Showing posts from 2012

Christmas Reborn

Since hearing about the tragic events in Newtown, CT last Friday, I have had a lump in my stomach and an ache in my heart.Our souls cry out at the lose of the innocent and brave. We grieve for people we have never met, for a community where we have never lived.The bond of our humanity is enough to be touched by such pain.And we wish we could make it go away.

I think that is the reason why I heard that some neighbors of those who lost a loved one thought it was the right thing to take down their Christmas decorations.They felt that it was "wrong" to be joyful in the midst of such aguish.While I can understand that line of thinking, I would adamantly recommend against it because taking down the decorations because it won't undo the events and it invites the darkness to over come us.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Katharine Jeffert Shori, wrote a wonderful op ed for The Huffington Post in response to this topic. Click here to read it. http://epis…

Women Bishops in the Church of England - sigh

I had a couple of people ask me if the Church of England’s decision last week to not allow women to be elected as bishops has any impact on The Episcopal Church.The short answer is no. The Episcopal Church is completely independent from the Church of England in our polity (political structure).We make decisions for our Church at the General Convention held every 3 years.The Church of England makes decisions for their Church at their General Council held every 3 years.While both groups claim fidelity to the Anglican Communion, their General Council’s decisions do not impact any of the independent churches that share a common ancestry with the Anglican Church.
A bit of history – The Episcopal Church’s General Convention voted to allow for the ordination of women at the 1976 General Convention.At that time, a long theological debate about whether or not to limit the ordination of women to only deacons or priests had taken place.The ultimate conclusion, after much study and discernment, w…

Where the hell is "hell"?

In Sunday's Gospel reading from Mark 9:38-48, our beloved Lord uses that horrifying 4-letter word "hell" over and over again. By talking about cutting off body parts and being thrown into an "unquenchable fire," our minds are full of every terrifying horror movie ever produced mixed in with our own nightmares of whatever "hell" is.

The problem is that Jesus NEVER used the "hell." The word that gets translated as "hell" is "Gehenna," which was literally the garbage dump in Jerusalem. Guess what they did with their garbage in Jesus' time - they BURNED it. With a never ending source of fuel, Gehenna was constantly on fire (and probably smelled awful too!).

Our concept of "hell" - fire, devils and pitchforks - is from Milton's epic Paradise Lost, not the Bible. Our own understanding of the biblical text is co-opted because of the connotations the word "hell" has for us. As a result, the poin…

Good Lord, deliver us

As I am writing at my desk in Monmouth Junction, NJ, looking out at an absolutely gorgeous day – bright blue sky, a pleasant 72 degrees and low humidity – my thoughts and prayers are with those on the Gulf Coast as they endure yet another natural disaster. It is poetic irony that on the 7th Anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac comes ashore and reminds all of us that nature will take its course, for good or ill.
We must remember, however, that weather is weather and not a judgment by God.There really isn’t “good weather” and “bad weather.” That is a conclusion made by our expectations of what we want and how it effects us.Rain on a wedding day may be considered “bad” by a bride and “good” by a farmer.We think of hurricanes as “bad” because they disrupt our lives in extreme ways, but they are not a punishments meted out by an angry God. Weather is part of the mystery and wonder of creation in which humans are an integral part, not above.How we deal with weath…

And life goes on . . .

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world (outside of Israel) the Olympics are being held, Syria is a mess, people continue to struggle with their finances, family members die.As amazing as my pilgrimage to the Holy Land was (and trust me, you will be hearing about it for years to come), the reality is we don’t live in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, and neither does Jesus.He is alive today in you, me, our church, our community and our world.

Coming back to St. Barnabas only reaffirmed my belief in our need for Christ in our lives and commitment to sharing his love even more than before.Reflecting on the past helps us understand how it shapes our present and what that can do to our future.Can we willingly be like those olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane and be graphed onto old roots to sprout a new future?I think we have already begun to do this at St. Barnabas, and there is more we can do, with God’s help.Nothing is more powerful than our desire to be transformed by God’s love, to do what God …

The Last Post - for now

Thursday evening, our pilgrimage (which consists of 27 people, including the Bishop) was invited to meet with The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem. Due to an emergency in Ramallah, we met at 9:30 at night (no rest for a Bishop!). Bishop Dawani was very gracious as he told us about his Diocese, which covers 5 (yes, 5!) countries. At this point only about 1% of those living in the Holy Land are Christian. They need our prayers and support. Bishop Dawani mentioned that he is the 4th indigenous bishop, and his people trace their Christian roots back to Pentecost. These people are the first Christians and we need to keep Christianity in the Holy Land. They refer to their ministry in the Diocese as "The Living Stones," and from what. we have experienced here, they certainly are.
One Friday we began our final sessions together with a reenactment of the Palm Sunday walk. We started in Beth-fa-ge (the correct pronunciation of Bethpage). We couldn't …

