Friday, December 08, 2006

Hope & The Dixie Chicks

The latest issue of Tikkun arrived today. I really enjoy this magazine. The cover states, "Hope is Back! Democratic victories in Congress give Spiritual Progressives a powerful opportunity to influence public discourse in the next two years." This is the title of editor Michael Lerner's lead article. It's great stuff and worth the time to read.

But, in this season of hope, the season of Advent. What really gives me hope is the Grammy nominations. Oh, you say, you must have really gone nuts. Why in the world would any of us have any interest in the Grammy's? Well, The Dixie Chicks have 4 nominations; Record of the Year, Not Ready to Make Nice, Album of the Year, Taking the Long Way, Song of the Year, Not Ready to Make Nice, and County Album, Taking the Long Way.

You remember the Chicks don't you? At the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, outspoken lead singer, Natalie Maines, made the remark at a concert in London that she was ashamed that President Bush is from her home State of Texas.

Immediately, their number one hit dropped off the charts. Country stations quit playing their music. Maines life was threatened. She received a death threat for a concert in Dallas. Police took the threat serious enough that they tried to talk her into cancelling the concert. She wouldn't do that so they at least convinced her to wear a bullet proof vest.

In a documentary film about the struggle that followed, Shut up & Sing, one man is filmed saying, "Yes, I believe in freedom of speech, but not in public."

What in the world?

A few weeks ago the Chicks came to the Phoenix area and my wife just had to go. It was awesome. There were some estimates that the arena would be half empty. Never mind that, it was nearly full. And the Chicks were just incredible. They sang full volume with deep intensity for two full hours. Everyone got their monies worth. It looked to me that they have more new fans than old country ones.

That may have to do with their new Southern country rock approach - or could have something to do with that people in America actually do believe in free speech. Whatever the case. Real hope lies in the possibility that the Chicks could win Country Album of the Year for an Album that still gets zero play from Country stations. I guess Country fans don't believe in free speech - oh yea, only if it's not in public.

I intend to watch the Grammy's with honest interest.

While I really like Michael Lerner, and I understand and mostly agree with what he writes in his article - I would suggest though that hope was never gone - we just didn't have the courage to activate it in our own lives.

Hope allows us to be prophetic, to speak our own mind and to take the risks whether intended or otherwise. Hope involves risk - not certainty - or even possibility - hope is to step into the dark and trust that maybe, change can and will happen.

Keep singing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Does God(?) want me to be rich?

Time magazine offered an article entitled "Does God want you to be rich?"(,9171,1533448,00.html) The article explores the prosperity theology of some prominent Evangelical pastors and their churches. This theology offers that God intends for you to be blessed, meaning, having more than all your needs being met; that can include the best job, house, car, boat, investment portfolio and on and on. From the perspective of prosperity theology, God does indeed intend for you, if living the righteous life, to have all that this world, especially in America, has to offer.

In our Peregrini discussion there was quite a bit of conversation around the "goods" and "evils" of money. How you get it and what you do with it. All of this never got at the basic question, "what does God intend for you?"

That question encompasses far more than money. It gets at the core of how can I actually know what God wants for me; if God wants me to be rich, how do I know that for sure?

The Time article pointed out that on both sides of the discussion (yes, God wants me to be rich, or no, God wants what is good for me which is a much different argument) "use" the Bible to prove their point (proof texting). How can I know God's certainty for me when it seems that with the right "slant" the Bibles writers could be interpreted as saying anything? Good question.
At the root of the question regarding whether God wants you to have wealth is the notion of transactional theology. That theology suggests that if I, as a believer, do what I am supposed to do (live the righteous life) then God will reward me with the good things of life.

The troubling part of that kind of theology is, first, it sounds a lot like American Santa Claus and second, so what about when bad things happen to good people? There is no answer to that question, but, do I really believe in a God like that? For me, no. God is much bigger than all that. God is in the mystery and the unseen.

Does God want me to be rich? I think the better question is, "Does God care given all the pain, suffering and poor in the world?" Maybe those are the things I should be focusing on as well?

Friday, September 22, 2006

God? Again?

