The Daily Examen – May 17, 2017

The frogs did not seem to notice
the absence
of little white balls
falling
into their little pond
beside the little patch
of smooth even grass.

The robins did not seem to mind
that the once carefully mown
long narrow fields
had grown tall
hosting
many more bugs
to eat.

At the divinity school
poets, prophets, priests,
and a few other
random seekers
applied the balm
of St Teresa of Avila’s words
to their troubled souls
as they continued to ask
“what do you want of me?”

We practiced reading
and writing
and thought about
nature poetry
and hymnody.

A friend told me
a true calling does not go away
easily
and that I will not be happy
until I more fully
follow mine.

In the evening
the poets, prophets, priests,
and random others seekers,
gathered to share
vine and verse;
I had missed the chance to sign up
so I only listened,
awed and humbled
by the talent surrounding me
longing
to set up three tents,
and find my place.

The Daily Examen – May 16, 2017

The sunlight falls
on the wooden chairs
arranged in a circle
at Marquand Chapel.

Outside
it illumines
the tops of trees
seen through
the tall clear windows.

One friend gave me a hug
and said we should talk soon.
Another avoided me
as I continue to wait
for …

Unafraid

We sit in a circle
of struggling writers
listening to another
describe
her craft.
She mentions a wise man
who once asked her,
“What would you write
if you weren’t afraid?”

We all pause
to think of the great works we’d write
and fail to consider
the president.

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Sermon for Chapel on the Green, Mother’s Day, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2017

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, or Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Happy Mother’s Day. I was undecided about whether to talk about Mother’s day today. It is a hard day for many of us. My mother died in a car accident during Hurricane Sandy four and a half years ago. Friends of mine have struggled to become mothers or have lost their children. Mother’s day is hard for many of us. Yet the ideal of motherhood, of unconditional love, is something we hear about in the lessons today.

In today’s Gospel lesson, we here the phrase, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. It’s a lovely thought, but what does this say to us, here, today? Usually, when people talk about this, they are talking about some future time, a time when Jesus returns. Jesus goes on to say, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” Yeah, it’s a lovely thought, but for some of us, hearing that “things will be better sometime in the future” can feel pretty empty.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. What does this really have to say to us, here, today? What does this say to those of us who have been dwelling on a friend’s couch, a park bench, or under a bridge? What does it say to those of us who are living with turmoil and strife?

Perhaps we can get some ideas about this by thinking about what Jesus says a little later on: “so that where I am, there you may be also.” How much of the time do we really feel that we are where Jesus is? What does that feel like anyway? Later on, Jesus says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”. Do we feel this sort of closeness with God?

Again, when we are living with turmoil and strife, God often doesn’t feel that close. When we are distracted by all that is going on around us. God doesn’t often feel that close.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. Even when God doesn’t feel that close, the invitation remains. We are invited to dwell with God. We are invited to let our minds dwell on God’s loving kindness towards us.

The Psalm is a good example of how we can accept this invitation. “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge”. A refuge is a special type of dwelling. It is a place of safety, of shelter from danger. We all face dangers daily. Beside physical dangers, we face the danger of being distracted by all that is around us. We face the danger of forgetting that what really makes us safe is God. We face the danger of forgetting what it is like to dwell in God.

So, what is it like to dwell in God? This isn’t something we tend to think or talk about much these days. Perhaps some of it is when we look to people who seem to dwell in God, they seem somehow different from the rest of us.

Look at St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr. His love for God appears unconditional. Even as Stephen gets killed he prays, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. Really? I don’t want to be a martyr. I have a hard enough time asking the God forgive someone who has simply been unkind to me. St. Stephen seems to do more than I could ever dream of. Yet in old Christian texts, you find people talking about how they want to become martyrs for Christ, to win the martyr’s crown of gold.

So, what is it like to dwell in God? God just doesn’t seem to be a big part of many people’s lives these days. It’s sad really, because dwelling with God can be wonderful. Feeling God’s peace, love, and joy can be wonderful.

Recently, I heard a great poem by Raymond Carver:

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Dwelling in God is to feel oneself beloved. It is feeling too few of us feel very often. It is a feeling all of us long for. So let me pause for a moment for each of you to hear this. Listen closely. You are beloved. You are special. God created you to do something very special. You are beloved. You are special. God created you to do something very special.

What are we created to do? Mother Theresa says, “We have been created in order to love and to be loved.”

This ability to love those around us, even when they might seem unlovable is something truly amazing. It is how we dwell in God. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus tells us, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these”

Greater works than the works of Jesus? That seems really hard to imagine, but it is part of the promise Jesus makes to us. The works Jesus did were based on him showing God’s love to us. He showed that love to us in healing those around him. He showed that love to us by feeding those around him. He showed that love to us by accepting those around him.

But that area around him was limited. He was just one person, after all. He didn’t have the modern means of travel or communications that we have. We are called to do the works he did around us, to feed, to heal, to love. And part of what can make our works greater is our ability to do these works, not only in Israel, but here in New Haven, here in Connecticut, across the country and around the globe.

True, we may not love as perfectly as Jesus loved us. We may not ever heal a leper or raise a person from the dead, but the vastness of this ability to love is truly amazing if we allow ourselves to love, and if we allow ourselves to be loved.

And this presents another challenge, not only must we choose to love, we must choose to let others love us. The song Desperado comes to mind.

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you (let somebody love you)
You better let somebody love you before it's too late

Can we let those around us love us, in spite of our own brokenness? In spite of having been told, too often, that we are not good enough? Can we let Jesus love us, in spite of our own brokenness? In spite of knowing all the things we’ve done wrong in the past?
“You better let somebody love you.”

Perhaps this helps better understand the verse we started with. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. We can enter the dwelling place of the heart of Jesus. We can let Jesus love us and we need to respond with love. We can let God change our hearts to also be dwelling places of love. We can hold those around us in our hearts and allow those around us to hold us in their hearts. We can let somebody love us.

Because God does love us. There are people around us that love us. And even though it might not always feel that way, we can know, that along with Raymond Carver, we are beloved on the earth.

God loves you. It isn’t just a nice phrase to say to try and cheer someone up. It is a way of life we are all called to. God loves you. I love you. Now go forth and love one another, even as God has loved us. Amen.

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Sabbath

“And on the seventh day…”
but actually,
it was more like the thirty-fifth
we creators rested.

Sure,
the Prime Creator
rested on the seventh day,
but those days
were more like eons.

In a week,
the Prime Creator
created
everything;
even us creators.

But we were not satisfied
with our creation;
we rebelled,
sought the powers
of Our Creator,
and were cursed.

In a weakened state
we cannot keep up
with everything
that needs to be kept up.

We read the news
each day
of wars and rumors of wars,
of floods and famines,
and of the Oppressor
always signing
one more executive order
to make things great
for his legions
and the expense of others
created in the Creators image.

We read the struggles
of our friends and neighbors
each day online;
of anxiety and depression,
of illness and of death.

We organize events,
for our jobs,
for our communities,
for our families;
too often,
too many.

Then,
on the thirty-fifth day,
it happens.
We have nothing scheduled.
We lie in bed
listening to the rain,
the birds chirping,
the pets seeking attention.

It seems,
out of habit,
we must arise
and do something
anything
but we don’t.

We lie in bed,
resisting the temptation
and breathe in
the peaceful Sabbath air.

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