Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Prayer 1971: Living as children in the kingdom of God


(Matthew 18:1-9)
Almighty God, our Abba and Protector,
we awaken knowing your angels have watched over us,
feeling your protecting hand cradle our heads,
and we have rested securely in your embrace:
we thank you and bless your holy name.

Our Savior, you place a child before us
as an exemplar of your love and devotion:
make us likewise humble and innocent,
and give us welcoming hearts for all who come to us.
Strengthen us, we pray, in kindness and wonder,
in reverence and awe at the beauty of this world,
which is your gift and your charge to us.

As your disciples, Lord Christ,
may we embody charity and faithfulness,
working for justice and mercy,
protecting the vulnerable and comforting the refugee,
renouncing the forces of cruelty and contempt
at loose among us.

Spirit of the Living God,
kindle within us the fire of mercy and compassion,
and set our feet upon the holy path of reconciliation
that all we do may glorify the name of Jesus,
and testify to the lovingkindness of our God.

Merciful One--
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer of our souls--
sanctify us to your service this day,
and gather into your arms those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Photo: Child playing in a park in Paris, Square Rene-Viviani in the V Arrondissement, Quai de Montebello, 2012. The fountain he rests his hand upon is dedicated to St. Julian the Hospitaller, who is  sometimes depicted as carrying a leper through a river (the image the child's hand rests upon).

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Prayer, day 1970


Almighty God, we give you thanks
for your abiding love and presence with us.
We ask your forgiveness
for any wrongs we have committed,
determined to rededicate ourselves to your holy path.
Through your Holy Spirit,
guide the minds and the hearts
of the doctors, nurses, and other healing hands
who seek to bring rest and comfort.

You, O God, are the Great Physician,
who has given us reason and skill
to use to help each other.
We ask that your blessing rest especially
on all who are ill, anxious, forsaken, or in pain.
May they continue to persevere,
and know always Your healing presence in their lives.

Resting in the assurance of Your divine mercy,
we ask a blessing in Jesus’s name on those we now name.

Amen.
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Photo: Our granddog Luna relaxing among the plants in my garden this spring.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Prayer 1969: Embodying the Faith of the Mustard Seed


Eternal One,
who is making the heavens and the earth,
who watches over all that dwells therein,
we draw our hearts open before You,
and center ourselves within your presence,
upheld by your Spirit of Love.

The marvels of creation,
the works of your loving hand within our lives,
remind us of your unfailing love for all that is, O God,
and we sing out your praise with joy.

Merciful God,
give us a mustard-seed faith,
that spreads its branches out for the benefit of your little ones,
that welcomes and shades and shelters
all who turn to us for refuge.

By the power of the Holy Spirit,
awaken within us a spirit of charity and faithfulness,
that we may walk beside you, O Savior, in integrity.

Let us sink our roots deeply into your gospel, Lord Christ,
to be strengthened to embody your compassion and healing
as testimony to your truth
that love and reconciliation are why we are here.

Almighty Redeemer,
extend the hand of blessing and relief over all who seek you,
and grant your peace and reassurance
to those for whom we pray, O Lover of Souls.

Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Growing Into the Mystery of Grace: Sermon for Proper 6B


A few years ago, my friendly garden-center lady talked me into planting a plant called “painter’s palette” in the rain garden I built at the bottom of the denuded hill in my backyard that had become a mud pit. It had colorful, oval shaped, variegated green leaves with splashes of white and drops of red on it. Do you know this plant? It was so harmless looking, and so pretty in its little pot when I bought six of them.

But its innocent looks were deceiving. And if anyone wants any, I have about six thousand of them looking for a good home.

This plant doesn’t care that the soil in my backyard is clay—it just sees this as a challenge. The instructions about it needing water or real dirt or any sort of light were all lies, lies, and damned lies. Within a short time it had taken over not just the rain garden but the entire hillside like Marines taking back the Pacific in World War II. This plant and its descendants have even spread to the front yard. And their seed is so tiny, it wedges itself between the layers of gravel on pathways. It grows UNDER my hostas. It crowds out my ferns. It knocks over the copper birdbath like a surly teenager. Even though I pull up at least a hundred of its sprouts a day, it just keeps spreading. Painter’s palette grows all over my yard, but no matter what I do, even when all conditions are perfect, roses and bleeding hearts keel over like a delicate Southern belle in a corset that’s too tight.