"Every (Christian) is committed and alienated; (they) are always in faith and in doubt; (they) are inside and outside the theological circle. Sometimes one side prevails, sometimes the other; and (they) are never certain which side really prevails....Whether this is true does not depend on (their) intellectual or moral or emotional state; it does not depend on the intensity and certitude of faith; it does not depend on the power of regeneration or the grade of sanctification. Rather it depends on being ultimately concerned with the Christian message even if (they) are sometimes inclined to attack and reject it." Paul Tillich

At our last Peregrini we dove head long into an intense discussion regarding God. It became a very personal exploration of the possibility of experience. Personal stories told all around of hearing in different ways the unseen God. It appeared that most of the stories were about seeing the unseen God in the people that are all around us, everyday, especially the poor and the powerless.

Joan Chittister wrote, "....Why so much attention to the human? (It) is because in the human is the only place we can really be sure that God is. It is so easy to love the God we do not see but it is so much more sanctifying to serve the God we learn to see in others....We empty ourselves out so that the presence of God can come in, tangible and present and divinely human."

The questions keep coming and the certainty is illusive. For most, certainty is not a desired goal or even a remote possibility. Certainty seems to offer only arrogance. The more solid the certainty and confidence of absolute assurance maybe the more deep seated the fear in the existence of the certain one?

The writer of the New Testament book of James offers this, "the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who seek peace."

This questioning of God, for the Peregrini traveler, is something of an inner journey, one that seeks peace and gentleness. And it is a journey that we recognize we can venture alone. We need community. We must walk together. It is in each of you, sisters and brothers, that I personally see and know the unseen God. Certainty? Only in the faces of your souls.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


God? The original Peregrini question. So, we felt the need to return. Not in circular fashion, just a re-visiting; an intentional path on the pilgrimage. Like going to see an old friend.

Such a serious question drew quite a gathering. The evening was pondering and at times heavy.

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, was interviewed in the most recent issue of The Sun. "Even if you had a detailed story about the essential purpose religion has served for the past fifty thousand years, even if you could prove that humanity would not have survived without believing in a creator God, that would not mean that it's a good idea to believe in a creator God now, in a twenty-first-century world that has been shattered into seperate moral communities on the basis of religious ideas....I can even be more inflammatory than that. If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology."

This quote shaped the conversation around the question, "Do you believe in a creator God?" or, "Do you need a creator God?"

Consensus was impossible nor was it necessary.

The conversation had such a wide range of approach, feel and intellectual context for us as individuals and some corporately. So much so, that we are going to attempt to approach this ground again next week - September 21 7:00 pm at Fair Trade Cafe. All are welcome.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Community of Prayer

As a community we often talk about the idea of being an open or neo-monastic community. The beginnings of these ideas are posted in a sermon at If you have a few minutes check it out and let me know what you think about the praying community. More to come about St. Brigid's Community and it's monastic approach.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


A very few of you who read my blog, actually only one of you, has asked about the sermons that I offer at St. Augustine's Tempe on Sunday mornings.

The sermons are at Thanks for asking.

Peregrini activities and information is at

Our next meeting is August 17, 7:00 pm at Fair Trade Cafe in downtown Phoenix. The topic is "God? In a cease fire?" discussing the current situation is the Middle East. Hope to see you there.

Monday, August 07, 2006

God? In the Middle East?

Peregrini gathered around the table for a meal. Community is so important to us and nothing brings us together like good food. We never lack for good hearted conversation with lots of stories around the table.

But, on this night, as the question was offered, a pained silence covered our souls like heavy black clouds preparing to unleash a nasty storm. "Where is God in the Middle East?" The war in Iraq, the war in Lebanon, Iran gathering nuclear strength, the entire region is in violent turmoil. Peace is no where on the horizon. Where is God in all this mess?

Gil C. had spent a college year at Jerusalem University and has a sense of the issues surrounding the conflict. Surani had just returned from Sri Lanka, though she said it was nothing like what she sees in the Middle East, it was still frightening. Most of all sitting around the table have friends who have been or are in Iraq right now. War and conflict are fresh on our minds. Where is God in the Middle East?

The question is impossibly hard. The situation in the Middle East may be as complex as any global entanglement has ever been. Religious strife, histories of violence, economies at risk, lives endangered, survival is perilous at best; there seems to be no solutions, the possibility for peace is not imaginable. Where is God in the Middle East?

For the evening, our hearts broke with compassion for those caught in the middle of massive destruction and lives ruined. The innocent are no more. Death tolls confound us and threaten to make us numb. Maybe that's where God is - keeping us from being numb so that we continue to struggle on behalf of those who apparently are just "collateral damage" in a wave of endless despair?

