Monday, July 07, 2014

I had difficulty with our flag this 4th of July


A fond, childhood memory was of my father reverently raising the flag of the United States on days of national importance. A Marine, like his father and grandfather before him, he would stand silently and watch the flag move in the breeze. He held a sense of awe for this country, and he believed the flag represented everything that was right about the United States.

He would point to it and say; that flag tells represents freedom. I have attempted to carry that tradition of raising the flag. My son and I would dutifully place it in a position of honor outside our home. This year it was difficult. The national media has been reporting on the immigration protests in a town called Murrietta (named for an immigrant - Esequial Murrieta) in the State of California (another Spanish word).

Women and children in an attempt to escape the economic oppression and daily terror in their home country have been arrested for entering the United States without proper documents. They were being transported in buses to a temporary holding facility before final deportation to their former “home.” After a treacherous journey of 1000 miles to escape gangs, extortion, rape, murder, these women and children were met by angry protesters.

The protesters blocked the buses from passing through to the facility.  Many were waving the flag of the United States. The flag my father would hold so gently, was being held in anger. Softly flapping in the California wind, the flag of the United States would be forever etched in the memory of those impoverished women and children as a symbol of rejection. My father would have shed a tear.

In public life, we call ourselves a Christian country. We use phrases like “freedom and democracy” or “the chance for a better life.” It all sounds true; we tend to intervene in situations where liberation for oppression is a pressing national concern. Many of the appeals to our highest national identity emphasize the long held belief that we are the promised land: “And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world with our sound—sound in unity, affection, and love—one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.” (Ronald Reagan, Second Inaugural).

The women and children waiting on the bus were hopeful, and they found despair. The women and children silently watched as our flag was waved in anger at their presence. These children of God on that bus were told they could not enter “our kingdom.”

I would never assume that can speak for our Holy Creator or actually know what God is thinking. I like to believe, however, that through prayer, grace, silence and the Bible - God sent his Son with a message of love and inclusion. It is meant for everyone.  I like to believe that God does not draw lines or borders, favor nationalities, or wave flags, or differentiate by standing, skin color or social class. Only that Jesus said, " Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. "

I like to believe that most Americans have a greater love for humanity and inherent compassion than what was reported at Murrieta.  I pray that compassion still exists and because of this hope in humanity, we walked outside and unfurled the flag. I watched as my son raised it with special reverence, and I thought of my father and the love he held for his country.

I then walked into my makeshift chapel and sat in silence, staring at the crucifix. I was reminded once again the beauty of the cross.  The beautiful cross is where the love God meets the earth. That cross is where life come alive and is the only real place for me.  It is the place where true transformation is found.  

I blessed the people protesting in Murrietta and blessed the women and children on that bus as they journey toward hope. Although the flag was waved in anger, it will always hold special meaning. It reminds me of my father and his belief in this place called the United States. I could not allow hate to replace his dreams of good.

However, I am also reminded there is something stronger in this world, something greater than nationality or speeches. It is what moves me to an indescribable place that no flag, country or song can replace. It is that a wounded, beautiful man was nailed to a cross. The arms of Christ, open in love and acceptance, embracing all of humanity. I will honor the flag for my father, struggle when it is used in hate, however, my life and everything about me is with Jesus. I will always follow Him and all that the cross represents. 


I pledge allegiance to the Lamb and to the Kingdom for which he stands. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hash Tag - Peace be with You



#Peacebewithyou.  Imagine the possibility of transforming hate in social media through the use of these four simple words.  "Peace be with you" to share the message of Christ to a world accepting of hate.

Social Media Sunday was encouraging and uplifting.  Episcopalians from across the globe, smiling, tweeting, posting and uploading.  I found a wonderful picture of a Priest taking a picture of the congregation from the pulpit and the congregation taking pictures of the Priest.  Everyone is comfortable clicking and sending.  Now what?  Yes, we are comfortable with Social Media, maybe too comfortable.  A quick read of various postings on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and you are likely to encounter bullying, divisiveness and hate.  Is the time for a soul searching selfie?

