Saturday, January 18, 2014

Take Notice

Third of seven homilies preached at the 2014 Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Conference in Hendersonville, NC.

Saturday Morning
Psalm 139:1-5; Mark 2:13-17

It was late in the afternoon, and cold, and I was tired, when I left St. Dominic's hospital last Monday. I was in a hurry to get back to my car.  At the first blast of icy air, I pulled my scarf closer around my neck, buried my hands in my pockets, and turned my head down against the wind.  I knew I was passing other people, but I just didn't have the energy to look up and smile, instead channeling my New York City survival skills from when I went to seminary.  And I had almost made it to the sidewalk that led to clergy parking, just past an evergreen tree still filled with white Christmas lights glowing in memory of loved ones lost.

As I passed by the tree, a bird was chirping, and I thought nothing of it at first, fumbling for my keys in my coat pockets.  But then a fluttering movement startled me, and I looked up.  There I was, eye to eye with a bird in the evergreen, so near I could see the reprimand in his eyes and hear it in his chirps: Notice me!

Notice me!  How often do we rush through our days, or move through them with our heads down against the rush of life, intent on just getting to where we want to be next, and we fail to notice the holiness right in front of us, all around us?  Sometimes it's so big or loud or visible that we cannot help but notice we are in the presence of something sacred - a sunset smeared across the sky, the trumpets of a pipe organ, the presence or prayers of a friend at exactly the moment we needed them.  Most of the time, though, holiness is bird-sized, or smaller even, and it is hard to see when our thoughts are filled with louder, bigger, more pressing things.

We're offered an epiphany when we hear the story of Jesus walking along the lake and noticing the people there - what they are doing, who they are.  Jesus notices Levi, and right then and there, in the midst of Levi's bigger and louder and more pressing - things, Jesus calls him.  Jesus noticed Levi, crowded as Levi was with doubt and loneliness and deceit, a Jewish tax collector for the Roman government.  Jesus noticed him, and so it was a holy place.  Holiness does not mean perfect - it means being loved and chosen by God.

Jesus noticed everyone gathered around Levi's table later that day.  Everyday, ordinary people, sinners, imperfect people, hurting people...we could have been at that table, too.  Jesus noticed them and loved them and claimed them for God.  He had come precisely for them, to make them holy.

God in Christ noticed us, and taught us to notice holiness in ourselves and in others, to see holiness where we might not have ever seen it before, so blinded are we by our busyness and burdens.  Contemplative writer Esther de Waal suggests we take a magnifying glass with us everywhere we go, for holiness can be even smaller than bird-sized.  She remembers being astonished by the beauty of a daisy, and then even more astonished when she knelt to the ground and looked at it up close.

We practice noticing holiness in the common things of life - most of them bird-sized or smaller - right here at our retreat.  Sure, we marvel over expansive quilt tops and exquisite beaded scarves and sweeping shawls.  But remember my friend Rita, the giggling knitter?  It was the stitches that made her laugh, that filled her with wonder and delight.  Simple, little knit stitches.

Look at your work.  Look at the seams, the edges, the undersides (these were Jesus' favorite places to look, after all).  Look at the twist of the yarn, the weave of the fabric, the way colors play off of one another.  Look at someone you don't know well, and the care that they take with their work, or the kindness they show, or the pain that they carry.  Notice...

If we have lost sight of holiness, lost sight of wonder, we can look all around us here and begin to see again - not just to see but to notice, and to discover holiness in every small thing.  Brother David Steindahl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, wrote, "The more alert we become to the blessing that flows into us from everything we touch, the more our own touch will bring blessing."  So it is with holiness, with wonder, with giggle-inducing mystery - the more we notice it, the more it is noticeable in us.

Notice me, God whispers in the holy things and holy people all around us.  What will we see today?  Amen.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Starting on Empty

The second of seven homilies preached at the 2014 Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Conference in Hendersonville, NC.

