Friday, April 30, 2010

Day Five: Here and There

For Day Five of Knit and Crochet Blog Week, we're writing about where we like to indulge in our craft.  Those are Eskimimi's words, and they're perfect - most of the time, when I'm knitting it feels indulgent, because I know there are so many other things I probably ought to be doing.  You know, like cleaning the house, mowing the grass, doing the laundry, writing a sermon, earning a living...

Actually, most of my knitting happens away from home, in moments I steal borrow gratefully accept as opportunities to indulge just a little.  In fact, even as I start typing this post, I'm contemplating whether it would be acceptable to bring my knitting to tonight's PTA meeting at my son's school.  (**Update: I decided it was an opportunity to gratefully accept, and stuffed my knitting in my purse.)  I do have a sort of "knitting central" at home where my stash lives in a stack of sterilite bins and my knitting books inhabit a shelf along with theology books and preaching guides and an assortment of books-you-just-can't-ever-bring-yourself-to-throw-away-because-they're-classics-or-unread (still)-or-funny-or-gifts.

I rarely ever knit in that room, though.  Where do I knit?  Here are a few of the gratefully accepted gifts of moments (and their accompanying places) when I indulge:

1.  Taekwondo practice.  It keeps me from watching and worrying about my son as he swings and kicks.  His teacher has told me I don't need to learn taekwondo because I carry around such pointy sticks.

2.  Piano lessons.  My son's piano teacher is a knitter, too, and we ooo and ahh over projects before the lesson begins.

3.  The carpool line.  This only works for a few months out of the year, though.  In Mississippi we have fall, winter, and hot.

4.  On the sofa while Glee is on.  (sing song voice) Love it!

5.  With friends, or with my mom, wherever we happen to be.

6.  At church.  I've actually preached about sock knitting once, and several times about sheep.  I don't knit in the pulpit (although, heaven help me, I've sometimes wished I had my knitting while listening to a sermon every now and then), but I love knitting in the empty church between services.  So peaceful and still...

7.  During story time.  We take turns reading aloud with our son most nights - right now we're cheering Harry on as he competes in the Triwizard Tournament.  On the nights when my husband is the designated reader, I gratefully accept the gift to indulge in knitting while we indulge in family time.

8.  At work.  Yes, at work!  I figured that since I learned to play with needles and yarn at a church, that was justification enough to start a knitting club at school.  And of course that club would need a sponsor...  We meet every other week, and I am amazed at how quickly and eagerly these students have learned to indulge!  Right now we're working on Warm-Up America squares and Duduza dolls.

Should any other occasion or location arise, I will gratefully accept the opportunity to indulge in knitting!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day Four: The Rainbow Connection

I have changed colors when the pattern calls for it.  I have even changed colors every two rows for the Mason-Dixon Genius Baby Burpcloth.  And I've double-knit a hotpad with two different colors.  But I've never tried stranded color work or intarsia.  Those techniques may be my answer to the question posed on day four of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: is there a knitting skill you hope to learn one day...

Pictures of works-in-progress using two or more colors within a row look all at once fun and very, very fiddly.  Pictures of finished pieces, though, look amazing.  Of all the knitting techniques I've come across, color work seems to me to be the I-have-now-arrived-as-a-knitter skill.

I looked through some patterns to see if I might list a few that seemed magnificent and yet manageable as a first attempt at color work, and realized that before I can learn that technique I have to learn how to read a chart.  I've only ever used written out instructions, reveling in the lines of k's and p's and ssk's and tbl's in something of the same way I revel in reading lines of music notes on a staff.  So that's two skills I hope to learn!  Then I could make the Bird in Hand Mittens, or the Anemoi Mittens, or anything argyle.

I'm not sure these colorful techniques would have come to mind had I not seen some lovely color work patterns on people's blog posts from Tuesday of this week (this one, in particular, caught my eye).  There's another rainbow connection, though, that perhaps led me to choose this knitting aspiration.  God willing and the creek don't rise (and the rain don't fall!), Friday afternoon will be May Day at the Episcopal school where I serve as chaplain.  From our littlest 3-year-olds to our third graders, students dance on the field to sweet and lively music (this year it's all muppet music, honoring our beloved Mississippian, Jim Henson).  Then the fourth graders ever-so-formally process to the maypoles, take the rainbow of ribbons, and waltz in and and and out...

