In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pentecost 8A

Reflection on Genesis 22:1-14 by the Rev. Dr. Kate Hennessy-Keimig

“God tested Abraham.” I can’t remember ever hearing this story without having some kind of reaction or response, without wondering somewhere inside me just how God could ask this of him, and how Abraham could simply pack up his men and his son and saddle up his donkeys and head off for the place God had directed him to. What, I have always wondered what in his mind and in his heart as they journeyed those three long days. Did they talk, the four of them? Isaac must have known something of what they were about. They had wood for an offering fire, but nothing to offer. As an observant Jewish boy he knew this made no sense. Did this concern him? When he finally asked the question, was it simply an innocent query, or did he sense it might be him? Had there been something about his father all along, in his face, his eyes as they travelled. Did Abraham’s answer comfort or alarm him.

The story is frustratingly short on detail here…”Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.” Did Isaac go willingly to the pyre like a lamb to the slaughter? Was he willing to be sacrificed because he wished to please his own father? Because it was God’s will? Was he shocked and stunned to silence, or did he fight or plead for his life? Perhaps the writers of this Old Testament story do not share these details because, in this case they do not matter, since he is not the offering after all. As I suspect Abraham believed all along he would not be
God tested Abraham. Tested the nature and the depth and the strength of the covenant between them. In essence he was asking Abraham, “Who do you think I am?”

In previous encounters with God, when Abraham needed to, he argued with God, he pushed back against God. But this time, with the stakes as high as they could ever be, with not only the child of his old age but the hope of all Israel riding on this, he is meek and obedient. How, we ask, could God ever expect such a thing? Perhaps Abraham asked this question, too. Perhaps in his hearts of hearts he knew that he could carry forward in this task because the God he knew, the God he was in relationship with would make it somehow right with him, would see him through it, no matter what happened. While we cannot imagine that any other ending than the one we are given in the story could be acceptable, and that certainly is the best and easiest, Abraham trusted that his relationship, his connection with Yahweh would make whatever came of that moment on the mountain right. Because that was the faith he had, that was the relationship he had, that was who he knew God to be.

The story does not always have a happy ending. The child does not always live. The job does come. The marriage does not last. But the covenant of God with God’s beloved…made, promised and kept…renewed and fulfilled in the Incarnation …God with us on that mountain and ours…providing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trinity Sunday

A reflection on the Trinity by Janine Goodwin

As part of the preparation for comprehensive exams for theMA in theology, I had to read “God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life” by Catherine Mowry LaCugna. It was one of the greatest gifts of the program. It istheology at its best: historically grounded, humane, springing from deep faith,describing distortions without condemning others, and coming to a conclusion whichseems revolutionary because it is radical in the original sense: radix means root. The radical conclusions LaCugna reaches are actually a return to the roots of faith, to Scripture and tradition.

This book was a wonderful surprise for me. Having alwaysbeen nervous around the idea of the Trinity—there seemed to be so many ways of gettingthe whole thing wrong, and so few of getting it right, and it never seemedreally comprehensible to me—I was prepared for a slew of difficult conceptsthat didn’t fit anything in my experience. Instead, I met a book that broughtnew insight and richness to experience and took away the sense of fearand distance with which I had approached the study of the Trinity, replacing it with a new joy, love, and trust toward God.

I want to share a few quotations readers of this blog mayuse for their meditations on the Trinity and to urge anyone who sees this postto read the book. The time and concentration you give it will be richlyrewarded.

Page numbers are from the 1993 HarperCollins paperbackedition.