Transfiguration - and then some

We got up early on Tuesday morning to begin our journey back to Jerusalem with a stop at Mt. Tabor, where many believe is the site of the Transfiguration (Matt 17; Mark 9) - where Jesus is raised up in front of Peter, James and John in clothes of dazzling white and Moses and Elijah appear with him. (We celebrate this event on the last Sunday of Epiphany, right before Ash Wednesday). There is a magnificent Roman Catholic Church dedicated to that event on the top of the mountain. We had to take vans up a switchback road to get to the top (Bishop George said he experienced it for the first time in a small Mercedes going about 110 mph - not something he missed this time!) Once again, because of Iyad's, our guide, insistence on an early start, we were the first ones there that morning. It was beautiful - though a bit windy and foggy. We saw several groups, including Youth Groups, that were making the trek up or down the mountain on foot - that would take awhile! It is a rather…

Nazareth Revisited

I've been away for several days because the Internet access in Nazareth was not cooperating.
To pick up where we left off, on Sunday, we went to St. Paul's Anglican Church in Shefar'Am, a town just outside of Nazareth. Fr. Fuad is the rector there. He not only was the priest, he was the organist, acolyte, altar guild, and he spoke in perfect English as well as Arabic. It was awesome and terrifying. (No, I will not be learning Arabic or the organ anytime soon!) He and his congregation were gracious hosts. We sang "Stand up, stand up for Jesus" "Alleluia, sign for Jesus" and 2 other hymns I can't remember now - our group in English and the congregation in Arabic. It was amazing. Bishop George preached an amazing sermon (that Fr. Fuad instantly translated) on how much God loves us that we are His "pre-occcupation" in a world that is so "occupied" with other things. In a country where the word "occupied"has such powe…

Bethlehem and Nazareth

I didn't post last night as we had to get up for a 5 AM departure time this morning, and I ended up getting maybe 3 hours of sleep. So this post will not be an academic masterpiece.

On Friday we journeyed in the West Bank (that is the west bank of the Dead Sea in order to visit Tekoa, the mount on which the prophet Amos made his home. It was a climb up a rather steep hill to get to a barren, rocky area. Looking out, there wasn't much to see, not even a cave - unless you looked with very good eyes. Indeed there was a cave, which we climbed down into - every member of the group - young and not so young, able and unable (we have 2 people in walking casts). The revelation is that it was such a cave in which Jesus was born. And the manger, a shepherd's watering trough, is STONE, not wood.
From there we traveled to Bethlehem, where we shopped at a Christian Co-op (very important to support Palestinian Christians, as they are only 2% of the population). We had THE BEST L…

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher . . . or

The most significant Christian site in Jerusalem is a Greek Orthodox Church that is shared by many different traditions, such as the Armenians, Coptic, Syrians, Romans and Ethiopians, to name a few. Mostly the different traditions can be thought of as the Eastern tradition (orthodox) and the Western (Roman). The western churches call it the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (or tomb), while the Eastern churches call it the Church of the Resurrection. Which sounds more hope-filled for a Christian?
We learned many fascinating things about the history of Jerusalem and the church that deserve more time than I can give now, but needless to say I learned quite a bit that will surely be inflicted upon you at some point.
Inside the church we first climbed up some rather steep stairs to Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. It was very crowded and the crush of humanity was almost oppressive, as some were less than Christian about wanted to get their turn to touch the stone. During that time, as…

What Time Zone are we in?

I had NO trouble sleeping last night - but I did have some trouble getting up this morning! I set the alarm on my iPad to walk up to go to breakfast and get on the bus at 7:30. Unfortunately I forgot to set it for Jerusalem time, so the phone rang in our room (I am rooming with Cecilia Alvarez, Canon of Transitional Ministry) at 7:35 am. Oops! I have never gotten dressed so fast in my life. The bus did go without us, but one of the leaders of the trip stayed beyond to allow us to eat a bite of breakfast before getting a taxi over to the Western Wall.
The Western Wall is the most holy place for the Jewish people in Israel. It is NOT the last remaining wall of the Second Temple (destroyed in 70 AD), but it is as close to it as they can find. I didn't have much time there but I did read Psalms 121 & 91, I left prayers for many, including the people of St. Barnabas. I was grateful for the incredible feeling of both sorrow and hopefulness while at the Wall.
We then went u…

Tuesday in Jerusalem

9:37 pm local time

Even though our flight was delayed by 3 1/2 hours, the trip was uneventful. It was interesting to wake up
(after maybe 3 interrupted) to a group of Hasidic Jews in prayer shawls and phylacteries praying together at the back of the plane.
On the bus ride from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, we began to understand the saying "Let us go up to Jerusalem," as we drove up the mountain. Though we were riding in a bus rather than walking, it was thrilling.
After a wonderful lunch of salad, hummus, chicken and watermelon, we had a quick waking tour of the neighborhood (we are in East Jerusalem, that is more Muslim). We also had an introduction to our tour guide and a Palestinian Muslim, who gave his prospective on the Holy City. I learned that while Islam only sees Jesus as a great Prophet, they do expect him to return as the Messiah on day! I didn't know that.
After dinner in the hotel, several of us (including out Bishop) decided to go for a walk rather than go to…