Beautiful color work, no?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day Three: At the Intersection

Day Three of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week invites us to write about a knitter whom we admire.  Well, what knitter do I NOT admire?  Everyone I've met since I began knitting has taken me one stitch, one row, one skill, one pattern further, and all with utmost patience.  From mom I learned the basics, and then socks.  From Debo I learned not to panic when a few stitches slide off the needle without warning.  From Susan I learned lace.  From Glyn I learned how much it helps to stretch your hands out once in a while.  From Louise I learned cables.  The list could go on and on...

I think I'd like to write, however, about someone who is a knitter and a blogger, but most importantly a friend.  We've asked each other knitting questions from time to time (our most pressing one, lately, has been what to do with the myriad ends to weave in on a log cabin blanket), and admired one another's works-in-progress.  Most of the time, though, when we're knitting together we're also talking about cats and dogs, or quilts, or public schools, or the Episcopal church, or our children, or tea, or gardens, or butterfly eggs, or our husbands-who-are-clergy-but-also-members-of-a-band, or books, or home repair, or art, or Mississippi, or cameras, or busy weeks, or...well, what's left to talk about?!

I love that my friend's blog is titled, My Log Cabin Life.  She describes it as "an intersection of art and life, creativity and inspiration, teaching and learning, home and work, family and community."  Just as the colors and strips and lengths of a log cabin blanket intersect and build upon one another to create something lovely and warm, so the various pieces of our lives (which can at times seem so scattered) intersect to create perhaps never a finished piece, but rather one that keeps growing and evolving and becoming, we hope, ever lovelier.  There may be lots of ends to weave in as we go through life, but then that's part of the adventure, too, right?  I am grateful to my friend for teaching me by example to see more clearly and to celebrate life's intersections through writing, blogging, quilting, learning, singing, playing, cooking, dancing, laughing, parenting, and, of course, knitting.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day Two: Squares Are Not Bad

In a wonderful book called Squares Are Not Bad, by Violet Salazar, circles do not like triangles.  And triangles do not like rectangles.  And rectangles do not like squares - in fact, they have been known to say, "Squares are stupid and ugly and bad, bad, bad!"  None of them like each other at all, and they never play together.  Until one day, the circles are playing at the top of a hill, and one of them accidentally rolls down to where the triangles are playing below.  The circle topples one of the triangles and lands on its upturned side.  Everyone steps back and gasps.  They've made an ice cream cone!  Suddenly all of the shapes are laughing and playing, combining to make trees and houses and cars and boats.  No one thinks anyone is stupid anymore, or ugly, or bad.  And they all lived happily ever after.

Maybe I've mixed up some of the details, but then, that's the point of the story - everyone is happier when they mix and mingle and make wonderful new shapes by working together.  Day Two of Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week invites us to reflect on a pattern to which we aspire, something we have not attempted, something we have always imagined was just beyond our reach.  My pattern is...a sweater.

Any sweater, really.  I've queued and favorited sweater patterns on Ravelry (I especially like Patti, Vesper, Clara, and Buttercup) but haven't yet really believed I could handle a project that wasn't...square.  Or rectangular.  It's not that I think other shapes are stupid or ugly or bad, bad, bad - it's just that I've thought they would be too hard!  Most of the projects I've made are shawls or blankets or scarfs or dishcloths.  I've made a few socks and fingerless mitts, and learned some nifty new skills doing both, but in the end knitting in the round is really just knitting in a straight line, which is sort of rectangular...