I had the unsettling experience of reading an article on Facebook that described Governor Jan Brewer touring a holding facility for unaccompanied immigrant children.  While we were engaging in Social Media Sunday, others were posting vitriolic attacks and hate.  The article stated that Governor Brewer met with three of the young children detained.  I was encouraged by her initial statement "It is frustrating for us to go in there and look into their eyes, to see the hurt, to see the trauma that they've been put through."  Hope.   Yet, in the next breath she attacked the President, the system, the Federal Government.

Governor Brewers comments were then followed by people who felt inclined to share their comments on these children, immigrants and the government.  Many of the comments were vicious attacks on immigrants and children.  Just a sampling:  "They are all illegal, disease carrying vermin."   Another statement was equally as compassionate: "By all means. Let's secure our borders and keep these children stranded in Mexico."  In much the same way, a divinely inspired post: "We need to organize our militias, rescue our Marine, buy army surplus drones & start bombing their military compounds & ammo depots & for every illegal that trespasses, shoot on site."

What would lead a person to say such things?  What or who engenders such hate?  Maybe it is easy to sit at a computer or on your PDA and type out the venom in your heart.  The tendency to attack is seductive; throw a rock and see if it hits someone.  Yet, hate if allowed to flow freely throughout the social media world, it becomes a reality in our world.  It goes out into the world desperately seeking a host.

If Jesus were to read the Facebook posts, how would he react?   I doubt if he would ignore them. Yet, I cannot believe he would engage in simplistic arguments on the comments page.   Maybe those sacred fingers would begin typing "peace be with you" at every instance of hate on social media.  How can we be like Christ?

Sadly, hateful comments, vicious attacks and disparaging remarks have become commonplace.  So much so that many are dulled to their long lasting impact. As followers of Christ, we must challenge that hate.  We need to disarm and redeem through peaceful protest using our tweets, postings and snap chats.  A new form of non-violent action and the path is the information super highway.  This may be a new entrance into the  Kingdom of God.   Social Media non-violence is a way to confront the institutionalized freedom in social medial that compel many to attack, criticize, bully and isolate.

At every instance of hate, bullying or disparaging remark -  "peace be with you."  It does not matter whether we agree with the issue or not, let it be "peace be with you."  Those profound words of Christ may touch a heart and stem the flow of hate.   We can change the way we interact with one another through social media.  By challenging hate, we can prevent it from spreading through the world as it desperately seeks a host.  Our peace will force hate to wander through arid regions and never find a suitable place to grow.

Social media Sunday was the beginning, now we must take that next step.  Let us show the world something dramatic about our faith.   We believe in something greater, something hopeful, a beautiful transforming power that will change hearts and lives.  Maybe with "peace be with you,"  people will finally understand why we follow Him.   The Kingdom of God is near, let's bring it about with a post, a tweet, a smile, or a simple #peace be with you.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

700 Immigrant Children Detained - Who cares?

Recently, I opened the paper and there was nothing out of the ordinary.  The usual mundane and familiar stories of fear, nationalism, war, capitalism and political gamesmanship.  Ah, the same old world!  However, beneath the fold, an article on children apprehended crossing the border into the United States. Over 700 unaccompanied children from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and parts unknown who have undertaken a journey to escape violence, search for parents, seeking a new life, destined for an uncertain future.  The children will have a stay in a holding facility in New Mexico until the federal government decides what to do with them.  For many the certain deportation.  There is talk of amnesty all the while our government challenges the assertion that"a humanitarian crisis” exists in the United States.    The article describes similar holding places in Arizona and Texas. Another story about illegal immigrants down on that hot and dusty border; same old world.   

I am not using the term "children" loosely.  They immigrants are as young as 6 and others maybe 13, 14 or 16.  Children.  They are not gang members, drug dealers or criminals.   Well, technically some will argue they are criminals. They broke the laws of this country by undertaking this journey without an invitation.  The word “unaccompanied” is true.   A 10 year old child traveling thousands of miles with no money or protection.   A child trusting that somehow, somewhere they will find peace and safety.  