So I’m going to tell you that the two small parables we get in this week’s gospel had special resonance for me. Mark’s gospel is not a big one for parables. Unlike the other three gospels, there are only two extended parables in Mark. Mark moves too fast for long, drawn-out stories, with its “and immediatelies” moving us from scene to scene to scene at breakneck speed. 

Jesus doesn’t tell long drawn out stories in Mark; he is too busy trying to explain to his listeners about the “kingdom of God.” We see it right there in the middle of our reading. Jesus asks, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?”

The question Jesus asks in the middle of our gospel reading today is one that many of us probably struggle with when we take the time to contemplate it. To answer it, Jesus goes back to the Parable of the Sower, which is the opening teaching in chapter 4. We didn’t hear this parable this year, because we hear other gospels’ versions elsewhere in our lectionary cycle. Nonetheless, this week the two little stories Jesus tells use the same symbols: gardeners sowing seed, and the soil receiving that seed. Yet the way the kingdom of God grows is rooted in mystery.

The first little parable we hear today only exists in Mark. It’s sometimes called “the seed growing mysteriously or secretly” by commentators. And we are not people who are comfortable with mysteries--unless they can be solved.

Yet Jesus makes it clear that there is a lot of mystery here in how, when, and where the seed grows. The gardener sows the seeds—and then, knowing that he can’t make them sprout, he goes off to bed. Jesus explains, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself…”

As made clear earlier in Mark 4, the seed is the word of God. The gardener represents the apostles Jesus sends out to spread his good news in Mark chapter 3—and even today. The good soil is the “kingdom of God,” within us, which produces its fruit by God’s own power. The earth producing of itself is God’s grace—unearned, coming to us not as the result of anything we have done to earn it, but simply through God’s great mercy and love. But when that grace takes off and spreads within us, when it is fruitful, just like with my painter’s palette all over my backyard, it is not the result of anything that the gardener did other than the initial sowing or planting. The reason why seeds sprout where they do or not is often still a mystery to most of us. God’s kingdom grows through the power of God, and it is not up to us to understand how God makes this work. We aren’t in charge of how fruitful this sowing of seed is going to be, in the end, and we are called to being humble enough to admit that the fruitfulness of God’s kingdom is not in our control.

In our modern context, especially our modern American context, we are uncomfortable with the language of “kingdoms,” which is why some people change the word “kingdom” to “kin-dom.” On the one hand that substitution seems harmless—but at the same time it also dodges the idea that we are called to submission to God’s call, not just going along with God’s call to us if we are so persuaded—it can be a dodge to still allow ourselves the illusion that we have some level of say in the matter of God’s dream for us, some negotiating power.

When I hear the word “kingdom,” nerd that I am, two usages come to mind: political, and scientific. And I think a broad swath of our fellow Americans are uncomfortable with both of those usages, whether we are talking about political systems of scientific categorizations, especially given so many people’s antipathy for science based on the mistaken notion that science and faith contradict each other.

Ironically, we saw science, and faith, and mystery collide this week. A few days ago, the ashes of Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist (and famous atheist) were buried in what is called “Scientists’ Corner” in Westminster Abbey. His remains were placed between the resting-places of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Hawking’s declared purpose in life was seeking to understand the mysteries of the universe. It is, of course, a goal that first of all acknowledges that mysteries surround us, entice, and compel us, if we live with curiosity and a sense of wonder.

A sense of wonder begins with seeing the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. It begins with the discovery of mystery through seeing things fresh, and being drawn to embrace that mystery. That openness to wonder is what led Stephen Hawking to make the great scientific discoveries that he did. That same sense of wonder is intrinsic to the life of faith. The same sense of wonder that propels scientific discovery is the sense of wonder that also calls us as people of faith into seeking closer union with God, and reminds us that we are not in charge.


Some of the things this small parable invites us to contemplate are the mysteries of grace and divine love which sustain us and save us. This mystery of grace and mercy seeks to work within us even when we ourselves fall short of living into our full calling as disciples called to embody God’s love into the world. The kingdom of God happens how, when, and where God chooses—a sower may scatter seed, but the flourishing happens independently of any other action the sower may take. So much so that the sower can go to sleep: the growing takes place in ways that are mysteries to the sower, far beyond his or her control. Talk about an uncomfortable gospel truth to our control-freak ears!