For now I'll probably keep knitting at mostly right angles, but am looking forward to one day tumbling down the hill and discovering that if I make a sleeve here, a neck opening there, a back, a front, a hem, and some waist shaping, all those shapes will come together to make a sweater!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day One: How It All Began

I wandered through a few knitting blogs last week, and discovered that Eskimimi is hosting the Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week.  The idea is for knit and crochet bloggers to write about the same topics every day for a week, offering a range of perspectives as varied and colorful as our leftover skein stashes.  You don't have to officially sign up to be part of the fun, but you can find participating bloggers by googling each day's tag.  KniCroBlo Week starts today, and since my April posts have been a little far and few between, I thought I'd give it a go!

Day One is about how it all began - when and how did we learn how to take two sticks and a ball of yarn and make fabric with them?  I remember learning how to knit from my mom when I was in elementary school, and for a long time I had the swatches to show for it (one yellow, and one pink).  I don't remember whether I liked it or not... My mom recently found a picture that perhaps explains why I didn't keep knitting.  The look on my face isn't encouraging...

We lived in Sewanee, Tennessee, where my dad was in seminary.  Fast forward twenty years to New York City, where I was the one in seminary this time.  I suppose I had seen my mom knit from time to time while I was growing up, but she and my grandmother were more often holding needlepoint or cross-stitch in their laps, and these were the needle-and-thread projects I liked best.  I remember cross-stitching a few baby things - bibs, pillows, and my most ambitious piece, a little wall-hanging of Mickey Mouse in his sorcerer's apprentice robes and hat.

I really can't explain why I went to the "Knitting and Crocheting Prayer Group" that met at St. Luke-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church on Thursday nights... I had read blurbs about them in the church bulletin, and knew they gave away prayer shawls and each year contributed a huge afghan for a raffle on the day of the city-wide AIDS walk.  An orange crochet hook and a small skein of thick burgundy yarn were placed in my hands moments after I arrived.  "It's easier to learn how to crochet first," the group leader said, and she showed me how to pull the hook through loops of the surprisingly soft yarn (I later learned it was Lion Brand Homespun, and the woman who taught me to crochet wrote for the Lion Brand website).

For the next hour and a half I fumbled with the stitches, which mysteriously grew and shrank as I finished each row.  The handful of others who filled the parlor had brought their own projects with them - blankets, baby sweaters, warm hats and afghans.  They told stories as they worked, laughed at their dropped stitches, and frequently leaned toward one another to admire or assist.  One group member arrived late, there for the first time since recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor.  The group paused, pulled a beautiful prayer shawl from a closet in the hall (as I peered in I saw that it was full of carefully folded handknit shawls), and wrapped it around his shoulders even as they wrapped him in prayers for his continued recovery.

I was, and I can only say it this way, hooked.  I bought some Homespun of my own in a deep purple and began crocheting a prayer shawl, running out for more yarn before I knew it (and, unfortunately, before I knew about the concept of dye lots).  The shawl turned out to be a polygon shape with no right angles, so I kept it for myself and it hangs on a chair in my office.

Before I left New York, I went to Purl Soho for a pair of knitting needles and a skein of Noro Kureyon (I was told the colors would encourage me to keep going when I got frustrated, which I was told I would).  It was my first trip to a yarn shop, and if I had been curious before I was completely in love by the time I left.  I had never seen so many colors and textures of yarn.  Back home in Mississippi, just a few days before my ordination, my mom sat down with me and taught me to knit.  Again.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4C

Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

It has been almost two years since my trip to the tiny island of Iona, off the southwest coast of Scotland.  Iona is holy ground, in part because of its history as a home for a community of Christians, in part because the sea that surrounds it is impossibly clear and blue, in part because the rock along its shores and undergirding its hills is some of the oldest exposed stone on earth, and in part it is holy because of its many, many sheep.  There are more sheep than people on Iona.

I remember being amazed, as I watched sheep graze and wander and wag their tails, at how well Jesus had captured their true nature.  And ours.  And his.  My sheep hear my voice, he said.  I know them, and they follow me.  The sheep I saw on Iona indeed responded faithfully and even eagerly to one another and to the shepherds and sheepdogs who cared for them.