Friday Evening
Psalm 3:3-5; John 2:1-12

Wouldn't that be a great trick to know, quite a charism we could receive at our baptism into the Body of Christ?  And why stop at turning water into wine?  We could turn cotton into cashmere.  Or burlap into silk!  That would be amazing...

My knitting friend Rita believes we do work miracles - knits and purls and magic loops - and it makes her giggle with amazement how just a little yarn and effort can become mitts or socks or contiguous sleeves.  A quilter told me this morning there are miracles where they are meeting in St. John's, too, when a jumble of triangles or squares or strips suddenly becomes a pattern.  Our empty hands take up needles and pins and fabric and yarn and beads and slowly sometimes, but surely, in the empty space in front of us, a garment or blanket or quilt appears where there wasn't one before.

This evening's gospel tells of Jesus' first miracle, when he turns water into wine.  But there is so much more to the story, more miracles than just the one.  Not only was there no wine left with the wedding party in full swing, but there wasn't even water in them, for Jesus asks for them to be filled. The jars were entirely empty.

We think of emptiness as nothing, but there is, I think, something there - there is space.  A place waiting to be filled, a place waiting to be transformed, a place waiting to become wine or a knitted felt bowl or a quilted wall hanging or holy.  Turning water into wine is impressive, but the real first miracle begins with the empty jars themselves, waiting to be filled by Christ, willing to let Christ use the space, to use the jars, to use us.  Jesus makes things holy by using them, filling them, and then they become not just full, not just transformed, but more than enough.

This morning we reflected on how we're not so empty, but rather filled with worries and fears and grief and frustration and busyness.  A preacher friend of mine has likened this kind of fullness to a sprawling subdivision devouring fields and forests.  Nothing can grow in an area completely covered with manmade things, she writes, just as a relationship with God cannot grow - we cannot see how we are made holy - if every moment is paved with our manmade concerns, manmade in the sense that is seems to be part of our human nature, and not God's to worry and fear and grasp.

But there is always, isn't there, a crack in the pavement, an unexpected flower, a place in the ceiling where something has dug through to the center where Christ is, a place of emptiness waiting to be transformed into new life.  In the season of Epiphany, in a weekend of retreat, we are invited to see how God in Christ has filled all the cracks, all the empty places, whether as small as a sliver in a sidewalk or as big as an ancient wine jar, with himself, blessing that space, transforming it, hallowing it, making it holy.  "Christ with us, within us, behind us, before us," sings St. Patrick's Breastplate.

The miracle, I think, is less about the water becoming wine than it is about the nothing becoming more than enough.  Less about it being wine that fills the jars than it is about Christ's invitation to fill them and his willingness to transform them.  Writer (and knitter!) Molly Wolf imagines what is in that wine in those wedding jars, in our communion cups.  "Who knows," she writes, "what happens in that space, when it mixes together, grace and complex carbohydrates, esters and alcohol and acids and love, inseparable."

We have surely been filled today, even as we empties our worries and distractions and busyness when we arrived.  We have been filled with new techniques, skills, stories, laughter, hot cider, inspiration, the help of friends, grace and complex carbohydrates (or didn't you have your Kanuga toast this morning?).  There is something in front of us - even if it is just a few knitted rows, or a few stitched together hexagons or triangles, or a new friendship, or a new perspective - that wasn't there this morning.  Maybe it is, as Rita believes, something like magic, something like a miracle, like turning water into wine, like making common things holy...yarn and fabric and friends and prayer, inseparable.

Remember that the miracle begins with our willingness to be empty, our willingness to be filled.  Christ behind us, Christ before us, Christ waiting to fill us, Christ within us... Amen.

Getting Here

The first of seven homilies preached at the 2014 Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Conference in Hendersonville, NC.

Friday Morning
Psalm 19:1-4; Mark 2:1-12

How did we get here?!

The last few days, for me anyway, are a blur.  I preached on Sunday, but it seems so long ago I can't remember a word of what I said.  I made hospital visits, went to nursing homes, met with parishioners, attended staff meetings.  There was laundry, and grocery shopping, and bill paying, and science fair project supervising.