And that is the greatest mystery of all: despite our failures, our proclivity to hatefulness, jealousy, mean-spiritedness, and selfishness raised to an art form, God loves us so much that, if we take this little parable seriously, grace is extended to all. Love that first loved us (especially as we understand that Love Incarnate--Jesus) calls us to return, to seize on the offered gift of heaven in the here-and-now, not off in some distant future beyond the gates of death.

The kingdom of God is not about where you go after you die. It is about how we live, right now, and live life abundantly, not just for ourselves but by living our lives for others—for others who we see as being a part of us. The kingdom of God is about having faith enough to empty ourselves of all that is miserly, fearful, or suspicious-- in order to be a part of a community, and communion, of life throughout creation.

Jesus’s parables we hear today invite us to lean into the mystery of God’s love and grace in our lives, as it seeks to reconcile us to God and each other, to restore us to communion and community—the dream God had for us at the beginning of time. It reminds us that the life of discipleship unfolds in God’s good time, not in ours. 

It reminds us to remember that when we invite God into our life, we invite God to plant the seeds of mercy and grace within our own hearts, that we ourselves become abundant vessels of grace and mercy in the lives of those around us. It also reminds us of the ongoing development of the kingdom of God within us and around us—as each of us allows the truth of God’s abundant grace to take root and grow in our hearts, we are called into the service of that grace to go and scatter that seed by our actions in the hearts of others.

In a world in which there is a shortage of grace and mercy wrought by human hearts, may we embrace the mystery of God’s grace and mercy within our lives, and allow them to flourish within us. May we open ourselves to being shaped by God’s will in our lives, especially God’s call to embody compassion and mercy, remembering the mystery of grace we ourselves have received. For only then may we truly pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”

Amen.

Readings:
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, [11-13], 14-17
Mark 4:26-34

Images:
1- Hundreds of painter's palette plants on the hillside in my backyard early in the season.
2- Jean-Francois Millet, The Sower
3- Image of the sower in our parable from the Hortus Delicarium by Herrad of Landsberg, at Hohenberg Abbey, Alsace.
4- The memorial plaque over Stephen Hawking's final resting place in Westminster Abbey.
5- A seed sprouting.



Preached at Calvary Church, Louisiana at 10 am, and St. John's Church, Eolia at 2 pm.

Prayer 1968: The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost


Most Merciful God,
we give thanks to enter your courts today,
and worship you in joyful praise.

Sow within our hearts, O Creator,
your blessed, life-giving word,
that we may walk humbly in your paths,
and bear abundant fruit of the spirit.
May your kingdom come, O Father, within our hearts,
and remind us of the manifold graces we receive,
that we may witness to your truth and power.

May we embody your grace into our common life together,
as a testimony to your love, O Holy Savior.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
bless us this day,
that our lives may testify to the amazing grace and love of God.

We ask your blessing, O God of Grace,
upon all those who call upon you,
especially those we now name.

Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Prayer 1967: Living the Commandment of Love


Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
we sing a song of thanksgiving before You,
recalling the comforting weight of your hand
shielding and guarding us through the night:
O God, we lift our hearts to You.

God of Compassion, grant us wisdom,
that we may study your Word,
and never stray from the heart of your law:
to love You in word and deed,
and to love our neighbors as our own selves.
Almighty One, you command us to relieve suffering,
to stand alongside the oppressed,
to welcome the homeless,
remembering that your law is grounded in love,
for we are ourselves upheld
only through your grace and mercy.

Blessed Savior,
strengthen us in integrity and compassion,
that we may we do justice,
love mercy,
and walk humbly and honorably with You in every moment.
May we tear down the edifices of cruelty and injustice,
remembering we are each other's keeper
as Christ's hands and heart in the world.

Accept now, we pray,
our intercessions and our cares which we place before You,
O Merciful God,
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,
that your blessing may cover these beloveds
in a cloud of comfort and peace.

Amen.

Written in response to the Attorney General's claim that removing children from their families at our borders is Biblical based on Romans 13:1.
SaveSave

Friday, June 15, 2018

Prayer 1966: To the Captain of Our Souls


O God, Captain of Our Souls,
we bend the knee of our hearts before You,
opening ourselves to your light and your guidance,
offering you our prayers and praises.

Fill the sail of our spirits with the wind of your wisdom,
that we may be directed in all our journeying
by your abundant love and mercy.

May we set our course today
by the light of your Son, Jesus Christ,
that we may be guided and gentled
into paths of justice and peace, integrity and compassion,
caring for the least among us
as Christ's hands and heart in the world.

