Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Monday, February 9, 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
Monday, April 2, 2012
All Souls, Berkeley
Palm/Passion Sunday Year B
Mark 14:32 – 15:47
Time can be funny, shifting gears in seemingly random ways. Life, in its unfolding, has a way of slowing down and speeding up, and there is little to nothing we can do to change it.
Except that we have the ability to make meaning from the variability we experience, and in doing so we can begin to divine God’s presence in our lives and the world around us.
This gets to the heart of the historical and theological understanding of two different strands of time – chronos and kairos.
Chronos is the daily flow of time. It is always moving forward, and though it may seem to speed up or slow down when we are looking back, or as we anticipate or dread what is coming, it is quite simply the ongoing steady current of time that frames our lives.
It gives meaning in how we mark it – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and holy days. It can be heard in the tick of the second hand on a watch or the whooshing swing of a pendulum on a clock. It can be seen in the seamless transition from one number to another on the digital clocks on our phones and in the turning of one day into another, one season into the next, year after year.
Chronos is the water we swim in and the air we breathe, and as I preached a few weeks ago, it is easy to become enslaved to it – letting it not just mark our time, but to delineate it in such as way as to control us. It is therefore something we must always be mindful of.
Kairos can be understood as God’s time. In theological terms it is ‘the appointed time in the purpose of God – or, when time is fulfilled.’ Kairos is different because when we enter it, time doesn’t just seem to change speed, it actually does.
Perhaps an apt visual description of what I mean is ‘bullet time’ as seen in the movie The Matrix. The visual effects of this movie were revolutionary in many ways, not the least of which was how regular speed, slow motion, time-lapse and a constantly changing perspective of a scene serve to slow down, expand and speed up time at crucial times - the iconic image being the ability to see the energy trails of bullets as speed through the fight scenes, the viewer backing in and out of the scene and seeing it from several angles.
In this way, it visually captures kairos – showing us the possibilities of how time can shift and we can enter and leave those shifts.
When we experience kairos, we know it, because whether big or small, what we are doing has a timelessness to it that expands and makes life both slow down and speed up – giving us all the time we need.
I feel this when I get lost in a good book, or enjoy a relaxing meal with friends. I’ve felt it when I’ve been on retreat or even vacation, both of which by their very nature serve to help us step back from our daily chronos routine. I’ve experienced it when I’ve sat and prayed with people who are dying and I’ve known it was real when I listened to someone offer confession in the Rite of Reconciliation. Perhaps you just sensed it in the presentation of Jesus’ Passion.
If you take a few moments to reflect this week I know that you too will begin to see the strands of kairos that weave in and out of your life.
And today, this week, we enter something special. A time that like no other that knits together and merges these two elements. Holy Week. Chronos, in our journey through the Great Three Days, from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday and then The Great Vigil. And yet kairos in perhaps its more pure and undiluted form as God’s purpose and time overflow through these days, signs of God’s unconditional love leading us toward the mystery of Easter.
Our Gospel readings from Mark today pull us into this powerful double flow of time, beginning with chapter 11 and the reading we heard in the courtyard about Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, and then continued in chapter 14 with Jesus’ anointing, the Last Supper, on into the garden of Gethsemane, then traveling to courtyard of the high priest, before then going before Pilate, followed by the march to Golgotha and the cross, and finally to be laid in the tomb as the women bore witness.
We stride every year through these events; they are marked and lived as chronos for us as surely as they were for Jesus and his friends. But kairos is just as surely at work, because here, in the approach to Jesus’ death, the narrative time slows and shifts, expands and becomes something more – something we will only fully know when we reach Easter.
Because if we were to read the Gospel of Mark out loud together straight through, we could mark the minutes it takes, about ninety. But kairos is there too, because Jesus’ yearlong Galilean ministry (chapters 1-10) would take about an hour to read. But the final week of Jesus’ life (chapters 11-16), would take half an hour.