The article framed a picture of a small child covering his eyes.  It troubled me.  However, the story on the next page contained those things that make us tough and proud.  It described the high stakes competition between New Mexico, Arizona and Texas "inviting" a car company into the state (The same states who are housing the children).  A million maybe billion dollar taxpayer funded bidding war.  Who wants to read about uninvited immigrants seeking hope when you can plunge into the hopeful lure of money, jobs and growth.  One can imagine that corporate come hither look - "give us millions of dollars and we will choose you.  We will make all you dreams come true!"  Lost children vs. luxury cars. Oh, how that old order is beautiful.  

Yet, I found myself focusing on that picture of the immigrant child. He was 8 or 9, his small brown arm sticking out and covering his face.  Surrounded by forty or fifty other children on a floor in a holding cell. That small arm reminded me of my son, sleeping in a safe warm bed, dreaming of friends, school and childhood. I doubt this little boy was dreaming those same dreams.  Was he was thinking of his mom or dad and hoping he would see them soon?  Or praying with a childlike confidence to Jesus (that biblical come to me all you little children thing).  Hoping that the terror would subside and the nightmare would end.   What would the next day bring?

I was troubled because of my conscience.   The cold, hard truth  is that I am not being the hands and arms of Christ. The clatter of nationalism, consumerism and fear is drowning out the prophetic voice of Christ.  There are 700, 7,000 or 70,000 hurting and desperate children.  Children, crying out for someone to help.  Children, crying out to each one of us.  Why the silence?  I know that we stand and act with those society rejects, neglects and forgets.   We walk in pride marches, stock up food pantry’s and  volunteer at the shelter.   I turn on Facebook and view the posts about animals being chained and confined.  Sign the petition!   I am an Episcopal Priest spiritually formed by Monastics, Jesuits and Franciscans.  I am outraged by abuses against all of God's creation. Yet the silence on this tragedy is deafening.   Children waiting in the holding camps are bound to the chains economic oppression and confined by racism, nationalism and consumerism.  I pray they matter.  

I am tired of the excuses and arguments of that same old world.  The same excuses that both the US and Mexico must protect it’s borders and interests. Immigrants are neglected on both sides of the border, no one has the moralistic upper hand.  Cruelty is ignored in the name of law and order, nationalism and political careers.  Maybe Jesus was right when he spoke of the ending of the old and the beginning of the new.   The Kingdom of God is near, in fact, it is here right now.  All those rules, laws, economic structures, relationships must end.  A new way to look at people in this new world. Instead of shutting out people from countries, churches, homes and hearts, let’s do something radical.  Something unexpected where we let people in.  No, where we invite our brothers and sisters into those protected places like our country, our church, our home and our heart.  I seem remember that the only time Jesus talks separating people was in Matthew 25.  “Lord, when was it that we saw you…

After reading the article, I am reminded time and time again that with Christ there are no coincidences. Maybe Jesus is pointing to those little children sleeping on floors and our lackadaisical response.   “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”  

What will we preach this Sunday?  Maybe we can take a chance and really follow Jesus.  I do not think Jesus was joking when he said all these things.  I am tired of watching and waiting. There are children crying.   I know I have not done enough as a citizen and a Priest. I must do more, I am a follower of Jesus.  It starts today.  So President Obama what are you waiting for?  I was deeply moved when you said that Treyvon Martin could be what your son would look like if you had a son.  Mr. President please look at all those children in those detention centers as your children, as God’s children.  Mr. or Mrs. Representative of Congress have the courage to make the lives of those children more important than your next election.  Priest, Minister, Reverend, Pastor, follow him, speak out and up and none will lose the reward.  

Finally, for my brothers and sister who feel that laws and flags are more important than these children, or for those who believe these children are a little less than others, take a moment to imagine.  Imagine for one brief moment that young child sleeping alone on the floor of a detention cell is your child or the child of someone you love.  They are alone and confused.  Their cries cannot be soothed by rough blankets or national flags. Those small arms are reaching out to you.  What would you do?  Divide or embrace?  Listen or walk away?  You are the face of Jesus Christ.    