All the Peregrini travelers could offer was prayer.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Make your own damn sandwiches

A very good friend of mine went on a holiday to another city. He stayed iin that city with a friend. His friend got up early every morning, went to the grocery and bought two loaves of bread and enough peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches. When he had made the sandwiches he went to a nearby bridge where several homeless men where living. Every day he distributed the sandwiches and returned home.

After returning from his holiday, my friend was so moved by the sandwich maker that he sent him a check for $100 with an attached note that said, "This is to help out with your wonderful ministry of making sandwiches." A few weeks later, my friend got a letter from the sandwich maker. Enclosed in the envelope was the original check and this note attached to it, "Make your own damn sandwiches."

The lectionary texts for Sunday July 23rd are interconnected. Isaiah 57:14-21 offers peace for the near and far – only - if the Household of God has a humble and contrite heart. The writer of Ephesians states in 2:11-22 that the Household of God is to be one of unity and peace. And in the subversive gospel of Mark 6:39-44, we hear of Jesus feeding a huge crowd of no less than 5,000 with a meager lunch of five loaves of bread and few small fish. So you ask – how are these texts related?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “All life is interrelated…tied in(to) a single garment of destiny, whatever affects me…affects all….I can never be what I ought to be - until you are what you ought to be - and you can never be what you ought to be - until I am what I ought to be.”

What we have in God’s Word is a radical re-visioning of our religion. This radical vision is called the Household of God – the family of God – a family that is interconnected with the global community.

In the Household of God we are: Working for peace for the near and the far by having a humble and contrite heart. In the Household of God we are: Working with God to create a global unity. In the Household of God: We are sharing our meager lunch which makes us the bread of Jesus.

This re-visioning will bring about the end of slavery, the end of racism, the establishment of civil rights, where freedom is empowered, where compassion is implemented, justice advanced, where human rights are defended and peace made.

According to Isaiah peace will only be achieved when the people of the Household of God have a humble and contrite heart. Do we have a humble and contrite heart? Does our Church offer forgiveness before condemnation? Does the world see our nation as gracious?

In Ephesians the Household of God is part of the global community - working for the common good of all – “no longer strangers and aliens but citizens with all the saints in the household of God.” Do we act as if we are no longer strangers and aliens? Does our Church treat others as saints? Does the nation we live in act as if we are global citizens?

In the Gospel Mark a new economic order is presented; an economy which is based on the simplicity of sharing. Are we sharing? Does our Church share? Does our nation share?

The Word of God is a subversive document which presents an “alternative to the existing societal structure” – which is in stark “contrast to the current exploitative economics of our existing systems.” (quoted from Engaging the New Testament by Russell Pregeant)

What caught most of the attention from the recent Episcopal General Convention was the election of a woman as Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Churches’ response to the World Wide Anglican Communion and the Windsor Report. However, as Presiding Bishop-elect Katherine Jefferts Schori has pointed out, the “biggest news” and the most important action of the Episcopal Church is its commitment to endorse and financially support the United Nations 8 Millennium Goals.
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental stability.
8. Develop partnerships for development.

Michael Lerner (the editor of Tikkun) in, The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right, writes “(Our) spiritual consciousness….(should) be one that links us to the unity of all being and insists upon our interconnectedness with all others.” When we see ourselves connected to the entire world, then, as Christians, we will take up the vision of sharing what we have to help our fellow global saints. This is the key to the accomplishment of the Millennium Goals – we, the Christian community of the wealthiest nation in the world must share our resources in a significant and sacrificial way. And we as Christian people must lead in that example and only support those with a similar theology.

But it seems almost impossible to focus on these critical issues that encompass the survival of the entire human race when, as a “Christian nation” our minds are consumed with a war that has been created out of fear.

If the Church - the Household of God has ever had the responsibility to step up with a radical re-visioning of our Country’s engagement with the world – it is now.

Peace will never be achieved by using pre-emptive strikes or by condoning retaliatory violence.

Peace will only be achieved by seeing ourselves as global citizens of unity and by radical sharing. While it may not make sense in our world of complex social, political and religious systems – it is the Way of Jesus; to share and to turn the other cheek.

To lead in peace means to be leaders in achieving the Millennium Goals – all of which will require us to put others first – in other words, to share our resources with the world.

What if, in the first one hundred days of the Iraqi war the US, instead of delivering shock and awe, delivered $100,000 to every person living in Baghdad and asked them to overthrow Saddam and his oppressive regime? The $100.000 for every man, woman and child is the equivalent of the money spent on bombs in the first one hundred days of the war in Iraq. To use a Godly Play term – I wonder.