This shows us why Holy Week is something more. Always more, but not simply marked in minutes and hours, instead also lived in the moments that we encounter the holy and find time slowing and speeding within and around us, making meaning as God’s time becomes ours also.
And so this week I invited you to gather, to watch, to kindle and to sing. To step back from the dailyness of chronos, even as we walk the days of the Triduum. And to savor the feel, the tastes-sights-sounds, of kairos as God’s time saturates the story we hold most sacred, the story that is still going on and that we are a part of over 2000 years later.
~ AMEN ~
 Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, pg. 179.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
All Souls, Berkeley
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Gracious God, take our minds and think through them;
take our hands and work through them;
take our hearts and set them on fire.
The desert is a dangerous place. People do not go into the desert unless they have to. There is no water there, and without water we die. There is no food there. Without food we die.
When the wind blows, it changes the shape of the desert. People get lost. Some never come back.
In the daytime the sun is so hot that people must wear lots of clothes to protect themselves from the sun and the blowing sand. The sand stings when it hits your skin. The sun scorches you by day. At night it is cold. You need many clothes to keep warm. The desert is a dangerous place. People only go there if they have to.
This is the beginning of the Godly Play story ‘The Ten Best Ways’ in which God gives the people the Ten Commandments. It evokes clearly the fear that the people of God were facing as they left slavery in Egypt behind followed the pillar of fire and smoke into the desert.
When they gave in to the fear, they turned away from God – they complained, they doubted, they gave into internal power struggles amongst them, they made idols.
And so God gave them the Ten Best Ways so that for the rest of their journey, and even once they left the desert, they would know how to live.
When telling the Ten Best Ways story in Godly play you use the desert box, a big box full of sand, of course you do. And as you list the ways, which are shaped like halves of a heart, you place them so they are standing up in the sand.
The first three make row and are placed behind a half of a heart that says Love God:
1. Don’t serve other gods.
2. Make no idols to worship.
3. Be serious when you say my name.
Now number four shifts a bit, so that it becomes what will be the center.
4. Keep the Sabbath holy.
And then the last six are placed in a second row behind the other half of the heart that says Love People:
5. Honor your mother and father.
6. Don’t kill.
7. Don’t break your marriage.
8. Don’t steal.
9. Don’t lie.
10. Don’t even want what others have.
God knows these are hard. God did not call them the Ten Easy Things to Do. They are The Ten Best Ways to Live. And even though God knows we will mess up and not always follow the Best Ways, God gave game them to us because God loves us (hold up the 3 piece heart).
There is an internal logic to these ways that is clearly laid out in the sand when you tell this story, that is both compelling and beautiful: The way we attend to God—the first 4 halves of the heart—shapes the way we attend to our neighbor—the second 6 halves of the heart. In other words, proper praise of God shapes our social responsibility; good theology is good ethics.
Tied up with these thoughts we come today to the story of Jesus going up to Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover. Upon entering the Temple he found people selling sacrificial animals and changing money, from the Roman coin to the Temple coin—all things that needed to happen in order for people to properly worship and praise God.
But what he saw enraged him, and he overturned the tables and grabbed a whip to drive the sellers away.
It seems an extreme response, but what Jesus understood was that while the buying and selling of animals and changing of money served a function to proper worship, it had forgotten its purpose. It had stopped really being about worship and had instead become about consumers and marketers. It was nothing intentional, there was no real malice involved, but over time there was a shift.
And the end result was that God was no longer at the center. The people had literally brought things into the temple that ended up not bringing them closer to God, but standing between them and God, and therefore each other as well.
We bring things into the temple as well. Each of us bring something different, and sometimes we bring things in as a group. They are too many for me to name, but I invite you to pray about them.
However, if I were to identify the biggest thing we as a culture have brought into the temple, it would be that thing that drives so many of our lives – being over-calendared. We are too busy. Our days and nights are over-filled. There is always more to do, or that we could be doing. We no longer rely on our memory, let alone pen and paper, we have apps to help us keep all the balls we are juggling in the air.