It is time to start bringing about that new world, that new kingdom that Jesus always talks about.  The possibility that we can bring that Kingdom starting with hundreds of  unaccompanied children, alone, afraid and sleeping in a cell along the border of our lives.  It starts now.   I pledge allegiance to the Lamb and to the Kingdom for which He stands. 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Punching Holes in the Darkness

Today we celebrate Ascension Day.  A major feast in our Church calendar, but one often overlooked. We jump from Easter to Pentecost, and seemingly ignore the celebration where the risen Christ takes his place at the right hand of God.  

You would think that Jesus being reunited with the father is significant.  So why the obscurity?  As a child, my recollection of the Ascension story was through the pictures in Sunday school books.  Most have the similar memory of the scene in books.    Clear skies, rolling hills green meadows and 11 smiling Apostles waving at a floating Jesus, who is going up, up, up and away.

Even the opening in clouds is perfectly cut in a nice square so Jesus could slip right through. Bye Jesus.  However, the ascension is far more than that.  I suspect the reason Ascension Day resides in the festal shadows is that when Christ departs from this earth, the responsibility shifts.  

Previously, in all our encounters with the living God, it is God who initiates and takes responsibility for the relationship.   At Christmas, wrapped in human fles, the divine breaks the bounds of heaven, becomes incarnate and lives among us.  At the Last Supper – he integrates us with his being.  

In the Cross and at Easter we discover the ultimate act of his love and the assurance of our inclusion in God’s eternal plan.  At Pentecost – we are given the power of the spirit.   Up until this point, we haven’t exerted much effort.  

However, on Ascension Day, as Jesus is moving toward God, we are given the ultimate going way present:  we are entrusted with the continuation of his message and presence.   God places the responsibility of his voice, his life, his acceptance, his love with each one of us. 

Think of the enormity of the trust.  The divine, the creator, our God - asks each one of us – to be his witness on earth.    So for every word he spoke, every action he carried out, for every person on the margins he pulled into his arms we must do it, live it and proclaim it.  

We must love not only God, but love one another.  We are asked to become Christ to the world.     And the earth shattering realization is that God truly believes that we can do it.  If not, why would he ask it of us?   His simple words “You will be my witness.” And the Apostles took it to heart and did it. 

Think of this world if the disciples would have ignored those words.  Or if they kept looking for Christ in the clouds?  What if they sat around and waited for Jesus to return; hoping that he would come back and continue to do all the work? Or that someone else would do it.  Our world would be quite different.  

Even more disturbing - if the assembled followers  that day thought of Jesus only on Sunday and forgot about him the rest of the week.  After all, Jesus was not around.  Who would know? What difference would it make?  It made a world of difference.   

Followers of Christ stand out for helping the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and the excluded.  They gave Christ a voice in the world when other voices were silent.   Why?  Because as Jesus ascended, his love descended.  He left part of himself in the world.  And that meant something, he was part of them.

There is a story of a man who learned he was going blind.  He was a great lover of art; his career was dedicated to the preservation of great pieces.  As his sight began to fail, the man booked a plane to Amsterdam and spent a week in the Van Gogh museum.   Each day he stood for hours upon end looking at each of the paintings.   He wanted these images to soak into this brain as his last visual images.

So on that hilltop, all the assembled men, women and children did not wave goodbye, they soaked the image of Jesus into their beings.  They kept the vision of his physical being, but also his teachings, presence and grace.  Jesus was infused into their minds and his memory was etched in their hearts.  The Apostles instituted the practice of Christ rather than the terminology of religion.

Christ’s followers became blind to the world and made Christ their vision.  He was on their lips, in their hearts and on their minds.  They did not forget.   When their faith was challenged, they remembered his wounds.  When afraid, they remembered his loving embrace.  When angry, they remembered the way he played with children, and cried with Martha and Mary. 

Jesus colored their lives so completely, so when their hearts hardened, the Apostles remembered how Jesus touched the sick and accepted outcasts at his table.  When lonely, recalled how Christ laughed out loud.  When they could not go on, they heard his voice saying he would never leave their side.  The enormity of the trust. 