How did we get from all our demands and deadlines, our to-do lists, the drudgery that fills our day-to-day here, to Kanuga, where the only thing that's demanded of us is that we be on retreat?  Where our only deadlines are the bugle calls that summon us to meals?  Where the only things on our to-do lists are knitting, quilting, massages, hikes, prayer, wine, or, if we choose, nothing?  Where our only drudgery...well, our meals are cooked for us, our dishes are washed, our beds are made...I've been weaving in countless ends in my knitting, but here even that seems like fun.

How did we get here, from our daily, ordinary lives to this once-a-year place of uncommon beauty, of uncommon peace, this place so far removed from our everyday experience, this place where we know God dwells?   The closer we get to a time of retreat, whether it's our lunch break or a day off or the weekend, or getting away together in the mountains...the closer we get, the further away it can feel, crowded out by ordinary life so that we have to dig down through all our stuff just to get out the front door.

Here we are, though.  How did we get here?  I got here with the help of friends.  We helped each other get here, in fact, strategically loading up four knitters' worth of luggage and yarn into our car, driving all those hours from Mississippi to North Carolina.  And before that, my colleagues helped me clear space in my work calendar at the Cathedral, taking on some tasks that are ordinarily mine.  And my family told me to go, my husband and my son, certainly because they know how much this weekend means to me but also, I think, because with me out of the picture they get to eat pizza and watch Tron all weekend.

Here we are, then.  We have all arrived, and indeed, we are on retreat.  This is a holy, hallowed, set apart place and time.  In the Church, of course, this time is set apart as the season of Epiphany, of the world coming to see God not in extraordinary experiences of burning bushes and angel choirs but in the person of Jesus Christ, walking around in people's ordinary, everyday lives and revealing in them remarkable things.

The gospel readings in this season tell stories like the one we hear this morning.  Someone who is paralyzed, perhaps by illness, or maybe for us it's work or worry or fears or grief or anxiety or whatever keeps us so busy or so weary or so worn down that we can barely move...someone who is paralyzed meets Jesus, not in heaven or at church but in the manger, on the road, by the sea, in a house, in the midst of common life, and there, in the middle of it all, of the drudgery and the day-to-day, he invites them to move again with purpose and peace and joy.

Here's what I think.  The paralytic's friends were so determined that he be free from what kept him from living fully, to uncrowd him from what paralyzed and pained him and pushed him to the edges of life, that they lowered him into the center of where Jesus was, where Jesus was already at home.  Epiphany is precisely about that center, that place where God dwells, about Christ's home being here. Not just here at Kanuga, not just anywhere we go on retreat, but here in this world, in the midst of our days crowded with people or obligations or sorrow or illness or work or whatever binds us, paralyzes us, pains us.

Christ dug through all of that to meet us where we are, at our center, to make his home in the same places where we are busy, where we are weary, where we are distracted, where we are hurting.  I don't mean that a time of retreat, and certainly a place like Kanuga, isn't holy - of course it is.  It's just that, everything and everywhere else is, too.  "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred," wrote Madeleine L'Engle, who deeply loved Kanuga.  "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the greatest messages of the Incarnation."

Christ came to hallow not the places that were already holy - temples and churches and retreat centers - but the places that didn't seem to be, to make the common holy, to make our everyday lives holy.  "Christ be with me, Christ within me," sings St. Patrick's Breastplate, that great Celtic hymn, and indeed the house where Jesus dwells is right here, in our hearts.  He is that close.  That near.  That common.

However we got here, may we, in the presence of so many faithful friends, see Christ in the beauty of this place of retreat, in the luxury of time, and in the absence of drudgery.  May we also begin to see, because as knitters and quilters and their companions we know something about how fabric is made, how the smallest stitches become something large enough to enfold...may we also begin to see that the thread that binds this time and place to the places we left, and the places we are going to when we leave here, is Christ's loving and redeeming and patient and healing presence in it all, Christ's presence in the home of our hearts.  Together, helping one another, let us dig down through all that crowds out our peace and our hope and our joy, and here let us begin to move again.  Amen.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Postcards from Florida

It has been ten years - ten years! - since we went to the beach, a wonderful whirlwind trip with family when C3 was just 3 years old.  So when a parishioner offered a beachfront condominium for just the three of us to spend a whole week in Destin this summer, we started packing.  Swimsuits, goggles, sunscreen, boardgames, bucket...done.