And it stands between us and God and each other.
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Remember how this best way was in between the others in the Godly Play story? It was the link between the ways to love God and to love people – and it tells us how to love both God and people.
And I have news for you. This – being here at church – is not Sabbath. The Sabbath is not presented to God’s people as a day of worship, but rather as a day of cessation blessed by God’s own rest –
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
Rest is written into the very nature of life.
It is therefore essential that we rest. That we make time for Sabbath. That we turn again to God. Without it we too should expect to face Jesus’ anger. For we should know better, we’ve been taught, and what’s left is to reconcile our lives to God and those around us.
So how do we create Sabbath? What do we need to do?
First we need to create some breathing room, some margin in our lives. We need to resist the urge, the necessity, to fill every day with as much as possible. It doesn’t make us more holy. It in fact does the opposite, pulling us away from holy and sometimes our humanity as well. When we are ‘too busy’ we are not able to be present to others, let alone God, or even ourselves. Start small if you have to, but work to create a pattern of space in your life. Open space leaves room for the Spirit to move and breath with us. As we were invited to this Lent, we need to Pause. Reflect. Pray.
This isn’t about being silent, though. Last Saturday during the Leadership Day I led a session on incorporating prayer into your leadership practice. As a part of it I had people break into small groups and lead each other in prayer. It was not silent in that room. Some of the prayers were quite loud and included laughter. But what it was, was quiet.
Quiet in that way that indicates room has been left open for God’s presence, with the expectation of God’s presence, and the possibility of transformation.
Pastor and poet Ted Loder aptly puts it this way:
calm me into a quietness
that heals and listens,
and molds my longings and passions,
my wounds and wonderings
into a more holy
The quietness of Sabbath can make us more holy and human.
Sabbath is not only quiet, however. It is ironically also work. Because I believe a big part of Sabbath, that half of the heart that connects our love of God and our love of people, means that we must at all times work towards reconciliation for those parts of our lives and the world that are broken.
Reconciliation – re-turning God to the center of our lives and also living in right relationship with those around us. This is what the Ten Best Ways gives us. They are not The Ten Easy Ways, but they are the Best Ways. If we are not in right relationship with those we have wronged or who have wronged us, then we cannot fully re-turn to God.
Holding on to our anger with both hands keeps us from taking God’s hand. But once we decide to work towards reconciliation we make space again for God to be our center. I say ‘work towards’ reconciliation, because this is not something that we do and complete once for all, wrapping it up with a bow. It is a process to always be working toward – and intentionally – otherwise it will never happen.
The desert is a dangerous place. But it is the place where God led the people to show them how to love and live fully—things that always have risk. It is also for us a place to meet God, the place where we re-turn to God. May this Lent be for us a desert journey into that dangerous and life-changing place.
All Souls, Berkeley
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
As we enter this Lent, may we
It has been said that on Ash Wednesday, Christians attend their own funerals. It is no mistake that this liturgy in which we partake leads us to contemplate our own mortality. We will soon be marked with ashes and admonished with these words, ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ It is a somber but compelling ritual, calling us to pay attention.
As poet Rilke wrote in his Book of Hours –
God, give us each our own death,
the dying that proceeds
from each of our lives:
the way we loved,
the meanings we made,
This is the gift found upon entering Lent. A chance to be given our death and to be marked with dust; to pause, examine our lives and repent of that which has come between us and God; to wake up tomorrow with the opportunity to adjust our course as needed – and through prayer and action to reconcile our hearts and lives.
And so we begin today with our death. As morbid as it may sound, the point here is not to mourn, but to reflect. Because that’s what we do when we gather for a memorial service, we reflect on the person we’ve lost. Ash Wednesday gives us the opportunity to do this, in some small way, for ourselves. It calls us to look in the mirror and see who we are at this point and time, to make meaning of our story so far, and to reflect on what parts of us are lost.