My favorite depiction of the ascension is a 19th century print.  The sky is cloudy and dark, as if a storm is raging all around.   In the middle of the clouds is a break, as if someone had punched a hole in the darkness.   Rays of light illuminate men, women, children, short, tall, young, and the elderly.   

The light of Christ shines on each one.  Their faces radiate, they seem transformed – as if they were becoming something new.  The love in their hearts seems to leap off the page.  

It reminded me of the hour immediately following a heavy downpour.   The dark massive clouds blanket the sky.  Yet for a moment, through a small break in the clouds, white shafts of afternoon light the earth. The light is soft, yet bright and it allows you to see details often hidden from our daily sight. 

New shades of greens and blues are revealed.  Leaves become brighter, clouds lighter and the world exposes its depth and beauty.     For a few seconds something new is revealed.  Then suddenly the clouds close, the light shifts and then it is gone.  In a stable in Bethlehem, a hole was punched in the darkness of sin; the light became flesh and dwelt among us.  

In Jesus’ Ascension, a hole was punched in the darkness of humanity, and the earth was illuminated in a light that allowed us to see the world, and one another in a different way.  By his Ascension we are called be the light, to illuminate Christ message of love, faith, acceptance.  Not only to those we like or those we know, but to everyone.

Christ is calling us to be his witness.  In this sanctuary, in our homes, communities, and in this nation.   This responsibility is not only for Priests, Deacons or the devoutly religious; Jesus asks each one of us carry it.  We all are graced with the same inherent collective memory of Christ.  Like the  Apostles, Jesus is infused into our minds, his memory etched in our hearts.  It is who we are.  

It is an awesome responsibility.  Many ask “how can I bring Christ into this world?”  Well - Justice, equality and acceptance are what love looks like in a public setting.   Bring forth his light.  If you question if you can truly make a difference in Christ’ name, try it, one person at a time.   Jesus encountered people individually, and they were transformed one loving action at a time.  

Those he transformed reached out to others and they too were transformed.  It spread to the ends of the earth.  If each one of us makes a conscious effort to punch holes in the darkness, in the name of justice, acceptance and love, the brilliance of Christ’s light would diminish the sun.  

When we punch holes in the clouds for the forgotten, we might have the ability to recognize the plight of our brothers and sisters who are homeless, victims of slavery, addiction, the sex trade, all the poor 

Punch a hole in the clouds for those on margins, those who are victims of abuse of all kinds, sexism, racism, classism  all the “isms” that cripple our society.   We must step forward and allow his light to shine before the dark finality of despair overcomes the light of hope.

So today as we contemplate Jesus moving toward God, my brothers and sisters become the messengers of his light, of his love.   Take this gift of responsibility, and make a difference in the world.  Shine your light on those instances of bigotry, exclusion and hate.


Your love in the name of Christ can punch holes through the darkest clouds of injustice.  One person at a time, one encounter at a time, one loving action upon another.  Only your light can reflect his beauty to the world

Monday, April 07, 2014

Darkness (John 11:1-45

Arise O Sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.

As a child, I had an overpowering fear of the dark.  My heart would race, my breathing would quicken and I would run toward a door or the nearest source of light.  A Scooby Doo night light was a trusted friend.  I would do anything to assure I was not left in the dark.  

This fear reached its pinnacle when I was 7. I grew up in an extremely large family.  On any given weekend, I was surrounded by 30 to 40 cousins.  The older, teenage cousins had a twisted sense of humor. One Saturday, I could not find my baseball.  Two of the meaner ones told me it was  in the old shed.  I immediately stiffened with fear.  

The old shed, way out in the back of field.  No windows, and old wooden door.  It was hot, musty and full of spiders and crawling things.  I was terrified to go near.  They noticed that i did not make a movement.   I heard the taunts “chicken?”  So, I pursed my lips, stood straight and walked directly toward the shed.  Reflecting on it later, not once did I stop why and how it would be in there - and how did they know.  

I walked slowly toward it, eyeing this horrible structure.   I did not want to go in.  Chicken.  I stopped at the old door, turned the knob, and it creaked as it opened.  opened the door and peered in.  I could see outlines of old furniture, covered with sheets, and farm tools.  I took a deep breath and took a small step into the shed.  