Faithfully and even eagerly... Perhaps it is more true to say, then, that Jesus captured the true nature of the sheep and his hope for our nature, his hope that we would so readily hear his voice and follow.  After all, he tells this to those gathered around him in the temple, looking for all the world like sheep around a shepherd...but they have not listened, even when he has told them his voice and God's voice are one.

I am the Good Shepherd, Jesus had said not very long before, and no one would have wondered what he meant.  Shepherds and sheep graced every hillside and green pasture, and while their work kept them spatially and socially marginalized, shepherds were known to be all at once tender, strong, playful, and protective.  Those faithful in the temple would have known well the scriptures in which God with rod and staff is tending a wayward flock.  The prophet Isaiah had spoken to the Hebrew people enduring exile in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem.  Comfort, o comfort my people, says your God, Isaiah wrote.  See, the Lord God comes with might... He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands, began the psalm we now know as the Jubilate.  In the time of Jesus it was poetry sung or recited in the temple by individuals or congregations.  Know this, that psalmist continued.  Know this: the Lord himself is God.  He himself has made us, and we are his.  We are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

In all the scriptures, though, there has been no passage so familiar, so beloved, so fervently prayed as the psalm that begins, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  It surely brought special solace to worshippers who saw shepherds each day tending carefully and powerfully to the needs of their sheep, leading them, guiding them, protecting them, and providing for them.  But somehow even we, who only see sheep when we take a child to the petting zoo, find the words of the twenty-third psalm comforting and consoling.  Even we, who only know such shepherds as Little Bo Peep and Little Boy Blue, are drawn to the figure at the center of the psalm, the one who revives our souls.  We are just as able to recite the psalm by heart as those who gathered around Jesus in the temple that day, although the version we know best would have sounded strange to their ears.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Whether we read the twenty-third psalm in our private devotions, or at a graveside, or (as we do every Friday morning in "Big Chapel") with a child, it speaks to us of the tender, strong, playful and protective presence of God in our lives.  When I teach the psalm to three- and four-year-olds in chapel class, they watch with a mixture of delight and deep concern as I move the figures of a shepherd and his sheep from the fold to the pasture and back again, past pools of blue construction paper water and valleys made of rocks from the prayer garden just outside the classroom.  The Lord is my shepherd, I'll walk with him always.  He knows me and he loves me, I'll walk with him always, we sing, and there is no doubt in my mind about the faithfulness and eagerness to follow in those children's hearts.

It's one thing, though, to get lost behind a pile of prayer garden rocks and quite another to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  The twenty-third psalm is full of comfort and reassurance; it is also full of terror and threat.  The way forward, for the sheep in the psalm, contains peril.  Evil exists.  Enemies abound.  So it is that, even for sheep of a good shepherd, darkness is very real.  Just ask Tabitha, who suffered a terrible illness and died.  Ask Peter, who just before the rooster crowed chose not to walk with his shepherd into danger.  Ask Paul, who was plunged into darkness on the road to Damascus.  Ask the multitude surrounding the throne, who have come through so great an ordeal that they are scorched, hungry, thirsty, and weeping.  Ask the victims of yesterday's tornado, the families of deployed soldiers, ask anyone who is struggling with finances or relationships or illness or addition or grief or depression.  A life of faith and eagerness is not a life without suffering.

Many who followed Jesus found his voice comforting and empowering, but even they sometimes stumbled over his words.  Take up your cross.  Sell everything you have.  You must be last of all and servant of all.  I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.  A life of faith and eagerness is not a life without challenges, obstacles, and difficult decisions.

But even when the fields are wide and the grazing carefree, a life of faith and eagerness is not always what we choose.  We aren't as good at listening as sheep are.  The world is full of competing voices, competing sounds, all clamoring for our attention, all claiming they are good shepherds.  And so we follow, wandering off in whatever direction we think will bring us the most security, the most happiness, the most satisfaction.

One afternoon on Iona, as we hiked across the island, we came upon a pasture surrounded by a crumbling wooden fence full of gaping holes.  It seems a lamb had wandered through one of the holes, and had found itself separated from its flock.  The mother sheep was just on the other side of the fence, bleating for her lamb, and walking toward the hole as she called out.  The lamb followed its mother's voice toward reunion, but then would become distracted and frantically wander in the other direction.