We are lost for many reasons and in big and small ways. We have estranged relationships with those in our lives. We have let our personal prayer practices lapse. We are in debt. We are too busy to honor taking Sabbath time. We keep in our possession a lot that we do not use, but form which we refuse to be parted.
The list goes on and on, but what they all have in common, is that at the root, they are all outward signs of the fact that we’ve let something come between us and God. Which is why today and for the coming forty days we are called to focus on a discipline of penitence.
In our reading from Joel today we see the prophet call the people to repent. Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
In this first call to repent, the prophet uses the word ‘return’ twice. In Hebrew this word means “to arrive again at the initial point of departure.” Here it suggests that those who had been originally with God, had moved away from God, and were now returning to God.
Yet it was not enough for them to do this as individuals, for Joel sounds another trumpet with a second call to repent, this time to sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. And no one is to be left out of this congregation, all are called – the aged, the children, the infants at the breast, even those secluded on honeymoon – all are needed to come together and to re-turn together.
And for us this Lent it is the same – we are called to re-turn, to turn again, as individuals and as a community. That is why today we face the difficult task of naming what separates us from God—our corporate and individual sin. No one likes to admit mistakes or confess to sins. It is not easy. But it is important, because there is little possibility finding what we’ve lost, and re-turning to God until we find the source of estrangement in our lives. And most importantly, confessing our sin is essential to reconciliation.
I believe that reconciliation is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. And here I would define reconciliation as re-turning and being re-turned.
It is both the process of re-turning and the arrival back to where we began with God at our center. It is what we do, and become, once we have paused and reflected, once we have examined our lived and repented, asking for forgiveness. It’s what happens when we forgive others and ourselves. It happens through prayer – the ways that we dialogue with God, the ways our actions in this world are prayer in action. It’s what we then offer to the broken world around us, because once we are reconciled to God, we become a part of God’s ministry of reconciliation.
Our reading from 2 Corinthians today begins by entreating us to be reconciled to God, and continues, declaring to us that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And while our passage from Matthew’s Gospel says nothing about reconciliation, I think it still says a lot about how to live it.
It would seem that the focus on Matthew’s text is piety. Of note is that while our translation of this scripture gives us the word piety, a better translation would be righteousness or justice. This gives an important shift to the framework of the three acts Jesus outlines here: almsgiving, prayer and fasting.
But the operative word to pay attention in this Gospel passage is secret. In these few short verses the writer uses this word six times as an injunction against doing these things in public for notice.
In the culture of the time, giving and receiving gifts provided the framework in which relationships were negotiated and social status was displayed. You always showed your religious practices in public. It told people who you were. And it easily led to outward actions becoming more about self interest and less about relationship with God.
When you remove these actions from the public sphere and remove the self-interest, and when you use the lens of righteousness and piety, what you are left with are God-centered actions that bring reconciliation into the world: almsgiving can be charity and justice-making. Prayer can be, well, prayer—the constant that binds everything together. And fasting for us could be making choices to live simply and reduce our carbon footprint.
Living your faith out loud, ‘faithing’ if you will, may today be just as counter-cultural as it was to keep your piety secret was in Jesus’ day. Walking out the doors of the church with a smudge on your forehead doesn’t make you a hypocrite, it marks you as one on a journey.
Death, penitence, reconciliation.
These are the steps on our Lenten journey. They help us reconnect with who we are, with who we can be, with who God made us to be. We are human beings made in the image of God, but we are made of dust and to dust we shall return.
And today it begins with being given our death, that we might pause and reflect to live a life re-turned, praying to reconcile the world to God’s steadfast love.
 Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, III,6, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.
 Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, pg. 17.
 Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, pg. 5.
 Lenten Meditations 2012 from Episcopal Relief & Development, Shannon Ferguson Kelly, contributor.