Just then, I felt two large hands push me on my back.  I was hurtled into the shed by the force of their shove. My head hit an old cabinet and then I heard the door slam shut and the door latch lock.   It was total darkness, and i let out a horrific shriek.   I was yelling, banging on the door.  All I could hear were my cousins laughing as they walked away.

I sat there in my terror.  I imagined movements in the dark and was sure bugs were crawling on me.  My head was bleeding.  I was scared, angry and could not catch my breath.  No one seemed to hear me or care.  I felt trapped in the dark with no way out and the world seen to go on it’s way.  I felt alone and abandoned.

In reading our Gospel, I thought of that dark shed and Lazarus. Specifically, his time before his death, and how he felt.  No one ever seems to remark on what he was going through.  Of course, theologians speak of Jesus and his mission, his compassion, his prayers and the miracle.  Others speak of Martha and Mary and their mourning.  Even the crowd is spoken about. 

Yet, Lazarus, is left to being described as a bandaged figure who walks like a mummy into the light.  So let’s imagine Lazarus, full of life, going to work, laughing with his sisters, going through the normal routine and then everything changes.  In an instance, his world is turned upside down.  From everyday to darkness, sad to painful. Joy into grief.  He thinks, how can this happen to me.  Sitting in the room, simply hoping.   

Maybe crying and saying “I am scared. Yet he knows that his friend, the one who loves him, will come.  He needs Jesus.  And then nothing.  His sisters ask and Jesus does not respond.  He prays and seemingly no answer.  Jesus seems to ignore the one he loves, in fact he goes the other way.  

Lazarus is hurt.  The abandonment, anger and fear.  The darkness of despair probably envelops him before the darkness of the tomb.   The world goes by and no one is paying attention.  Imagine his cries “Jesus, where are you.  I need YOU!”   In many ways, we are Lazarus.  His story is not unlike ours.  Because each one of us has suffered in some way.  Some, may be suffering now.

We have a happy marriage or relationship and then those words.  “I do not love you anymore.”   Illness stops us in mid stride, and you wonder is you will ever be the same.    Your job is being realigned and you are not part of the alignment.  You cannot lose that weight and you hate yourself.  All you do at home is fight with your parents, spouse, children.  Constant conflict.   I can have just one drink.  Or death has taken away the light from you.  

Life is a dark place and it is terrifying. Let’s be honest for all our strength, our posturing, even with strong faith.  It is difficult, no, it is almost impossible to willing walk into sorrow and suffering.  No one wants to encounter the darkness of life.  I do not care if you are a Christian, agnostic, atheists, or a seeker; abandonment and darkness is scary. No one wants to be alone.  We do not want to feel hopeless, or even die.  We want the light.  

And Lazarus is no different.  So on those final days. Lazarus waits and waits.   Seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days.  Eventually there is no hope left.  The door of his life is shut and he is bound with the wrappings of despair.  He is dead to the world and Jesus knows it.  This is the only place in the Gospel where Jesus tells his disciples that someone is dead.  

Yet Jesus knows and he moves toward Lazarus through the distance  He senses, he understands.  Because when a relationship is bound in love.  There is no distance. And when the relationship is bound by divine love, no place or darkness is beyond God’s reach.  Jesus walks, prays, comforts, cries.  He says the name Lazarus - which means God is my help.  And God is our help. 

Jesus looks toward the tomb and says Lazarus, “come out.”   Lazarus, wrapped in despair, his life seemingly ended, enveloped in total darkness.  All hope, all faith is buried with him.   Then his soul hears something.   He cannot move because hopelessness is holding him back.  

He hears that voice again.  Is it a dream wedged between the constant nightmares. He hears in clearly “everything will be ok.  I am here.”   The one tiny speck of hope, begins to grow.  The voice gets louder and hope becomes larger.  The door of the tomb slowly opens and little by little, light fills the darkness.  

