holy fool

“…As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. There is now room for everything to belong. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why we are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always a deep goodness, or what Merton called “a hidden wholeness.””  Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr writes a daily message that arrives in my email box.  The quote above was today’s bit of wisdom.  And, the above quote represents today’s bit of challenge, truth be told.

On a regular basis I get to sit at table with beautiful souls.  On Wednesday nights I am part of a Covenant Bible Study.  We are making our way through scripture through reading and great discussion.

Last night, one of the people at the table made a comment that provoked a snap response from me.  What I said in response to said comment was not out of line, but the speed and intensity of my response let me know that my sense of equanimity (“Okayness”, as Rohr names it above) is far from matured in me.

In truth, I agree with Rohr and Merton that a hidden wholeness grounds all that is.

And, we live in a fractured and fracturing time.

Author Barbara Kingsolver says that the time for speaking up has come:  We must name the things we can no longer countenance.  Instead of politely nodding assent (implied through our silence) to statements and actions that harm the hidden wholeness God’s heart has created, we need to find ways to come to voice in cadences that challenge oppression and build community and wholeness.

I apologized to the individual and to the group for my quick response last night.  I named my desire for the foolishness Rohr names above.

And, as an aspiring holy fool I wonder:  How do we ground ourselves in wholeness and hope whilst challenging systems, words and actions that create fracture?

God has given us this day and this time.  What deserts are crying out for voices?

Grounded in goodness, how will we witness to the light?

 

 

 

A Kind of Hush

People want to feel sorry for me this time of year.

Yes, Advent and the run-up to Christmas is a busy time for church pastors.

And, it is so real, this remembering of promises of peace and the gifting of hope. People come to church leaning in to hear the song of the angels.

We do a lot this time of year. This Sunday we will treat our hearts to a service of Lessons and Carols. The following Sunday the children will lead us in a telling of the Christmas miracle. The next Sunday we will expand into a Taize service meant to help us make space in our souls for the Word Made Flesh.

We’ll have a special service of Hope and Healing where we’ll name our losses and allow tears to be. There are teas and gatherings and Christmas toy drives and gift wrapping offered at our Thrift Store.

While all these things are going on, people will be hospitalized and will welcome a church pastor. Families will gather and dissolve. Gifts will be pursued and purchased and children’s wishes will be heard and all of what we do happens because in Jesus flesh became the living place of God.

That’s church in these days.

For me, it is one of the best seasons of the year. On the 25th I will rest. But in the meantime, church is a stable offering warmth in the sometimes bitter cold of life.

This innkeeper gives thanks.

Advent 20

Bulletins are printed, folded, and stuffed.

Candles are put into holders – new ones this year!!! – and set.

Sugar has taken up a seemingly permanent place on our staff table.

All is in readiness for worship on Sunday and Christmas Eve worship (4:00 PM and 11:00 PM) on Monday.

And now we wait.

For preachers, this is a time of fervent mulching and prayer.  Yes, we pray for the perfect sermon on Christmas Eve, but really, that isn’t the point.

The point for this preacher is that there is an almost physical desire that hope would be named as more important than fear in this world.  My hope is that those who come in out of the cold might find welcome in this house.  My hope is that the power of Christ Jesus might take up the places of empty and despair that sound such clang in the souls of the walking wounded who include our very selves.

Oh, I have such hopes.

And those hopes are perhaps made more strong by the wash of violence and snarl that seem to be dominating our collective consciousness.

We cannot afford to be a people of hate.  We cannot afford to allow it any purchase in our being.  We cannot afford to be cavalier about our faith and our witness because it takes enormous and conscious effort to be a voice crying out in the wilderness of this time:  Prepare the way of our God.  The wounded will be made whole.  All flesh shall see it together.  For the mouth and the heart of our God have spoken it.

We are ready. We are ready we are ready we are ready.

We are ready for peace to speak and soak into the rough places.

We are ready.

 

 

Advent 19

“Salvation” does not

Mean liberation from tasks

We alone can do

Haiku by Vic Hummert

 

Worship on Sunday centers on the song of Mary.  Upon being told that she is to bear the hope of the world, that even then the pulse of promise resided within her, Mary says “yes” to magnifying God.

She says yes, she sets out on a journey in order to share the news and ponder what it might mean for her.  She sits in the company of an older kinswoman, Elizabeth, and it is then that her soul sings revolution song: the mighty will be brought down, the poor lifted up, and the world forever changed by the child in her womb.

Mary agreed to magnify holiness.

So too might we.  We might open ourselves to holy invitation to nurture within and through us the healings and witness that we are uniquely called to share.  The tasks we alone can do are as wildly and wonderfully different as we are.

Day by day the invitation to be magnifiers is delivered.

Through our “yes” we participate in the deliverance of “those who walk in darkness and the shadow of death” (Isaiah 9:2).

We offer light to those struggling with heart aches and despair.

We work for justice in order that the hungry might be fed.

We pay attention to the ways we are kin to all of creation.