Lift us up by the tide of your grace, O Spirit of Love,
that compassion and thankfulness may overspill our hearts--
that we may pry the fist of fear from its grip within us
and relax into your tender embrace.

At day's end, O Holy One,
may we anchor ourselves within your truth,
secure beneath your protecting hand,
and rest in contentment beneath your velvet sky,
having done your will with joy.

We ask your blessing, O Loving One,
upon all whose hope is in You,
especially these whose needs we lift before You.

Amen.


Illustration from Bede's Life of St. Cuthbert

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Prayer 1965: opening the gates of our hearts


Ever-watchful, Ever-loving God,
we are refreshed within your tender embrace:
we lift our hearts to you in prayer,
and thank you for all your gifts to us.

Let us sing out your praise with our lives,
and walk in gratitude, wisdom, and kindness
as living testaments to the power of your gospel of love.

Guide us to live with integrity
and generosity of spirit, Lord Christ:
teach us and gentle us,
that we may serve you and each other
in the name of true justice and peace.

May we open the gates of our hearts,
that the Spirit of Healing may live within us,
and direct us to paths of reconciliation and hope.

Merciful God, place the seal of your love upon our hearts,
and pour out the balm of your blessing upon these beloveds for whom we pray.

Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Little Graces: Speaking to the Soul for June 13, 2018



The moth went flying around my house yesterday as if he owned the joint.

According to my daughter, the moth was the size of a jumbo-jet, a monster out of a Japanese horror movie. To my eyes, this was a tiny brown interloper—harmless. Much better a brown moth than a voracious mosquito, in my opinion. But she would not rest until I had gotten it out of the house. In my daughter’s mind, the moth was huge. What to me was an insignificant thing was instead, to her mind, a pest and a barrier to peace of mind.

So too, it is with the mustard seed. A small, insignificant thing becomes a big thing—but in this case, instead of being a disturber of the peace, it becomes a blessing—at least from the point of view of the birds who find their home within its branches.

This Sunday’s gospel from Mark talks about little things growing and becoming blessings-- even the mustard seed, which was seen by many to be a pest. Yet if allowed to take up valuable space in the garden, it provided a home for dozens of birds. And birds are vital helpers in pollinating the other plants of the garden. They eat mosquitos and flies and other pests. And their work ends up being a grace to the gardener.

Grace undergirds this brief little parable Jesus tells, and teaches us to never overlook the importance small things, easily overlooked things, can have in our lives, if we allow them. This shrub grown from the tiny seed grows through no effort of our own, but nonetheless blesses the birds—and us.

And if by grace the birds are given a home from such a small thing, then how much more can we be certain that God’s grace and love spreads out and provides shelter for us, a place to rest and refresh ourselves within God’s love and protection?

The little seeds of the gospel are waiting to sprout up—often in places where we least expect it. And so it has been throughout time. In Jesus’s lifetime, only a few dozen people, perhaps less, took in his message and stuck with it all the way through the crucifixion and beyond to the resurrection. Yet here we are. Called together as Christ’s body, the Church to translate and proclaim and embody God’s love for everyone. 

Against every impulse of the world we live in, where we are taught to be afraid, to fear scarcity, to feel small, insignificant, and overwhelmed, until the doubt beats like the tattoo of our hearts racing through fear, or resentment, or pain. Actually, put that way, those are the same fears that confronted Jesus’s listeners. In the face of those fears, God calls them AND us to come to be fully ourselves, to fulfill the dream God has for us to be fully alive, through being conduits or channels for God’s abundant love, grace, and comfort. 

May we learn to have faith in little things, because from little things, great blessings grow.



This was first published at Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on June 13, 2018.

Prayer, day 1964


Almighty, Life-Giving God,
we praise You in joy before the rising sun.

Spirit of the Living God,
breathe into our spirits the gift of grace
and let mercy take root within us,
for we know our manifold faults.

Forgive us, O Blessed Savior,
for our divisions, our fears, our jealousies,
and enlighten us by your living, eternal wisdom.

Help us to perfect ourselves in love, O Holy One,
that we are living witnesses to You
through our words and deeds.

Guide us into generosity and empathy,
seeing your imprint in each person, Lord Christ.

Unite us through love of You, O Redeemer,
who are known by many names but one truth.
Pour out your blessing over us, and place your hand of healing over all.