For LaCugna, the Trinity shows that the truth about God and aboutus is all about relationship, and we become ourselves only when we reachoutside ourselves. We exist in relationship to God and each other:

The exodus of allpersons from God and the return of all to God is the divine dance in which Godand we are eternal partners. (304)

By the same token, we know God not as a distantphilosophical construct, but as a God who loves us and comes to us:

In both the eternaland temporal existence of God, it is the nature of God to-be-for, to-be-toward,to exist as persons in communion. God initiates and sustains intimate, covenanatedrelationship with a people, God takes on flesh and undergoes death, God dwells inour hearts, because God lives from all eternity as self-communicating,self-giving love and communion. God incorporates all of creation into that lifeof communion. it is in this sense that we literally exist, we ‘have our being’in God. The life of God does not belong to God alone. (354)

LaCugna argues that a truly Trinitarian and fully relationaltheology cannot be hierarchical: we have imposed human hierarchical notionsupon God, but the reign of God is not like our systems of power and control. It is the reign Jesus showed us:

The God whom Jesusloves, relies on, by whose power he heals and forgives sin, is not a politicalmonarch, a tyrant, an aloof authority figure, a castled king or queen whosesubjects cannot visit, an isolated figure who cannot suffer because he does notlove. The God whose reign Jesus announces rejects the societal and religiousconventions of race, sex, standing. (399)

This is a book as challenging, as sometimes unsettling, andas ultimately joyful as the Gospels in which it is grounded. Even the footnotescontain gems: “the Eleventh Council of Toledo (675) stated that the Son was begotten‘de utero Patris (from the womb of theFather), that is, from the substance of the Father.’” (note 115, 312-313) Thisis a wonderful reminder that feminine imagery for God is a tradition thatbegins in Scripture and continues throughout church history, showing up inplaces we might not expect if we are prone to stereotype the brothers andsisters in faith who went before us.

Thanks be to God for infinite, self-giving love that is thefoundation of creation, and thanks be to God for the work of thoughtful, diligent, andcourageous theologians. Amen.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


A reflection on the feast of Pentecost by The Rev. Camille Hegg

The Collect for today reads that, ”…on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit…..”

The story of this day is well known in Christian circles. The disciples had an experience which moved them to have some clarity about their mission and how to go about accomplishing it in the world.

As a child when I heard someone say “eternal life” or “everlasting life,” I imagined an endless stream of years. It was time as I knew it then, but with much improved conditions: no sickness, arguing, death, poverty, hunger, but lots of fun things to do. Since I have always liked to sing I imagined I would be in a choir of angels. But everything was just better.
As I got older I started thinking, pondering. Somewhere along the way I decided that eternity is too long a time for this loving God I learned about at church to hold a grudge and send someone to hell.

I began to think there is more to eternal life than an endless string of years and activities. It seemed to me that eternal life is not something that may or may not be granted after death as a reward for good behavior. Eternal life has to do with actions and responses here on earth that don’t go away, are not changed, just because the person – someday me – dies.

Once I was visiting someone in the hospital and only on that day I took a notion to leave by a side door which I almost never used. When I got outside to the steps and the sidewalk to the parking lot, there was a parishioner sitting on the steps crying. I slowed down; she obviously didn’t see me. I approached her very quietly and gently said, “Is there something I can do for you?” She looked up and smiled and said, “God told you to come this way, right?” I said I couldn’t explain it and that yes, I usually leave by the front entrance.

We talked for a few minutes and she never said anything about what had brought her to the sidewalk steps to cry. After a couple of minutes’ I stood to leave. She stood up and hugged me and said, “I will never forget this.”

Years later when I was preparing to leave that church for another call, she hugged me and said she had never forgotten what it had meant to her that I spoke to her that day. As she hugged me she whispered, “The Holy Spirit brought you that day.” That does seem like a work of the Holy Spirit and apparently nothing had changed her mind either. It seems eternal to me. I was only the one privileged enough to have an idea to go out that door.

Over the years I feel more and more convinced, assured that ‘eternal life’ is not a marker, nor a yard stick, nor a set of checks that offsets the x-marks which keep score and will be tallied when I die.

God sees past, present and future all at the same time. We don’t. Everything is present for God. Eternal life is the ability to see life as God sees it and maybe after we die we see things that way, too. Now we get only a glimpse every now and then and those glimpses come as they will. We can’t create them. I think she was right, that was the Holy Spirit that brought breath to me, inspired me, to take another exit that day. That is what won’t change; that is eternal.