Reflections on General Convention

There are some experiences, like riding a bike or flying, that are hard to explain without actually doing it.This holds true for attending General Convention. I have wanted to go to GC for many years, but finances and other obligations prevented that from happening.Since I was elected by our Diocesan Convention to be a Deputy, the way was made open to me, and I am thrilled to have now experienced this incredible gathering.As The Rev. Dr. Gregory Straub, Executive Officer and Secretary of General Convention, states, “General Convention is a combination of legislative assembly, bazaar of goods and services and family reunion. It is one of the most exciting and, truth be told, one of the most awe-inspiring gatherings in the world.”I would add that it is also part revival, as I attended many wonderful Eucharist services with excellent preaching and signing.
I have always been fascinated at how our church’s structure and polity invites each and every member of the church to participate in t…

Modern Missioners

On Sunday, we commissioned and sent off seven Youth Missioners and two adult leaders to participate in a week-long mission experience in Rutland, VT.All the months of planning, fundraising and team building have finally come to fruition – and it has been raining for a significant portion of the time this week.I am not sure how much of the work they are doing was outside, but I do hope that the rain will not dampen their spirits or hinder their fun.

The intention of participating in a “Mission Trip” is to expose ourselves to a completely different circumstance from what we would normally encounter.Many times missions involve supporting our neighbors who live in conditions that are much different and poorer (financial or spiritual) than our own.We are confronted with understanding our own faith (how can God allow this to happen?) and being in authentic solidarity with those who don’t get to “go home” at the end of the week.By being challenged in these ways - testing our faith and workin…
As we look forward to honoring our dads and grads this Sunday, we can attest to the fact that transitions in life are both exciting and terrifying. There is joy at fulfilling a goal or a dream, which may be tempered by the stark realization that that achievement ushers in a new era of different challenges and opportunities.It can be overwhelming if we think it is all up to us to discern and define the changes in our responsibilities to ourselves and others. In those moments, fear and doubt can enter in and take over, but only if we let them.
However, if we remember to turn to God at these times for love and support, just as we have throughout our lives, which got us to this point in the first place, we can face our fears and doubts honestly and allow our joy to supplant them.We can also find examples of others who have faced similar transitions in their lives and found their strength and comfort in their faith in God as well.
Over the next several weeks we will be hearing from 1st and …

Happy 140th Anniversary, St. Barnabas!

The name a community chooses to call itself is very fascinating to me. I sometimes wish I could have been at the meeting where that decision was made.  What names were considered? Who proposed which name?  How were the others persuaded to select the one they did? While I will probably never get those questions answered, I do thank those who came together in faith and fellowship 140 years ago to establish St. Barnabas as a mission church in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey.  

I do find it very intriguing that that community chose to pattern their missional identity with St. Barnabas.  He was a Levite (a member of the tribe of Jewish priests), a member of a land owning family and an early convert to Christianity, probably at Pentecost or right after.  He gave up all of his position and possessions to join the fledgling movement to proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer of the world.
That sacrifice is impressive in itself, but what I find even more moving is that he chose to put his rep…

Trinity Dance

This Sunday we “celebrate” Trinity Sunday.I say “celebrate” because it is not really a holiday like Christmas or even Pentecost.It is one of two holy days in our Church calendar that emphasizes a theological idea rather than an event. (The other one is “Christ the King Sunday” at the end of the season after Pentecost.) While there is ample evidence of the unique nature of our Triune God in Scripture, it is still a topic that most wise preachers avoid because it is difficult to talk about or make any worthwhile comments in 15 minutes or less (we are Episcopalians after all – no hour long sermons for us, though in this case, I don’t that would help any way!).
Father, Son, Holy SpiritCreator, Redeemer, Sustainer Lover, Beloved, Love
Holy Speaker, Incarnate Word, Divine Breath

While the feminist in me likes having alternative images beyond the classic male-centric terms, the basic reality of the inherent mystery remains constant no matter what terms I use to name the Trinity.It is disconcerti…


Just in case you don’t know, this coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the day we commemorate receiving Jesus Christ’ gift of the Holy Spirit – or at least that is the Christian tradition of Pentecost.As with many Christian holy days, Pentecost finds its roots in the Jewish faith.The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek meaning “the fiftieth” and originally it was 50 days after Passover.

The Hebrew Scriptures never mention Pentecost.(The Greek term became popular with the spread of the Greek language as the common language in the Middle East.)In the Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the “Old Testament”), the celebration is call the “Festival of Weeks” or “Shavout” (Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26-31; Leviticus 23:15-21). This festival was observed 7 weeks from the second day of Passover, on which an offering of barley sheaf was given. All adult males were required to travel to the sanctuary to take part. The Feast of Weeks was observed after the Israel people settled in the Promised Land. …