And yarn, of course.  Plymouth Jeanee cotton in brown and blue and a soft light gray to make hand towels as a thank you to our hosts (I just chose a few stitch patterns I liked, and added a seed stitch border).  I mostly knitted on the balcony, but a little on the beach, stitching a little sand and sunscreen in for good measure.

It was the most marvelous trip, filled with waves and walks and seafood and sand dollars and laughter and late nights.  We returned only a little sunburned and a lot rested and entirely ready to do it again someday.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Preach One: Trinity C

Preached at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Jackson, MS.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

"We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance... The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.  And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal... And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three persons are co-eternal together..."

...Athanasius, fourth century defender of the faith at the Council of Nicaea, has many things to say to us.  His words, themselves a creed, a statement of belief about the Trinity and the Unity and the Substance and the Persons are in the historical documents section of our prayerbook.  "The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible... As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible."  Indeed.  Perhaps we cannot bear it just now.

Augustine, in the fifth century, spent a lifetime writing his reflections on the Trinity, having so many things to say to us that he never finished his work.  "In this Trinity the Son and none other is called the Word of God, and the holy Spirit and none other the Gift of God, and God the Father alone is He from whom the Word is born, and from whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds... The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son also.  But the Father gave Him this too, not as to one already existing, and not yet having it; but whatever He gave to the only-begotten Word, He gave by begetting Him."  Perhaps we cannot bear this, either.

Perhaps an image would be easier, more comprehensible.  The Trinity is like a shamrock, one leaf with three lobes.  The Trinity is like water, one substance with three forms.  The Trinity is like a triangle, one shape with three points.  Or perhaps a formula would be more bearable, some variation on one plus one plus one.  Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.  Almighty God, Incarnate Word, Holy Comforter.  Primordial Nature, Consequent Nature, Superjective Nature.  And yet there are not three natures but one nature...

There are many, many, many things theologians and scholars and preachers and saints have said about the Trinity, much of which is not easy to bear, either for its obscurity or for its oversimplification.  Some of it is orthodox, definitive of our faith, and some of it is not, but then, when we are attempting to capture the immensity and particularity of God in an image or formula or even a creed, as my liturgy professor from seminary said, "Relax.  In the most strict and proper sense, it's all heresy."

Would that Jesus himself had offered us an answer to how God is Three in One and One in Three, but that must have fallen into the category of things he didn't tell us because we could not bear them.  His Trinity Sunday sermon was never preached.  Well, not from a pulpit anyway...

In John's Gospel especially, Jesus does speak of Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, but he doesn't bother with theological words like substance or co-eternal or even Trinity.  Instead, Jesus speaks of dwelling, and sending, and empowering.  The Father and I are one, he says.  If you know me, you will know my Father also...and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate...the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name.  And if, like the disciples before us, we were to try to figure out what Jesus means by this, to argue and answer and try to understand (for we cannot bear the unknown), to treat the Trinity as a riddle to be solved and not a mystery to be embraced, Jesus has one more word to speak to us, a single word at once obscure and simple, mysterious and mundane, divine and deeply human...Love.  As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.  Abide in my love.

So it is that a manner of living, rather than a manner of speaking, is perhaps the best and most bearable way of saying something about the Trinity.  For beneath all the theological words and creeds and formulas is God, who, somehow, is not just in relationship but is Relationship, who is not just in community but is Community, who doesn't just move toward the Other but is the Motion itself, who doesn't just love but is Love.  Jesus' whole life, a life lived in and for relationship, in and for community, always moving toward the Other in and for love...his whole life was a sermon on the Trinity, if a sermon is, at its best, a meeting place of God's story and ours.