Amen.
adapted from 1608

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Prayer, day 1963


Holy God,
we thank You for bringing us through the dark of night
to the dawn of this new day.
Awaken us from our slumber
with a song of joy and wonder imprinted upon our souls,
that we may worship and bless You through our day. 

You made us from the earth

that we may remember our kinship with it:
may we serve and care for this Earth, our home.
May we remember and honor the wisdom
that is woven into the very fabric of creation,
that calls us to be humble and reverent before it.
Merciful One, may we use your gifts to feed the hungry
and care for those in trouble,
remembering your call to love and compassion.
May we seek to embody your healing touch upon those we meet,
and serve the common good in each step. 

Broadcast your mercy like seeds, Almighty God,

upon those whom we raise before You as we pray.

Amen.
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Prayer, day 1962

Photo from National Geographic, and it is just stunning.

Bless and keep us, Loving One,
and hold us in the hollow of your hand.
Give rest to the weary
and justice to the oppressed, Lord Christ,
using us as the instruments of your mercy.
Make us strong in the ways of wisdom and peace,
and help us to put aside our hurtful ways.
Shield us from those who wish us ill,
and help us live lives of authentic grace and compassion,
immersed in your gospel of love.
We ask that your Spirit of Healing and Comfort
rest upon those we now name, and grant them peace.

Amen.
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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Out of the Depths: Sermon for Proper 5B


Many of us have had quite a rough time the last few months. We hear every day a constant barrage of bad news. School shootings-- which hits me particularly hard, every time, as a former public school teacher. Cruelties, both great and casual, that are visited upon the most vulnerable among us. Beloved friends getting devastating diagnoses. And then, this week, two celebrity suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. And the deaths of these two creative, passionate people have brought to the forefront a conversation and hopefully some action about mental health treatment and mental illness, about suicide prevention.

The sad fact is that these two people, whose work brought so much joy to so many in very different ways, are just two of the nearly 45,000 Americans who will complete suicide this year, and perhaps four times as many will attempt it. Sometimes it feels like the waters of hopelessness and despair have risen up to our necks, too.

This is why I myself am grateful for the vision of mercy and honesty which is at the heart of our psalm reading this week, Psalm 130. Its beginning is immediately relatable: “Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord….” The word for “depths” is the one used to speak of ocean deeps, a place at the very center of our being, yet dark and remote. For the people who first prayed this psalm, especially, the sea was a place of mystery and danger. Thus, the psalmist, in trying to express the extent of his feeling of desolation and alienation, creates an image of waters rising over his head and pulling him under. And haven’t we all felt that way, at one time or another?

Yet even in the cry from the foundation of his heart and soul, the psalmist voices his first statement of trust, for he knows that God can hear his voice no matter where the psalmist is. Just as in our reading from Genesis, the psalmist is certain that God is already seeking him out and listening for his voice even if his cry is not one of joy or surprise but of anxiety. God hears the psalmist’s voice from the depths—because God is always with us in the depths of our fear, anxiety, and despair. When we feel separated from God, it is not God who has done the moving away—it is us, sometimes, like the man and the woman in Eden, because we think we can run things just fine on our own.

In this particular case of this psalm, just as in our reading from Genesis, what has separated the writer from being fully in communion with God are his own actions. God has not abandoned and will not abandon the psalmist-- or us. The psalmist confesses and acknowledges his very great fault and sins, which if counted would lead to utter condemnation. The psalmist lives in hope of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation with God. And that’s the same message Jesus gives us in our gospel, as well: Despite all our human calculations and barriers, God’s love, mercy and reconciliation cannot be contained. Rather, God’s love will go where it will, making families of people who once were not only strangers but often outcasts.


Even though this is a psalm of lament, nonetheless hope shines through it throughout. This is possible because of the three great qualities attributed to God in this brief psalm: forgiveness, steadfast love—which is the term used in the Old testament for “grace”-- and the power to redeem. These are the three essential qualities of God mentioned in this psalm which are vitally important to those who feel they have done something which has disrupted their relationship with God or with others.

The same God who has known us from our very first breath, loves us enough to allow us to choose to wander from obedience. The great Episcopal theologian, laywoman, and teacher Verna Dozier remarked, “Creation is an act of love. To love is to be vulnerable. The story of creation bears that fact out. The lover seeks the beloved. The lover is not complete without the beloved.”(1)  Our reading from Genesis begins with God seeking God’s beloved creatures—and finding that they are hiding, not out of fear, it seems, but because they feel shame already before they have confessed what they have done to rupture the trust that God had laid upon them. And so too it is with us, sometimes.

