Showing posts from 2019

Maundy Thursday

From 'Celtic Daily Prayer - Prayers and Readings from The Northumbria Community'.

“I was dreaming that I was treading the streets of the Holy City, pottering about like a tourist. In my wandering I came upon the museum of that city of our dream. I went in, and a courteous attendant conducted me round. There was some old armour there, much bruised with battle. Many things were conspicuous by their absence. I saw nothing of Alexander’s, nor of Napoleon’s. There was no Pope’s ring, nor even the ink-bottle that Luther is said to have thrown at the devil, nor Wesley’s seal and keys. I saw a widow’s mite and the feather of a little bird. I saw some swaddling clothes, a hammer, and three nails, and a few thorns. I saw a bit of a fishing-net and the broken oar of a boat. I saw a sponge that had once been dipped in vinegar, and a small piece of silver. But I cannot enumerate all I saw, nor describe all I felt. Whilst I was turning over a common drinking cup which had a very honorable pl…

One Sparrow

Psalm 102

I am like a great owl in the desert,
I’ve become like an owl in the ruins.
I lie awake and become
like a bird alone on the roof.

Tao te Ching -Twenty

Give up learning and put an end to your troubles.
Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense!
(But) I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.

Hafiz – Effacement

Is a golden gun.
It was not easy to hold it against my head
And fire.

I needed great faith in my master
To suffocate myself
With his holy bag
Full of truth.

I needed great courage
To go out into the dark
Tracking God into the unknown.

And not panic or get lost
In all the startling new scents, sounds,

Or lose my temper
Tripping on those scheming
Night and day around me.

Effacement is the e…

Hold The Light

John 12:27-36 (35)

Then Jesus told them,

“The light is among you for a short time.

Walk as if you hold the light, so that the grasping darkness can’t get a grip on you.

Walking in company with darkness,

you do not know where you are being led.”

The above is the result of pondering the meaning of the Greek words, in Mounce’s Reverse Interlinear translation.

I don’t have a whole lot more to say, except that I really like the images of ‘holding’ the light, and of ‘grasping darkness.’

Take It Back!

Jeremiah 15:10-21 The Message (MSG)

You know where I am, God! Remember what I’m doing here!
    Take my side against my detractors.
Don’t stand back while they ruin me.
    Just look at the abuse I’m taking!
When your words showed up, I ate them—
    swallowed them whole. What a feast!
What delight I took in being yours,
    O God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I never joined the party crowd
    in their laughter and their fun.
Led by you, I went off by myself.
    You’d filled me with indignation. Their sin had me seething.
But why, why this chronic pain,
    this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight?
You’re nothing, God, but a mirage,
    a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing!

19-21 This is how God answered me:

“Take back those words, and I’ll take you back.
    Then you’ll stand tall before me.
Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining.
    Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.
Let your words change them.
    Don’t change your words to suit them.

Take it …

It's Not Okay

I am tired of self-help memes on social media. I do not need validation. I do not need strangers to tell me “You are loved,” or “You are beautiful,” or ”You’ve got this.”
I can’t stand it when people trivialize and dismiss genuine pain by saying, “It’ll be okay.” How do theyknow? How could they possibly know? Why doesn’t it occur to them that what they are really doing is using a shallow platitude to shield themselves from the reality of another person’s pain?
The world is a hurty place, it really is! But it’s a happy, agreeable place too.
The truth is that the world is an incredible, astounding, absurd, wonderful place filled with beauty, horror, love, joy, hatred, violence, healing, triumph, grief, and the ego-shattering realization that it’s not just about you.
It’s perfectly fine for us to adjust our feelings, and to do our best not to descend into self-pity or negativity, but shouldn’t it be obvious that it’s not a good idea for anyone to maintain an internal monologue about …

Eternal Life

John 6:27-40

Don’t work for the food which passes away but for the food that stays on into eternal life..

Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will certainly not turn away. For I have come down from heaven to do not my own will but the will of the One who sent me. And this is the will of the One who sent me: that I should not lose any of all those he has given me but should raise them up on the Last Day. Yes, this is the will of my Father: that all who see the Son and trust in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise them up on the Last Day.

Suddenly the meaning of this familiar passage shifted in my mind—

What if Jesus was talking about his Last Day?What if “raise them up” meant raising us up on the cross with him? That idea makes trust the central focus of the entirety of the Good News! It’s not just ourtrust in Christ, but Christ’s trust in us, and in God; culminating in God’s trust in all of us.

Imagine what it would be like to not on…

A Slice of Grace

My friend said,

“I think I’ll cut myself a slice of grace…”

and I thought, “What would grace taste like?”

Sour cherry pie?

Buckwheat pancakes?

Eggs and bacon?

Tuna salad?

Single malt scotch?

and then I thought, “What would grace smell like?”




Baking bread?


Oh, and then there’s this question— “What would grace sound like?

Wild geese overhead?

Friendly laughter?

Wind in the pines?


Fire crackling?

Last but not least, “What would grace look like?

Sunset from the freeway?

Birds in the bird feeder?

A sleeping dog?

Falling snow under the porch light?