But it can be so much more difficult for us to believe in a Love like that, and certainly more difficult for us to speak of it, than it is for us to proclaim our belief in a doctrine like the Trinity.  Our story, after all, is one full of division and fear and suffering and scarcity.  Just this week a tornado tore through a town that could have been ours.  It was an election that nearly pulled us apart.  We buried a long-time member of our community of faith.  We are remembering and grieving, this weekend, the impact of war on the lives of courageous women and men.  Hurricane season is here.  Our lives are full of arguments, sorrow, uncertainty, brokenness, prejudice, pain, power lost, and power found.  There is never enough time or money, but there are always at least two sides, and we take them against one another.

There is more to our story, though.  In the beginning, we were made in the image of God, which is to say, in the image of Relationship, in the image of Community, in the image of Movement toward the Other, we were made in the image of Love.  When tornadoes and hurricanes strike, when the goodwill of people and nations is threatened, we have a heart to go help, so we go.  When neighborhoods are in need of renewal, we have a mind to work together, so we do.  When lives around us are in need or trouble, we have hands to hold theirs, and ears to listen, and mouths to pray, so we do.

Catherine LaCugna, a theologian of our own time, understands the Trinity then as "ultimately a practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian life," for in baptism our "solitariness and separateness" are transformed into communion, into relationship, into love, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Even those ancient creeds - the Apostle's Creed we say at baptism, the Nicene Creed we say every Sunday, the Athanasian Creed...well, bless his heart, it's incomprehensible... Even those ancient creeds, for all their careful and good theology about a God who is mystery beyond our imagining, cannot help but speak of God always in motion toward the Other, toward one another as Three in One and One in Three, toward us and all creation.  We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth...God is Relationship.  We believe in Jesus Christ...for us and for our salvation he came down...God is Love.  We believe in the Holy Spirit...who has spoken through the Prophets...(and if we ever speak of God, aren't we all prophets)...God is Motion.  We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church, the creed goes on to say, and so the Church becomes the sign and sacrament, LaCugna writes, of life lived in relationship, of life lived in community, of life lived in love, lived in the image of God.

There are many more things I could say to you about the Trinity this morning, but none of us could bear it, I'm sure.  The Trinity isn't best preached from a pulpit, anyway.  You see the Trinity if you see love, Augustine concluded.  May our lives, then, our community, our relationships, our hearts and minds and hands, be a sermon today and every day; by our love, let us say something about God.  Amen.

Artwork: "Thoughts on Communion," by Barbara Desrosiers.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Preach One: Easter 3C

Preached at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Jackson, MS

Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

What do you want to be when you grow up?  A famous actor?  A fighter pilot?  A fairy princess?  I wanted to be all these things when I was little.  But my acting career peaked around 8th grade when I played the goose in Charlotte's Web.  I took some flying lessons, but then I took physics, full of formulas I couldn't figure out.  I guess I won't ever be famous, then.  And I won't ever fly an F-18.  But a fairy princess...I'm still holding out hope!

In high school, I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed," but really wasn't certain what I would be successful at.  I was a youth minister for a little while, and then a graduate student, and then a bookseller, and briefly a stay-at-home mom before heading off to seminary.  Department of Labor statistics suggest I'm not alone - these days, people tend to change jobs or even careers between three and eleven times before they turn 40.  And we do so for all sorts of reasons.  Sometimes we're moving up a ladder.  Sometimes we're disillusioned.  Sometimes we just want to do something different.  Sometimes we have no choice.  And then sometimes, Jesus shows up and says, follow me...

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Perhaps Paul wanted to be a soldier, or Peter a scribe; in their time, though, they would probably have been voted most likely to always be a Pharisee, most likely to always be a fisherman.  Both had been born into the positions they held, and both were successful in their work.  Paul persecuted countless Christians; Peter caught countless fish.  Until Jesus showed up and said, follow me...