He struggles to get up, attempting some semblance of his former bearing, yet he knows that life will never be the same.  Jesus calls again -  “Come out of the darkness and into the light my child.”   The first thing his out of focus eyes see is the love of Christ. Despite the past and the darkness, Lazarus understand that everything will somehow be ok.  Like a buried seed in the ground, it was dark, with the hopeful expectation of the light.

That is our hope, that is our faith.  That is the love of the one we follow.  Despite the tomb and the despairing darkness of life.  Jesus is always near. These are not archaic stories that happened long ago.  They are true now.  The Lord did not only act then, God is acting now.  The love of God is real, day in and day out.  In our darkness, in our tombs, he is near.  

There is a knowing that somehow that in the darkness there will be an inextinguishable light, and indescribable love.  Always there near, searching for you.  That day, locked in a shed, I knew deep down that my grandmother would look for me. Her love would not let me be gone for long.  I must of fallen asleep and then I heard her voice.  

I banged on the door and shouted and by doing so, I noticed the light.   Light seeping through the cracks of the door. It was probably there all along, yet I did not see it in my fear. She unlocked the door and I fell into hers arms, and cried and cried.  She held me and eventually the tears turned into laughter.  I imagine Lazarus fell into the arms of Jesus, and he cried and cried and the tears eventually turned into laughter.  He knew that Jesus would be there.

Eugene O’Neill wrote a play about Lazarus after the miracle. In the play, a crowd has gathered at Lazarus’ house to speak to him.  Lazarus emerged from the tomb and "began to laugh softly like a man in love with God?  Then Lazarus, in serene acceptance, uttered his first word, "Yes!" He affirmed all he saw around him in a way he never had before.

They began to ask questions, Lazarus, what was it like to die? What did you see? What did you experience?" Once again, Lazarus began to laugh the laughter of pure joy. Then he  said, "There is only life. There is only laughter, the laughter of God. It soars to the heights; it resounds to the depths. There is no death, really. “ 

We were born of the laughter of God and we move toward the laughter of God. There is only life. "Therefore, we must learn to live, to celebrate, to love, to accept, to affirm. We must learn to participate in God’s love of life.  We are never left alone.  

With Christ, it is never the end of the story.  In our darkest time or tomb never give up hope because there will always be a voice calling you saying.  “I am here, Come out into the light.  Come to me.  Come. Everything will be alright.”  


In your darkest time, listen because he is calling you.  Sense, because he is near.  Reach out your arms, because you will fall into his arms.  Yes.  Because he is always there. The light in the darkness, turning our despair into joy, and our pain into laughter.   

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Sacred Now

An old acquaintance who tends to be a bit rigid in his religion came up to me and asked, we no, stated "When are you going to learn?  All you talk about is the poor.  They are killing themselves.   If we don't change the culture, if we do not change morality, the world will collapse.  Jesus is not coming back a happy man."  I smiled and asked how his knee replacement surgery had affected his running.  He looked at me surprised and quickly changed the subject.  I wondered what it was like to know the mind of Jesus and his particular mood upon arrival.  Interesting.

I wished him well, turned around and just then a raindrop landed on my forehead.  At that one instant, i found so much joy in the sacred present.  The mystery of water, the mystery of the now. The previous conversation was an ancient relic.  The potential argument or irriation began to collect dust.  

When the raindrop touched my forehead, nothing else mattered.  I stopped in mid stride.  So natural.  I did not intentionally stop, my body became still as if to say "wait.  This matters, the present is now, and you are being blessed.  Stop.  It was a sacred moment."  Maybe that one drop created for me at the moment found me.   Maybe Jesus was reflecting his particular mood.  Either way, I was blessed by the sacred present and rain, my own body made me stop.  The holy present touched with joy and gratitude.

I want to live like that always. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

For Charles Rehberg

I was blessed with the opportunity not only to know Charles, but to sit and observe his work as a person of faith.  When Deacon Jenkins called and let me know that  he we being welcomed by the Holy Angels, I was in the midst of planning Holy Week services.  Some of my strongest memories of Charles revolve around Holy Week, and with God, we know there are never simple coincidences.