Moonlight on a mountainside?

A familiar face?

Stories About God

This is the homily I preached this morning in church. The texts were 
Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.
I read somewhere, a long time ago, that the most important reason we go to church is to tell stories about God to one another. I believe that’s true. When I was thinking about standing up here and telling you a story about God, I suddenly felt the urge to describe to you a way I have of imagining that the Bible is reading me instead of me reading it. I believe that this way of reading or listening to Scripture has the power to change our perspective. The Celtic peoples, who were great storytellers and poets, called certain places “thin places.” They were trying to describe places where the veil between heaven and earth is worn thin; places where the holy and the ordinary brush up against each other. When I visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, many years ago, I felt something like this as I looked through the window of my room at the inn. This is …

Let's Wake Up!

Jeremiah 11:1-8; Jeremiah 11:14-20
I’m back on my soapbox about censoring the Bible. We only do it to the Old Testament, and it’s usually the result of squeamishness about the way the ancient Hebrews characterized natural consequences as punishments from God. I still get annoyed by it (the censoring, I mean). The O.T. reading leaves out verses 9-13 in Jeremiah 11. I’m fairly convinced of the futility of complaining about it. Still, it fits in with the logical error I noticed relative to the other two readings, so I’ll include my thoughts about it anyway.
Jeremiah is a Prophet. He believes that he was given the courage to speak the truth of God for a reason. (You see, I don’t think a prophet is a person who hears God’s voice, because I think we all hear God’s voice. No, a prophet is simply someone with the courage to speak up and say the things that no-one wants to hear. It doesn’t mean they are always right, but it does mean that they are willing to be unpopular.)
Anyway, here are the mi…

My Tree

Do kids still climb trees? I never see kids in trees these days. Maybe kids never climbed trees all that much, even when I was a kid. I climbed trees all the time, though. It was my passion. I could climb the hard ones, too. My Dad would never help me get up into a tree when I was little; he’d say it wouldn’t be safe for me to climb it until I could do it all by myself. So I suffered in jealousy watching him up in a tree; and me down below, salivating and imagining the feel of the bark under my hands, the high wind cooling the sweaty roots of my hair, the wedged balance of the swaying view below me. Of course, now I think of it, most kids’ Dads didn’t torture them by climbing trees in front of them and refusing to help them up, either. Anyway, I was an expert by age eight in technical tree climbing. Freestyle, of course. I was a bookworm, too. I know, because I was told so repeatedly by my mother and my grandmother. So, to me there was an obvious and immediate synchrony between trees a…

My Creed

Long ago I took a four year course of study called Education for Ministry.
One of the assignments was for each student to write a personal creed. Here is mine, which has continued to be updated over the years.

Creed (by way of the Holy Island Lindisfarne)
I am trusting three times in One God:
My first trusting is in the One Who is the Breath still singing time into being; Who is the Hands still making the world; Who is the Seed still begetting love.
My second trusting is in the One Who is the Way still going beyond; Who is the Truth still baffling death; Who is the Life still opening in the wastelands.
My third trusting is in the One Who is the Heart still lifting up the sky; Who is the Wings still wheeling over the darkness. Who is the Wind still blowing from nowhere.
I am also trusting in a Holy House that was and is and will be—
Here is dancing, and here is mourning; Here is shouting, and here is stilling; Here is keeping, and here is wasting; Here is giving, and here is getting; Here is pleading, and…

Not My Own

“My teaching is not my own, it comes from the One who sent me. If anyone wants to do his will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or I speak on my own. A person who speaks on his own is trying to win praise for himself; but a person who tries to win praise for the one who sent him is honest, there is nothing false about him.” “…we know where this man comes from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he comes from.” “Where is this man about to go, that we won’t find him?...” “…And when he says, ‘You will look for me and not find me; indeed, where I am, you cannot come’ — what does he mean?”
What’s the point of praising God? Is it because God is vain, and likes to be flattered? Many people seem to think that. —"Butter God up and we’ll get lots of goodies!”— Do we really want to go there? There is a built-in litmus test in this text: “If anyone wants to do (God’s) will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or I speak on my own.” Why on earth would that make …

Trust & Hypocrites

(all translations are from The Complete Jewish Bible)
Jeremiah 5:20-31
25 Your crimes have overturned nature’s rules,
your sins have kept back good from you.’
26 “For among my people there are wicked men,
who, like fowlers, lie in wait and set traps
to catch their fellow human beings.
27 Their houses are as full of fraud
as a cage full of birds.
They grow rich and great, 28 sleek and bloated;
they excel in acts of wickedness
but do not plead on behalf of the orphan,
thus enabling his cause to succeed;
nor do they judge in favor of the poor.

“Your crimes have overturned nature’s rules”……!
“Their houses are as full of fraud as a cage full of birds.”
Wow! Can we say, “Climate change”?
I also got this vivid image: a cage with tinsel bars; with dust and ashes in the feeders; with mounds of single-use plastic stuck to the filthy bottom of the overcrowded cage; with flapping, twittering, raucous, crazy-eyed, disheveled, frantic pet birds trying to beat their way out between the bars in a cloud of d…