Now, though, when Israel retaliates with unreasonable force, all we can say is, “every nation has the right to protect her borders.” We can not lead in peace if we are the leaders in war and violence. It’s bad theology if we believe “God will bless America” with this strategy.
To quote Jim Wallis the author of God’s Politics: Why the Right gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, “It may be that only theology and spirituality can save the poor and the victims of war.” Jesus has that different theology to teach us. A good theology.

In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus took a small meager lunch and turned it into a banquet feast. One person sacrificed their lunch for the common good. Jesus’ new economic model is one of sharing what we have for the common good all – that includes our enemies. I can only imagine that Jesus fed not only his friends but also those around him who were plotting to take his life.

Let me offer an example from Lerner’s book. Today, this very day, between 20,000 and 30,000 children will die of starvation and diseases related to malnutrition.

Imagine that you have a family with 5 children. One child has 40 percent of the family’s resources, a second child has 32 percent, the third child 20 percent, the fourth child is struggling with only 6 percent of the family’s resources and the fifth child is dying of starvation with 2 percent of the families resources.

Let me ask you one simple question, what would you do in this situation?

Is the reason the US doesn’t operate out of a theology of sharing is that we don’t consider the less fortunate children of the world as part of our family? Why is it so difficult to share? Why do we respond to violence with more violence? When instead, Jesus calls us to respond to violence with grace, mercy and food? What if, instead of spending money on war, we spent it on eradicating poverty? I wonder.

As followers of Jesus and the Household of God, we are called to be a people of a radical new alternative; a radical economics, a radical social structure, a radical politics and radical personal behavior.

As Christians we believe in a God who using us, the Household God, as food for the world. We believe in a God who is ever luring us and the world towards the common good. We, as Christians, are God’s loaves of bread – fed into the world to bring about peace. We believe in a God who has called his Household to be about the business of changing the souls of our human institutions: changing the souls of those institutions to care about the common good and to share our resources with the world. We believe in a God who calls each of us to be family members in the Household by promoting peace through envisioning ourselves as global citizens and by sharing our meager lunch.

Maybe we better get busy making our own damn sandwiches and start feeding them to a world hiding under a bridge?

What do you think?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Hope not fear

My sister Dinah has Prader-Willi Syndrome; the deformity of chromosome-15. Prader-Willi is random, it's not passed down through the genes or caused by any known factor - it just happens. Basically, my sister is mentally and physically handicapped. She is challenged is so many different ways, yet, she has always been a beacon of light for all those she encounters. Due mainly to my parents love and diligence, Dinah is the oldest known living Prader-Willi; she is 51. The person who lived the longest was 63. Most Prader-Willi's die in their 20 or 30's due to obesity and uncontrollable anger outbursts. My parents and those who work closely with Dinah have managed her weight quite well. The anger outbursts are something that happens - but, with Dinah some medications have been effective in mitigating their frequency.

Dinah has lived at home until her mid-thirties. At that point my parents decided that for Dinah's continued growth and development that she needed to be an environment outside of home. They researched and searched out several possibilities. The first group home worked well with Dinah for a while, but as Dinah has grown older it has become apparent that the smaller the number living in the home, the better she can function.

With more research my parents found a "Christian home." First warning sign was the "Christian label." It wasn't long before Dinah had an anger outburst. The couple that managed the group home didn't handle the episode too well. My parents and I were summoned to meet with the management team.

Quickly into the meeting the Christian couple who managed the home began telling us that if we would only pray harder and with more fervency that Dinah would be healed of being Prader-Willi. Honestly, I didn't handle their presumptions too well myself. It wasn't long before my parents moved Dinah into another more suitable place where she now resides most comfortably and happily.

I don't believe in a Santa Claus God. While it would be much easier to believe in a God who went around looking for all who was naughty and all who was nice to dispense either punishment or gifts, I don't find that God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the gospel of Mark (5:22-24, 35-43) Jesus tells the father of a dying girl "Do not fear, only believe." Jesus' admonition about fear speaks volumes about the very heart of God. The Presence of God brings hope. Yet, more often than not, we act out of fear.

