I am.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Funeral Sermon for a Home-Maker

Scripture is the Gospel Lesson from the UM Book of Worship Service of Death and Resurrection:
John 14: 1-4, 18-19, 25-27

From speaking with members of this family and the friends of Pat, I’ve gathered that this woman whose life, death, and resurrection we celebrate today took great pride in being a mother, a wife, a cook. She was a home – maker. What a tremendous profession that is! To make a home, to be the one that turns four walls and a roof into a place where “family” happens….this is indeed a great gift and one that Pat had great expertise in sharing with the world. It is a testimony to her great ability with “making a home” that her children are here today, and that though separated by many miles they seem to have the ability to “pick right up where they left off.”
Pat’s life as one who took great pride in “home-making” is also a witness to this beautiful, powerful, “Living” God who makes a home in us. We celebrate a God who gives us life by breathing into our very bodies the “Breath of Life” as is said in our Creation Story. This Holy Breath or Holy Spirit makes our bodies into temples, and if we live our life empowered and motivated by this Power, we’re made into “members of the One Body—the Living Body of the one who revealed God’s love and mercy in a unique way on Earth—the Body of the Living Christ.” This man called Jesus was also a “home-maker” without a place to “lay his head.” This wandering Rabbi taught his followers how to make a home in their hearts for the Living Loving Lord whom he knew as Abba—or Daddy. This man named Jesus taught us to make a home in our midst for reconciliation, renewal, refreshment, and renouncing our lives of self-centeredness. This man called Jesus also assured us that he was going ahead of us into Death and was going to make a road through Death to prepare a home for us beyond death. Just in case we were worried about making the trip there on our own, Christ promises us to return again and take us there himself. Do not worry, he says, I will not leave you here orphaned. Christ indeed does not leave us orphaned. The Living Christ makes a home here among us, “where two or three are gathered,” and with us shares our loss, our heartache, our joy, and our celebration.
We gather today to celebrate the home that Pat made for her family, we gather today to celebrate the God who makes a home in our midst and who now draws Pat into her eternal heavenly home. God is a home-maker for us in this life and in the next. God is trying to burst through our barriers and walls to make a home for us in this life. Pat believed in a man named Jesus who brought that vision to Earth in a unique way. After pass through the doorway of death, we enter the home that God prepares for us in the mysterious life to come. This is the home that God is attempting to utilize us to create on Earth. This is the home that Jesus calls us to in this life and after this life. In our gospel passage, Jesus comforts us with the knowledge that Jesus prepares a place for us there, and there are many rooms—room for everyone!