Perhaps, then we are very much like sheep.  What sounds distract us from listening for the one who leads, who protects, who revives, who anoints and pursues us with goodness and mercy all the days of our lives?  What noises make it difficult for us to remain focused on green pastures and still waters?  What other voices call out to us, enticing us to follow them faithfully and eagerly, promising to overflow our cups with what they have to offer?

What does the Good Shepherd's call sound like in our lives?  How do we hear his voice, see his tender strength at work, feel his rod and staff prod us back toward the hole in the fence so that we might be reunited with him?  Again, the scriptures can serve as our guide.  The prophet Isaiah marvels, Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faith or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable.  The poet of psalm 139 wonders, Where can I go from your spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

And in those lovely words of the psalm we know so well, Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  It is more true to the Hebrew text, however, to read the word "follow" instead as "pursue."  Surely your goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.  All these passages, and many more besides, point us toward a God who not only leads us as a shepherd, but who comes after us when we have wandered off, who seeks us even before we seek him, even we are seeking other sources of satisfaction for our many needs.

We will know God's voice in our lives when we hear what is at once tender and strong, like one who both gently cares for the sheep and powerfully protects them from harm, who tenderly carries the sheep in his bosom even as he stretches his arms out on the hard wood of the cross.  We know God's voice in the mother sheep bleating for us to come home, and in the voice of the paschal lamb upon the throne.  Those who gathered around Jesus in the temple, like so many in their time, were sheep searching for a shepherd who was more avenger than comforter, more driving force than gentle guide.  If you are the messiah, tell us plainly, they demanded.  I have told you, Jesus replied, but you have not believed.  They had not been listening to the voice that beckoned them to his flock, that called out time and time again to all who were on the other side of the fence, Come and see.  Follow me.  My power is not what you imagine power to be.  See how my generosity powerfully exposes selfishness.  See how my encompassing love powerfully reveals narrow-mindedness.  See how my light scatters the darkness before it.  See how my eternal truth shames the lies other shepherds tell.  See how my love shines into the places where you feel lost and afraid and bitter and alone and hostile and needy.  See how my goodness and mercy will pursue you all the days of your life.  Come and see.

One day, promises the book of Revelation, a great multitude will gather around the throne, dressed all in white.  Scholars tell us these are martyrs for their faith, those who risked following the shepherd even at the cost of their lives.  But dressed all in me, they seem the great flock, the people of God's pasture home at last, the sheep of God's hand.  I will give them eternal life, Jesus had said, and they will never perish.  No one will snatch them out of my hand.

Just as surely, though, as there will come a day when we will hunger no more and thirst no more, and suffer no more scorching heat, when we will weep no more and wander no more and will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, so surely are we led and pursued by our good shepherd today and every day of our lives.  In the green pastures of our lives, beside the still waters, through the valleys of the shadow of death and in the midst of our enemies, our beloved psalm reminds us to say, You are with me...not you will be with me.  Listen to the words you know so well.  You are with me, you revive my soul, you prepare a table before me, you anoint my head with oil, and now, even now, my cup runs over.  All those words branded by repetition on our hearts are in the present-tense, not the future-tense.  One day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, but even now we can say with confidence, You are with me.  Amen.

Artwork and other credits:  My picture of a sheep on Iona; "Four Sheep," by Kris Shanks; "Two Sheep," by Karen Fincannon; Patsy's picture of lambs on Iona; my picture of sheep on Iona; "Spring Lambs," artist unknown; "Caring for Sheep," by Nicola Slattery; my picture of sheep on Iona.  I am grateful to the lectionary reflections offered by faculty and students at Saint Louis University for illustrations of how tender and powerful is God's care.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For the Beauty of the Earth

I arise today through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the threeness,
through confession of the oneness
of the Creator of creation...

I arise today through the strength of heaven,
light of sun,
radiance of moon,
splendor of fire,
speed of lightening,
swiftness of wind,
depth of the sea,
stability of the earth,
firmness of rock...