Peter was fishing that day, with his brother Andrew.  We don't know whether he had heard of Jesus, or was already considering a career change.  But when Jesus offered him a position fishing for people, Peter leapt at the chance.  It wasn't an easy job, though, and while Peter was eager, he often felt like he was sinking in wave after wave of mystery and misunderstanding about just who Jesus was, even after the Resurrection.  In the end, weary and overwhelmed, he hauled himself and his nets back out to sea.  But Jesus had yet one more job for him to do...tend my lambs...feed my sheep...

Paul loved his work.  He was proud of his Roman citizenship and his Hebrew heritage, both of which revolved around rules.  The Pharisees were a religious and political party within Judaism, devoted to the observance of God's commandments and demanding that others do the same; Paul's job was to round up the rule-breakers.  He was breathing threats and murder that day against the disciples in Damascus when Jesus decided to bring him under new management.  It wouldn't be easy work, but in the end, Paul couldn't see how he could do his old job anymore.

So the fisherman and the Pharisee grew up to be apostles, to talk and teach about what they had seen and heard, and to lead Christ's followers in creating a community of faith and prayer and practice - the Church.  Peter would help it sink its roots deep in the soil of salvation history; Paul would help it spread that story of God's saving love far and wide.  All who believed were together, the book of Acts tells us. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers... They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need...and day by day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Day by day by every single day since Jesus showed up on that shore, saying to his first disciples, follow me, lives have been changed by the inviting, transforming, and reconciling love of God.  Jesus went right to work healing the sick, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, forgiving the sinner, embracing the outcast, companioning the lonely, finding the forgotten, shepherding the lost, comforting the sorrowful, helping the poor, and putting others right to work with him, employing their hearts and hands and feet as his instruments, chosen to bring his name to all the world.

And not his name only, but new life.  For it is Jesus crucified and risen who shows up in our scriptures this day, this third Sunday of Easter.  Follow me, Jesus says to Peter once again, resurrecting the rock on which the Church would be fixed.  Where once Peter had denied knowing his dying Lord, now he would bear witness to a living Savior.  God raised him up, Peter would boldly proclaim, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in death's power.

It is Jesus crucified and risen and ascended who appears to Paul, in a flash of light first, and then in Ananias, who was surely Christ to Paul.  Jesus had appeared to Ananias, too, and put him right to work loving an enemy, tending a sheep, forgiving a sinner, praying for a yet-to-be-saint.  Christ died for our sins, Paul would later write, and was buried, and raised on the third day...and appeared to Peter, then to the twelve, then to more than five hundred brothers and sisters, then to James, then to all the apostles...last of all, he appeared also to me...

On this third Sunday of Easter, we remember that the Church began, and then began to grow, because Jesus, crucified and risen, showed up over and over and over again, day by day by day, in people's lives, and set them about the task of bearing witness to the power of his love to transform despair into hope, darkness into light, blindness into sight, death into life; the power of his love to transform an unlikely collection of followers into a community of faith.  Brother David Vryhof, SSJE, writes of that early Church, "they are not alone: countless Christians down through the ages, from every people and nation, have borne witness to their own experience of the Risen Christ.  Through him they have come to know God as love, and this love has transformed their lives," and not their lives only, but the whole world, for the best witness to Love is to love...

Jesus is still showing up.  We are every bit as likely to encounter him over breakfast or on the road as ever Peter or Paul were.  Or haven't we served Christ eggs and grits at our Tuesday morning meal for the homeless and hungry?  Or haven't we walked with him through a South Jackson neighborhood to list all the things a collaboration of church and community volunteers can do to improve it?  Or haven't we heard Christ in the voice of someone over the phone saying they just called to see how we're doing?  Or haven't we watched him teach a classroom full of students, or carefully start an IV, or paint a canvas in every color of the setting sun?  Or haven't we listened to him tell bedtime stories to a cabin full of first-time campers, or speak to someone otherwise alone, or give a speech at a fundraiser for a community center?  Where have you seen him?  In whom have you heard him?  How have you experienced the Risen Christ?

