Monday, May 21, 2018

Royal Tidings

My God, My King,

The Royal Wedding, 
not my cup of tea.
Extreme pomp.
The excess and celebrity,
like watery Earl Grey.

But my wife is enthralled.
Do not dismiss those romantic notions.
Intimacy. Mutuality. Security.
That needn’t be the stuff of fairy tales.
It’s the high bar of true, abiding love.

And surprisingly, powerfully,
a prophet steps forth. 
Bishop Michael Curry
convicts and inspires
a global audience of 1.9 billion.

There was criticism 
of a discourse too long.
No, he was true 
to a divine script:

...imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial redemptive. 

When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down, down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty good room, plenty good room, for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family. 

When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God. My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family. 

To those Royal Tidings.
To that very Good News. 

Bishop Curry's Homily: Text | Video

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday

Mardi Gras has concluded in New Orleans. Carnival celebrations across the globe have wound down. The party’s over. Lent begins with an international hangover. Maybe that’s appropriate.

It’s a time to look in the mirror, a time for confession. The sign of the cross, imposed on one’s forehead with ashes, is an ancient sign of repentance.

There’s a Litany of Penitence in the Book of Common Prayer. I’ve done a rewrite - my own contemporary version:

This is my confession. It’s unpleasant, but I’m thinking it’s supposed to feel that way.

Lord, I don’t give you 100%. Worship, Bible study and prayer are not priorities. I’m reluctant to share my faith.

I’m pretty choosy about caring for my neighbors. I’m prejudiced toward some, even contemptuous of others. Across town and across the ocean, I turn a blind eye to suffering, injustice and cruelty. I’m slow to volunteer hoping somebody else will step up.

And I’m slow to forgive, prone to hold on to slights and grudges. I’m impatient. I stretch the truth, even lie. I’m a prideful, envious and self-indulgent. I profess concern for the care of your creation, but I’m not very dedicated to the cause.

Indeed, I am a hypocrite…yet you care for me. You have sacrificed for me. You forgive me. You have my back 24/7.

Accept my confession, Father. Rouse me to repentance. Draw me closer during Lent. Amen.

I commend to you a modern confession [#893] in the Methodist Hymnal. It was added to the 1989 hymnbook, and it comes from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa. 

On Mortality, Penitence & Grace

…for dust you are and to dust you will return.
(Genesis 3:19)

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Liturgy for Ash Wednesday)

Lord Christ,

It's not about me.
It's not about me.
(Repeat until it sinks in.)

Starring in my own life,
I must resist that.
This performance could close today.

Under the best circumstances,
my empire will fall in thirty years or so.
I'm counting on another Kingdom.

There are some things in my nature
that need to be seared or burned away.
I shudder as I pray,
but turn up the flame Lord,
if that's your remedy.

This is out of sync
with our "selfie" culture.
Yet I know your acceptance and love.
I know your presence in my life.

During Lent,
let’s proceed with my repair.


Evidence of Penitence

Serendipitously, I've been reading David Brooks' The Road to Character during Lent. 

The book ends with a six page, fifteen tenet Humility Code. It is a convicting prescription for repentance. Snippets:

We don't live for happiness, we live for holiness.

Humility reminds you that you are not the center of the universe, but you serve a larger order.

Pride is the central vice.

No external conflict is as consequential or as dramatic as the inner campaign against your own deficiencies. 

Everybody needs redemptive assistance from the outside - from God, family, friends, ancestors, rules, traditions, institutions, and exemplars.

We are all ultimately saved by grace. 

There's an Lenten prayer in Brooks' cannon.

Most merciful God, 

We confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

I dutifully recite those lines. When will I own them?

Suppress, excuse and sugar coat. Wipe off that Ash Wednesday stain. Restore my self-esteem. I'm not that bad.

No, I must own the broken parts, the sin. The thoughts, words and deeds. Things done. Things left undone. Sins against God and neighbor.

Break the dam of my denial. Allow grace to flow. Only in confessing, admitting - owning those ashes - is God's grace fully released upon us. 

Have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. 


(from Morning Prayer II, Confession of Sin, Book of Common Prayer)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Chosen & Sent

My Scripture Union Bible study inspires yet another prayer. John Harris with the Bible Society of Australia is taking us through 1 Samuel. In chapter sixteen, where David is anointed, Harris notes many blemishes on the Davidic line. This isn’t a story about royalty. It’s a lesson about grace.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We are often attracted to pedigree, wealth or, nowadays, TV personality. Do we truly believe that God’s purposes encompass the powerless, the marginalized and the dispossessed?

I have taken a slice of Harris’ theme and a portion of his words for this prayer:

The Chosen One...

Yes, he was handsome,
With some musical talent,
But a mere shepherd,
And the eighth son,
From an immigrant family,
With stories of adultery 
And prostitution in their past. 

And YOU chose him to be one of history’s most memorable monarchs, the Divinely appointed King David. 

The One Who Was Sent...

An embarrassing pregnancy,
The carpenter’s kid,
Born in a stable,
Then a refugee,
An itinerant teacher and preacher,
Judged a subversive,
Sentenced to capital punishment.

And YOU sent Jesus to save us. For daily living and for eternal life. 

YOUR grace is unpredictable. It never fails to surprise and awaken me. 

YOU are not concerned with pedigree, success or celebrity. 

And this confounding grace seems to tilt toward the powerless, the marginalized, the dispossessed. 

I acknowledge these truths! 

Now, what is today’s mission?
For what am I chosen?
Where would YOU send me?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

For a New Year

My NYE Bible study channels Prophet and Psalmist, Isaiah 12 and Psalm 98. In a spirit of New Year revelry, we are encouraged to praise, proclaim and sing a new song!

Yes, there’s hurt aplenty, even despair at times. I'm not immune to setbacks and loss. Big picture, the 2017 year-in-review recounts myriad natural disasters - vicious storms, earthquakes and wildfires. And unnatural tragedies in Syria, Somalia, Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs.

But in my family, we celebrated a wedding, new jobs, travel adventure and milestones at work. Gratitude prevails. It’s fertile soil where hope takes root and blooms as joy.

Lord of the fresh start
& new beginnings,

Clock and calendar 
are center stage:
The count down. 
The turning of a page,
For a new year.

Shout for joy to the Lord, 
all the earth, 
burst into jubilant song 
with music... (Psalm 98:4)
For a new year. 

I pray for renewal,
Verve and vitality,
Even reinvention,
For a new year.

The Lord, the Lord himself, 
is my strength 
and my defense;
he has become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2)
For a new year. 

Christmas reinforces
Your presence,
Your restorative plans.
The launch pad,
For a new year.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things... (Psalm 98:1)

I will sing a new song,
With hope and joy,
For a new year.