-Lorica (incantation for protection) attributed to St. Patrick of Ireland (5th century)

Happy Earth Day!

Pictures: All from my yard!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Easter Day, Year C

From our Middle and Upper School Easter celebrations...

Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118:16, 22-25; Acts 10:34-43; Luke 23:1-12

A good friend of mine is the priest at an Episcopal Church in Vicksburg.  She was out of town last weekend, so I filled in for her on Easter.  There were only a handful of people at the early service, mostly older except for one young boy, perhaps six or seven.

I thanked the congregation for allowing me to worship with them, and one of the women thanked me for my sermon.  Others nodded their heads and smiled.  Then I heard that little six-year-old voice pipe up, "Well, it was kind of long."

In some ways, sermons aren't much different than papers or essays that you write in school.  They have to be a certain length, apparently.  They're always on an assigned topic, which for sermons is whatever the scriptures are that day.  And they're graded - maybe not with a letter or a number grade, but people generally do make comments.  Nice sermon.  Good job.  It was kind of long.

One way sermons are different than school papers, though, is that for most preachers you can strip away the scriptures and quotations and stories and illustrations from all the sermons they've ever written and find that just one or two themes runs through all of them.  I remember noticing years ago that my husband's sermons, no matter the church season or special occasion, were always a variation on the theme "God is love."  Early in my own priesthood, many of my sermons used language from the Episcopal service of Holy Baptism, especially the words "I will, with God's help," which we say when we promise to live a faithful life.  This year, especially at the Lower School but also up here on the North Campus, the theme of my sermons has been, "God goes everywhere we go."

It's good, I think, to believe in something so much that it becomes a part of everything you say and do.  God is love.  I will, with God's help.  God goes with us everywhere we go.  But I think it's also important to be willing to listen for something new, something fresh, something unexpected every once in a while, especially when it comes to talking about God.

Still, the very first Easter sermon every preached - and what could have newer, fresher, and more unexpected than resurrection - the very first Easter sermon ever preached didn't go over so well.  Jesus is not dead; he is risen, proclaimed the women who had been at early dawn to the tomb, echoing the words of angels, describing all that they had seen and heard.  But the disciples thought it was an idle tale, the gospel of Luke tells us.  The Greek words are actually closer to something like "crazy talk."  The disciples thought it was crazy talk, and they did not believe them.

To be fair, the women hadn't actually seen Jesus.  Peter didn't see him, either, when he ran back to the tomb to see if the crazy talk was true.  This was the same story we heard in church on Sunday, on Easter Day, the day when Christians believe Jesus rose from death to bring new life to the world...but Jesus isn't in the story.  No one sees him.

Which is exactly why this is the perfect story for us, some 2000 years later.  Unless God has something really new and fresh and unexpected planned for us, we're not likely to see the risen Jesus standing right in front of us, either.  The disciples eventually did see him, and those stories will be told in the church in the coming days and weeks; but we probably won't see him, not like they did.

Still... Don't Christians see Jesus in the bread and wine of the holy eucharist we will soon share?  Don't we see him in the outstretched hands of people in need and in the hands of those who provide for them?  Don't we see him in acts of kindness that expect no reward?  Don't we see him in the faces of family, friends, and even strangers?  Many of us do, and that, in part, is why we believe.  We believe Jesus lives because we see him in the lives of others, in the love of others, in the goodness and kindness and selflessness of others.  People's lives speak.  They preach.

So what is your sermon?  In your life, in your living, in your faith tradition, how do you preach?  Every community of faith is built of layer upon layer of lives that spoke something about God's love, and some who heard the words thought it was crazy talk but others believed, so they told the story...and some of the folks who heard them tell it thought it was crazy talk but others believed...and so on and so on down through the ages until someone who did not think it was crazy talk, someone who believed, told us.  Now it is our turn.  How will your life speak?