We begin to act from the place of love.

We trust the life and love growing within us and we agree to consider what it might mean to apprehend ourselves as pregnant with promise.

“Yes” changes everything.

It did.

It does.

 

 

 

Advent 18

My mom is coming for Christmas.

It’s a seemingly simple sentence dense in power.

We are, we two, not unlike lots of moms and daughters.  We have spent the 55 years of my life clashing wills and life views.

My mother is a woman who knows with certainty what is seemly and what is not and her surety has extended to the needful state of cupboards (pristine!) and planned menus for each meal.

Her daughter?  Not so much.  For some reason my mother was presented with a girl-child who resisted blacks and whites and rebelled against imposed order.

We have lived, we two, a challenge.

I don’t know what it is about mothers and daughters.  The desire to protect, the temptation to create in our own image or the image of what we wish we had been able to able to call our own; so many things swirl beneath the surface of this elemental heart dance.

What I know is that my relationship with my mother affects my daughters and will affect their daughters.  If there is work to do, running from it robs not only me and my mom but the generations that follow.

So we have worked.  When it might have made sense to let it go and play it safe, we have engaged with each other and risked the hurt and vulnerability of letting each other know that it matters.  Our honest hearts won’t let go of each other.

My mom is coming for Christmas.  She will be in the midst of the feasting and the laughter and I know full well that she will bite back comments about how things might be better organized and I know full well that sometimes those comments will slip their way out of her mouth and into my ear.

But they don’t have to take up space in my heart.

What takes up space in my heart is profound admiration for the mighty mite that is my mom.  She has endured much, lived much, and loved much.  She has not let go of me.

Gathering for Christmas means readying our hearts.  We will mourn those absent, mark in our hearts the shifts and losses and remember years gone past when things were different.

But oh, the chance to be present to the wonder of the Word Made Flesh in our midst is stunning gift.  We get to learn what it is to love.

My mom is coming for Christmas.

Thanks be to God.

 

Advent 17

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,  and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of God has spoken it.  Micah 4: 3 – 4

Home is… what?

 

Home is warmth and light at the end of a long day.

Home is choices about space and sound and interactions.

Home is safety and a sense of secure wrap.

 

During Advent, we await the birth of a child born apart from that warmth and securitycalled “home”.  Why is it that the Word would choose to become flesh in such absurd vulnerability?  What was God thinking?!

 

The Word became flesh in the straw of a manger warmed by the bodies of animals because we are to know that our God inhabits the pain of want and the pain of living with fear.  In precisely such a place Jesus was born in order that we might consider the no-room-in-the-inn reality of all too many of God’s children.

 

This year we are encouraging our church to give and give generously in order that we might provide home for homeless youth in the southwest metro area of Minneapolis.  These are young people (250 on any given night) who long for their own “fig tree and vine” (see Micah above) in order that they might feel secure in this world.  We are working with Portico, an interfaith consortium of people who believe that homelessness leaves Jesus on the streets; cold, hungry, promising, and so afraid.

 

Ours is to work for a world in which compassion lights the streets.

 

You may choose to give to Portico or another organization that ends homelessness.  You may choose not to give. The reality is that we live the privilege of making choices day after day.

 

But whatever it is you choose, be aware:  you are choosing.  From the taken-for-granted safety and warmth of your home, you are choosing.

 

How it is you will shine Christ light in this , God’s world?

Advent 16

A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse.  The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.     Isaiah 11: 1a, 6

 

Children were our ministers.

We arrived at church yesterday morning heavy of heart, raw, and peeled back.  After hearing the news of bullets unleashed in an elementary school and after seeing the faces of snuffed lives, there was an almost physical need to gather together.  We needed the Word.  We needed to see each other and remember the larger story that this recent violence could not dim.

We needed to be church.

On the docket for the morning was precisely what our hearts longed for:  our children up front, in a place where we could sing their beauty with our eyes.  They were sharing the annual pageant; the telling of the time when a holy – as all children are – child was born into astounding vulnerability.

There were singing angels and wrestling shepherds and sheep with pink tights and a Mary and baby Jesus with matching red hair and a proudly sentinel Joseph and there were in the sanctuary people with their hearts bruised, open, and hungry for hope.

The children were our ministers.

There is unfathomable pain in this world, this we know.  The quiet desperation lived by too many erupts in innocence-crushing ways.  We wonder at such times if there is any Balm in Gilead powerful enough to be antidote.  Because we are willing to summon the courage to be open to all that life has to offer us, we are bound, one to the other, in the ache provoked by unspeakable violence.

As a people who seek to follow the teachings of a babe born in a manger who dared to call us to love, we were reminded by the children that there is more to the story than executions.

There is resurrection; resurrection practiced in hugs and tears and gathering and remembering and choosing to live in such a way that maybe, just maybe, we will practice love in the living of our days.

On Sunday we were reminded that angels sing yet.  In the swirl of pain, angels sing yet.

Led by our children, we could remember.