Essentially Ascension

My inner seven-year-old always giggles a bit when seeing two dangling feet in church iconography – usually in a church dedicated to the Feast of the Ascension. It is a bit humorous to depict this momentous occasion with just Jesus’s feet, seemingly detached from the rest of his body, as he ascended into heaven.  And while it would have been the last part of him that was visible from the ground, the symbols look like someone is waiting to play “This little piggy” on wiggly toes rather than bidding a final farewell to our Lord and Savior. Perhaps the most neglected feast of the Church calendar – partially because it always is on a Thursday – the Ascension is a critical moment in church history, but difficult to get excited about. Jesus in his earthly form (whatever that was post-Resurrection) leaves his disciples and they really wish he wouldn’t.  If it were up to them, they would have held onto him like static cling and made a Jacob’s Ladder all the way to the right hand of the Fathe…


Some of you know that I practice Reiki and am now a Reiki Master.  I have trained with Beth Scibienski, the Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church down the street from St. Barnabas, at their Wellness Center, where we also have a weekly Reiki share. 
The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words – Rei which means "God's Wisdom " and Ki which is "life force energy", or what Christians would call the Holy Spirit. So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy." It is also how I understand how Jesus healed. In Mark 5: 25-34, we hear the story of a woman who suffered from hemorrhages who touched Jesus, “Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’”  There is a palpable essence to the presence of the Spirit that Jesus reports, and it is something that I feel as well when I practice Reiki.
I cannot guarantee that I can offer absolute physical healing like Jesus, but I have…

Death and Taxes

Because April 15th – the day our federal income taxes are due - was on a Saturday this year and Easter was that Sunday, we got a reprieve for a couple of days. I made an ill attempt at humor in my Easter Sermons about this reprieve, saying that while both death and taxes are inevitable, at least we don’t have to worry about them until Tuesday.
The other truth about death and taxes is that they both need to be planned for.  Many spend lots of time, energy and even money to owe less in taxes, but few use any resources to plan for death.  It is understandable.  It is not a pleasant subject and there is always something else that seems more pressing – that sock drawer won’t organize itself!  And yet we do a disservice to our loved ones when they are left to make decisions that they may feel ill-qualified to do or create tension when opinions differ within the family of what should happen.
National Healthcare Decisions week was April 16-22, the 1st week of Easter, and I’m disappointed I l…

“The King of Love my Shepherd is”

If you are a liturgical geek like me, you might recognize the beginning line of hymn 645 from The 1982 Hymnal (Music: St. Columba), which is a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 23.  The 4th Sunday of Easter, in addition to being our International Sunday, is also referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday”, as our lectionary highlights that metaphor Jesus uses in the Gospel according to John. While the phrasing of this hymn reminds me of Yoda (the Jedi Master from Star Wars whose syntax was backward to English-speaking ears), I like the description of my shepherd being the “King of Love.”
Being a shepherd is hard work in the midst of mind-numbing boredom.  While I am sure most shepherds rather be bored than dealing with crises of lost or stolen or murdered sheep, there is little to recommend the vocation.  And yet, as John invites us to imagine, God willingly takes on the role of shepherd in our lives, guiding and supporting us on the Path, especially in the midst of danger, grief and suffering.…

What Do We Do Now?

For anyone who has had a loved one die, finding a new “normal” is part of our grief work.  It takes time to learn how to live without that person’s presence.  If s/he was someone that had needed care, one might find having more time than one knows what to do with during the day. If s/he was killed in a tragic way, the sudden loss takes years to adjust to and re-order one’s life.
Jesus’s death was as ignominious as it could have been, a state-sponsored execution that took hours to accomplish. His compatriots scattered but eventually found each other again to being their grief work, only to have Jesus’s resurrection change everything.  The disciples are given a reprieve of their grief by Jesus’s reappearance in their lives, and for 50 days they enjoy his presence once again. But more importantly – and urgently – Jesus is there with a message of love and purpose.  It is not one of recrimination or shame, but of faith, hope and love.  All that Jesus said would happen was indeed accompli…

Where You There When They Crucified My Lord?

A week ago, I participated in a Seder dinner offered by our local Rabbi, Robert Wolkoff.  He instructed us in this ancient Jewish ritual commemorating the Jews deliverance from slavery in Egypt.  The rabbi was emphatic that the meal wasn’t just a way to remember the story but to claim it as one’s own.  This was not something done long ago to someone else, this was done to me – both the oppression and God’s redemption.
The hymn cited above has always drawn me.  The haunting melody, the soul-bearing truth of the pain of loss. It calls us all to take our place in the story of Jesus Christ’s Passion.  It gives voice to the sad reality that is at the crux of our faith – Jesus, an innocent man, was murdered.  This hymn invites us to ponder on how complicit we are that act of violence.
It is true that no one alive today was physically present on that day in Jerusalem, but that does not absolve us of the crime.  As members of the Body of Christ and brothers and sisters to all humankind, som…

Do This in Remembrance

As a society, we love commemorating important events, celebrating the anniversaries of occasions with remarks, reflections and festivities.  The bigger and rounder the number, the better! But sometimes we forget that in order to get to the 50th Anniversary, we have to make it through the 1st, the 13th, the 37th and the 49th.  Each is special in its own way and deserves no less attention than the others.  Yet the milestone years do help us in those reflections and allow us the time needed to reflect on what has (or has not) happened.  Unfortunately, we don’t only mark happy events.  National tragedies and other significant events, like the death of a loved one, are also marked with time passing.  The fear of forgetting the event creates sentiments of “Remember the Alamo,” or “Never Forget 9/11.”  As time passes and those directly associated with such events and people pass as well, things are forgotten – not with malicious intent, but the reality of a fast-paced world and other thing…