Legend has it that, not so very long ago, another Episcopal priest stepped into the pulpit on Easter morning, looked out at the congregation, and preached one of the most powerful Easter sermons ever heard, although it was only five words long.  "It's true," the priest said.  "It's all true.  Amen."  That little boy from Vicksburg should have been there!  The sermon was over, but the preaching had only just begun.  Because as Christians, believing that Jesus has truly risen and that he truly lives in and through us means that our lives speak all the time of God's love, of God's help, of God going with us everywhere we go.  Whatever our faith, as Saints (St. Andrew's Saints, I mean) all of our lives speak.  When you make room at the table for another friend, when you help someone up when they've fallen on the field, when you commit yourself to a project or a play or a team, when you give up your time to serve others, when you live by the Honor Code even when it's hard, your lives speak.

Perhaps I've gone on too long again.  The topic is God's love, God's help, God going with us everywhere we go.  The length is your life.  What is your sermon?  Amen.

Artwork: Text of this sermon rendered at; "Resurrection Light," by Ruth Tietjen Councell; "At That Moment," by Delda Skinner.

Friday in Easter Week

The school schedule just happened to end up placing Middle and Upper School Chapel on Friday this week, the same day that we also have Lower School Chapel and a Faculty Eucharist at the Lower School. Jesus rose and rose and rose again... This homily was from the Faculty Eucharist, the first service of the day, using the gospel lesson appointed for Friday in the week after Easter...

John 21:1-14

My daily schedule is unintelligible to many, including myself sometimes, as I move back and forth between campuses, teaching here, praying there, meeting somewhere else.  Most days, though, I find myself in my car just before noon, just in time for Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac on National Public Radio.  He reads a poem and shares birthdays and anniversaries of interesting literary and historical events and figures. Wednesday of this week, it seems, was William Wordsworth's birthday, and even as Keillor's gentle baritone narrated a glimpse of Wordsworth's life, my thoughts drifted to one of very few poems I can recite by heart.  It is Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality," in which he muses, "Trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home."  Wordsworth laments that as we grow older those clouds of glory seem to dissipate, or perhaps we simply forget how to see through them.

I've often lingered over the mental image of literal swirling white and blue and gray and gold clouds following us in our childhood.  So soon after Easter, that image swirled into memories of seeing something like clouds of glory inside a church celebrating the day of resurrection in grand style with plumes of incense wafting out of thuribles being swung as the procession moved down the aisle and the congregation sang, "Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alelluia!"  Those clouds of glory lingered in the sanctuary long after the worship had ended and the congregation had returned home to their Easter hams and chocolate eggs.

I wonder what is was like when Jesus stepped out of the tomb early on that first Easter day, when the morning clouds lit by the risen sun swirled around him like glory.  For brief moments from that day forward the women and the rest of the disciples were sometimes able to see his glory and know that it came from Jesus' true home with God.  But then they would just as suddenly forget how to see through the clouds so that Jesus would appear to them a stranger, unknown.

What happens to the glory we see on Easter?  Does it linger?  Does it fade?  Does alleluia become a word we take for granted and everlasting life just a stock phrase in our prayers?  This Easter season, let us try to look at the world through swirling clouds of resurrection light for as long as we can.  Let us see Jesus wherever we see boundless love, graciousness, generosity, and hospitality.  Let us see him in the clouds of glory trailed through this place where we work in the wake of children who have not yet forgotten how to see God.  Let us wrap ourselves in glory, breathe the alleluia and laughter-incensed air, and rejoice in resurrection.  Maybe, just maybe, our own lives made new by the risen Son, we'll remember how to glimpse the glory that we still trail, for our home, too, is with God.  Amen.

Artwork: "I Am," by Claudia Smith; "Light Inaccessible," by Barbi Tinder.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Egg Show

Dying eggs for Easter is always about so much more than the eggs themselves!  This year, the paper towel we used for blotting the egg dipper became a work of art.  And Little Charlie produced "The Egg Show," a running commentary of the process of dying eggs complete with egg jokes and puns: Have you red the directions?  If not, you'll be blue, and that's no yolk!

Charlie posed for this picture, which I shared on my Facebook page...

Mom then sent this picture...

The Egg Show in 2003, at our apartment in New York City!