While the most important memories of Charles were spoken by his grandson.  I want to briefly describe his faith.   The faith that radiated throughout this Church, throughout his life.  And his faith is seen in this beautiful Gospel passage from St. Luke.  I find the faith of Charles, evident in the story of Simeon. For both Charles and Simeon, it is a story of of a life where a dream is realized

In the Gospel, Jesus is a little over a month old, and Mary and Joseph bring him back to to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice because it was required by the law. The family is poor and all they can offer are two young pigeons.  As they walk to the temple,  a faithful and good man, who has spent his life serving God and others, is jolted. 

He gets up from his place on the side of the Temple, with the Holy Spirit upon him, he reaches out to Mary and Joseph and asks to hold Jesus.  He takes the Lord into his arms, and understands that after all these years, after all the dreams, the work and prayers, his eyes are gazing into the eyes of Jesus.

Like Simeon, Charles practiced his faith and waited in hopeful expectation.  Throughout the years, he was always an active and engaged member of each congregation in which he worshipped.   His faith was natural and steadfast.  Yet, many did not realize he was serving because he put himself in the background, supporting, allowing the beauty to unfold.     

His faith and service always pointed to something greater.  Waiting patiently, quietly for God.  In prayer, in worship and in humble service.  I want to share some examples. Charles often served as the crucifer during the Eucharist.  In liturgical terms is the person who carries the cross in mass.  Each time Charles carried the cross,  he was always erect, proud, and held the cross high. 

He carried the weight of the cross, yet one noticed, because he held it in such a way that all eyes were drawn to Christ.  As it should be.  That was Charles, that was his humble, supporting faith, waiting upon the Lord. 

As mentioned earlier, Holy Week holds the strongest memories of his faith.  Specifically the Tenebrae service.   Tenebrae means darkness and during this service we reflect on the Lord's trial, suffering and the resurrection.  Charles was always the thunder during Tenebrae.    Let me explain.  Near the conclusion of this beautiful service the lights are turned off and the entire church is completely blanketed in darkness.  
Suddenly,  you hear thunder in the background, and then a single candle is brought from its hiding place.  A glowing light piercing the darkness and through the thunder, it is placed on a stand in front of the altar. 

Charles was the one, out of sight, standing in a darkened hallway in the back of the church, creating the sounds of thunder. The thunder represents the earth groaning under the weight of the resurrection,  the triumph of eternal life over death.  In the darkness, off to the side, arms swinging, large smile on his face, he was the one creating the sound, the sound that represents eternal life, the light to brighten any darkness.  

Isn’t it fitting that Charles was the thunder.  In the darkness, humble, yet strong.  His faith resonated throughout this Church.  That was Charles, that was his humble faith.   

And then the faithful servant Charles, supporting his beloved Gloria, as she lived out her faith as a Deacon.   In this Church, in this Diocese supporting her, so that she could love, support and serve others.  Charles, working, supporting, off to the side, so that others could be served.  That was Charles, that was his humble faith.

Charles did not admire Christ, he sought to serve Christ in this world. Like Simeon, off to the side of the temple, Charles looked upon Jesus and was fulfilled.  The final words we hear from Simeon are these “Lord you have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised.  For these eyes of mine has seen the Savior.”

And that is why when God whispered his name, I know Jesus was excited because a trusted friend returned to his side.   When Charles you were free to go in Peace as the Lord you had humbly served had promised.  

As he moved from life to everlasting life, Christ was there to meet him.  Like all those years in this place, Charles holding up the light of Jesus as his fellow brothers and sisters walked to meet Christ face to face, Charles erect, straightforward, guiding the way.  

Go Forth upon your journey 
Go from this world.
May the Saints lead you into paradise.
May the choirs of angels welcome you with their song
Rest in the arms of Christ the Shepherd. Charles, you are gazing upon his face.

My friend Charles, till we meet again.  We will miss you. We will miss your smile, your faith, your steadfast belief.  But now you are home.    Look upon the face of Christ and smile,and while your are looking into his eyes, whisper our names as we whisper yours.


Go forth until we meet again.  You are home faithful servant.  You are home.