I used to assume that eternity is static, not changing. But eternity is that which doesn’t go away even if one dies or forgets an event. That eternity implies life, movement, growth.

There is a beautiful prayer in the burial service which is that we pray that the person who has died will go “from strength to strength..” That phrase expresses a faith that life is always moving, changing, learning. Another prayer states that was believe that things have changed, not ended.” I think those are great prayers for us everyday.

Knowledge of God is not acquiring something or information. It is an ever deepening relationship with God. The love, power and wisdom of God are infinite and can never be complete. The wind of the Holy Spirit is forever breathing into us and into creation.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ascension/Easter 7A

A reflection on the Ascension, by the Rev. Karla Jean Miller

Floating Away

Jesus defies gravity.

A cloud forms around him, and he simply floats away into the sky. “It is no illusion”, one sample children’s sermon claims.


I wonder why we tell our children these stories this way? Jesus floats away, and it REALLY happened? (No joke, I read this children’s sermon on a certain popular lectionary resource site.) Wouldn’t it be better, just to tell the story, and then wonder with the children, aka Godly Play style?

I wonder how Jesus did that?

I wonder what the sky looked like?

I wonder what his disciples were feeling and thinking? Were they sad? Afraid?

I wonder how long they really stood there, looking up in the sky?

I wonder what they said when the two men in white robes came and questioned them?

I wonder, who those men were?

I imagine that if we asked children some of the questions above, we would get incredibly rich and imaginative responses. Which is o.k.--thinking magically is a part of cognitive development--and such a better way to present this really unbelievable moment in Acts. Allowing children to creatively wonder is much more respectful to this text than it is to explain it as “no illusion, it really

However, for adults, or at least for THIS adult, the idea of the ascension is pretty unaccessible. I do think that Jesus had to leave the disciples, so they could be empowered to be who they were called to be. If Jesus had stayed, well, then, there was really no point, I think for the resurrection. Jesus came, to give life. And the disciples needed to claim that new life--and to continue hangin’ with the Rabbi, well, it just wasn’t the best course of action. They had graduated. Time to move on.

But did Jesus HAVE to float away on a cloud? (I sort of like the thought that he went to India to dish with the Buddha. Oh, maybe that timing is wrong--well, perhaps
in the kairos sense of time that idea would work.) When I visually think of this, I imagine Jesus floating like an escaped helium balloon, going up, up and away, getting smaller and smaller so that soon he becomes a dot in the sky and then altogether disappears. By defying gravity ala the musical Wicked, Jesus disappears.
And I suppose, this is part of the point of the ascension. By Jesus disappearing, the mission to “go ye therefore” can begin. The disciples (including all of the certain women) have to find the little piece of Christ in themselves and continue to share the gospel of light and love to those who desperately need it. Jesus disappears, so that the Christ can appear in a multiplicity of ways to usher in the kin-dom of God’s community.

So, Jesus disappears. Maybe Luke wasn’t really sure HOW Jesus disappeared. Maybe he did sneak on a camel caravan and go hang out in Ethiopia or something. But Luke has to do Jesus right--he is the Lord, after all. So, what a beautiful picture he paints, with Jesus surrounded by his friends, a beautiful dusky evening, perhaps, the sky streaking peachy and columbine blue and lilac. A cloud slowly forming around him, and....well, you know the rest.

Pastor Barbara Lundblad describes in her sermon a woodcut of the Ascension she saw once. The most striking part of the woodcut was not the ascension, but what was on the ground. The artist had rendered footprints where Jesus had been standing. Don’t you love that?

You know, I think that the story of the ascension is really a wonderful way to describe Jesus leaving the disciples. I think Luke must have asked a billion of “wondering” questions before he penned these chapters of Acts.

So, I wonder,

What do you think?