Jesus is still showing up.  And he is still saying, follow me, get up, and you will be told what you are to do.  As fishermen or Pharisees, as pilots or fairy princesses, as musicians or social workers or librarians or babysitters, as firefighters or parents or kids or chefs or CEO's or retirees or nurses, wherever it is that we work, whatever it is that we do, whether we're grown up yet or not, Jesus has a new job for each and every one of us - that we would be disciples, bearing witness, day by day, to the unconditional and transforming love of God.

It's not easy work.  The hours are long and unpredictable, for we never know when or where or in whom Christ will appear.  The pay is not good; in fact, Jesus tells us that following him costs us everything.  The products of a life of discipleship - love and grace and humility and mercy and forgiveness and vulnerability - are not everywhere well received.  And sometimes even coworkers quarrel, even Peter and Paul did.  It's not easy work, following.  But then, by definition, following means going where Christ goes first, where he leads the way, where he already is, where he's just waiting for us to show up and get right to work.

Not just on this third Sunday in Easter, but on every Sunday, and any time we gather as the Church in this place and around this table, we experience the Risen Christ, in word, in the breaking of bread, and in one another.  There is a job to be done, there is a world to be transformed by love.  May we then go out to do the work God has given us to do, to love and serve God as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Artwork: "Jesus Awaits the Disciples on the Shoreline," by Kristen Serafini.

Monday, April 01, 2013

No bunny 'til some bunny...

C3, now 13 years old, was just in preschool when it started.  Even with only a handful of Easters under his belt, he had accumulated a number of stuffed bunnies.  Every year they make an appearance around the middle of Lent (they're so adorable and soft, how can we not let them out early?) and pile up on C3's bed to await the arrival of Easter morning and (the resurrection of Jesus Christ and) another new bunny in C3's basket.

That preschool year, somewhere around Easter, my husband and I went into C3's room to say bedtime prayers and kiss goodnight.  We found him sitting on his bed surrounded by his bunnies, and as we made room for ourselves in the cozy warren, C3, with a particularly fuzzy stuffed rabbit in his hands, looked up at us and said with a precious sigh, "I love you more than bunnies."


We still say it to this day when we want to emphasize just how strongly we feel.  "I love you" is all well and good, but "I love you more than bunnies"...that's serious.

So, last year as Lent got started, I began wondering whether it was time for me my son to grow up a little, whether stuffed animals were still something he would want.  His heart has a generously sized soft spot, though, and because I wasn't ready for him to be too old because of that I decided to do just one more bunny.  Store shelves had long been filled with Easter rabbits, ducks, lambs all waiting to be chosen to sit among chocolate eggs and speckled jellybeans in some child's basket.  But if this was going to be the last bunny, I wanted it to be special.  I decided I would make it.

Knit it, of course.  I had already eyed some patterns, precious knitted toys with button noses and cotton tails.  I finally chose Sophie, by Ysolda Teague, for its long, floppy ears and sweetest face.  For you knitters reading along, I couldn't recommend the pattern more highly.  It is knit in parts, but there are no seams - beginning with the head, you simply knit, stuff, and bind off, and then pick up stitches for the next part.  I used Caron Simply Soft that I've long had in my stash

Much of the bunny was knit right in front of C3, who never asked what I was making, even when it looked a little Frankenbunny-ish as I picked up for legs or arms or ears.  I loved the project, and smiled often as it grew, just as C3 has grown.  It was ready just in time to nestle in C3's basket - the same one the very first bunny appeared in - on Easter morning.

C3 smiled, and perhaps it was just courtesy, but he kept it out when the rest of the bunnies went into liturgical hibernation at the end of the Great Fifty Days.  This year there was only a chocolate bunny in the basket.  Still, he didn't complain or roll his eyes when all those stuffed rabbits appeared outside his bedroom door, and when I looked later he had brought them into his room.

I know they'll be outgrown, and in some ways so will we as our teenager (wasn't he just that preschooler?!) continues to come into his own.  But no matter what, we'll always love him more than bunnies.