Out of the depths within myself I cry to you, my God.

After the Name of “Lord,” the word that appears the most in this short psalm is “wait.” “Waiting for the Lord” is repeated, although varied slightly, three times in succession, and the phrase then follows two repetitions of “more than watchmen for the morning” in verse 5. At the end of the psalm, the psalmist addresses the people of Israel, repeating once again to “wait for the Lord,” and reminding the people that God is merciful, seeking to redeem rather than to destroy. The verb used at the very end, though, which here translated as “wait,” however, also can be translated as “hope.”

And I think that’s key, because unlike “waiting,” hope is not passive. Hope is an act of faith and will—sometimes a rebellious act of faith and will, even.

This waiting upon God that we do is filled with hope for forgiveness, for reconciliation with ourselves and with each other, as well as with our God. When times are the darkest, we place our hope in God, whose love never fails. But we also ourselves are called to embody that hopefulness for each other—caring for each other, being present with each other, looking out for each other, extending mercy and grace to each other and to ourselves because our actions are grounded in belovedness. That’s what being children of God made in God’s image and likeness means.

As a society, we are not people who easily confess to hope—we are all too prone to wrap ourselves in cynicism and a studied air of indifference when opportunities to create new relationships come before us. I confess to being in a state of tension myself for the last many months. This tension most often manifests itself in sleeplessness in the middle of the night: sometimes I jolt awake, heart racing, and the anxieties of the previous day or week crash in upon me like a wave on the ocean. And I am sure I am not alone in this.

Out of the depths within myself I cry to you, my God.

And yet, even when things are the darkest, there is hope, and mercy, and forgiveness, and reconciliation. On the heels of this cry from the deepest troughs in our heart, Psalm 131 follows, and I think it actually continues the thought found in Psalm 130. Psalm 131 continues:

O LORD, I am not proud;
     I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters,
     or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet, 
like a child upon its mother's breast;
     my soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, wait upon the LORD,
     from this time forth for evermore.

Psalm 131 reinforces the sense of hopefulness and trust in Psalm 130, but expands it further, grounding itself in humility and simplicity. The beautiful maternal image of laying upon the breast of God like a child who has awakened from sleep in the night with tears and terror continues to remind us of God’s promise never to abandon us, no matter what. Whether you have been the sobbing child or the weary parent in that scenario, you know how eagerly you await the dawn on nights like that. 

Both Psalm 130 and Psalm 131 end with a reminder for the community to remember the forgiveness, steadfast love, and redemption of God as our foundation—and go and do likewise. In a world where too many of us feel isolated and alone, we are reminded that we are made for God, but also, significantly for each other.

That’s also what Jesus is reminding us in our gospel today. Jesus invites everyone into the circle of love, and calls us to continue to carry on that work. That’s the Jesus that Presiding Bishop Curry is calling us to reclaim—to remember how radically inclusive Jesus’s vision is, the same dream that God had for us from creation onward. The heart of Jesus’s message, contrary to what we see represented on TV, is not self-centeredness, but community—community rooted in abundant grace, abundant mercy, abundant hope and faith in each other.

Loving-kindness encircles us so that we may then embody it out into this aching, hurting world. Grace upon grace raises us and heals us, if only we will let it—but not for own sakes only—no, so we can go out, renewed, restored and reconciled so that we can renew, restore, and reconcile, in the name of our brother Jesus, who has claimed us as his kindred through his determination that no one be left to sink in the depths.

Back in April of 2017, I wrote this prayer in response to Psalms 130 and 131 when they came up in the daily office readings, and I would like to pray it with you now, if you will indulge me.

Most Merciful God,
who has watched over us through the depths of night,
lead us now into the light of your love.
By your tender mercy,
may we be drawn closer to you, Lord Jesus,
and inspired by your truth.
O Holy One, You have gathered us within your embrace:
may we worship You in humility and loving-kindness.
Keep us from all scorn or arrogance, O God,
and make us gentle and true in all our ways,
our spirits a haven for healing.
Lord Christ, abide within us today,
and fill the hearts of the weary with hope as we pray.

Amen.


Preached at 8 and 10 am at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, St. Louis, MO, on June 10, 2018.

Readings:
Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Citations:
(1) Verna Dozier, The Dream of God: A Call to Return, 2006, chapter 2.