There is a powerful tendency inside all of us towards fear. We fear sickness, injury, death, change, the enemy, and the unknown. Michael Lerner in The Left Hand of God, writes "When our consciousness moves (toward fear) we believe that the Other is a serious threat that needs to be dominated and controlled before it does likewise to us." Jesus if offering hope as an alternative to fear. Jesus is summoning us to move out of the paradigm of fear into the prospects of hope.

Jesus goes to the home of the 12 year old girl. Everyone there is grieving her death. But, Jesus says, "She's not dead, she's only sleeping." Where some see death, Jesus sees hope. Well, that brought mocking laughter from all the mourners. They feared death so much they could not see the hope of the Presence of God.

Ignoring their ridicule, Jesus took three of his young disciples into the girl's room. There Jesus spoke the powerful words of hope, "get up." Jesus saw hope in the mystery of the unseen. While no one else could see hope, Jesus offered the Presence of God for healing.

I wonder what would happen if we responded to the Other with hope instead of fear? In our country today we are operating out of fear not hope. What if we offered hope for our enemies instead of reacting out of fear? Without hope there will be no healing.

In the Episcopal Church this very minute we are living our lives in fear. The fear of change and the fear of not changing. But, what if, instead of working from a place of fear we moved to a place of the hope of healing found in the Presence of God. Would we, like Jesus, see hope instead of death?

I once asked my mother if she could change Dinah into a "normal" person, would she? First, my mom corrected me in that Dinah was probably more normal than any of the rest of us. Then she told me, no, she wouldn't. "Dinah is a gift and we see life differently through her eyes than we ever could any other way."

God isn't Santa Claus. God is the Presence of Jesus seen in each of us offering the hope of healing. Healing hunger, healing hatred, healing the fear that breeds greed, healing that crosses the divide in theology and the healing that allows us to hear the words of Jesus, "you're not dead, get up."

Friday, June 23, 2006

From pride to frustration

With the election of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop-elect I was overcome with pride and joy for the Episcopal Church. To elect the first woman Presiding Bishop took courage. It was the right thing to do because she was the best candidate and the best person for the job. The Bishop of Arizona, the Rt. Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith, had stated on several occasions prior to the election that she was the best candidate. (See his blog comments at Electing the right person for the right time is the best possible action.

The following day the House of Deputies rejected a resolution which would have called for a moratorium and ban on the election of future gay and lesbian bishops. They voted their heart and conscience. It was another day for celebration. The House of Deputies voted with courage. It was the right thing to do.

Then - the next day, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold called the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies into a special session. At that time the two houses agreed to ask that the election of "any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider Church," be resisted. That tarnished my pride and causes frustration.

How can the Episcopal Church be open and inclusive, "sort of"? It is either open to all or not. It can't offer selective inclusion. Those who have the opportunity to reside in power are the people who are fully included. If the position of bishop is not available to gay and lesbian clergy (or any person or group), then gay and lesbian clergy are not fully included in the full circle of the Church.

Even when the Church passes a resolution which states that gay and lesbians are "children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church," they might doubt it given their limited access to every level of the Church.

Yes, it is complicated when it comes to remaining in full communion with the World Wide Anglican Communion. (See the Rt. Rev. Peter Akinola's open letter to Episcopal Church And it continues to be a major strain to keep the Episcopal Church USA intact when the Diocese of Fort Worth is seeking to leave the Episcopal Church.
It is complicated, confusing, frustrating and painful. That is understood. But, the question is, who is fully included at the table?

I strongly recommend you check out the Rev. Kate Bradley's blog and this article in The Witness Both give powerful insight and call for strong action within the Episcopal Church. Both call for us to be courageous and stand together as sisters and brothers in the name of Jesus Christ.

It seems to me that now is the time more than ever for us to stand up and be the witness of the inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ. To preach that gospel from the pulpit and to call for action that truly speaks to the inclusion of all at the table.

As the Episcopal Chaplain at Arizona State University, the priest for St. Brigid's Community and one of the conveners of Peregrini, I want to be able to offer the Episcopal Church as a place where all who come are fully welcome and have all the rights, privileges and opportunities that are afforded to everyone else. I want to with a clear conscience offer to any gay or lesbian young adult who is considering vocations or seeking support from me as a priest in any way to know that they will be loved, included and encouraged in every way possible by the Church. They have that love, encouragement and support from me - I want them to have from the Church as well.

I will not stop preaching the inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that the Church is full of equally minded people who will not stop preaching that gospel either. Jesus Christ calls us to be witnesses of the gospel of love; to love God and to love my neighbor as myself - all my neighbors with all myself.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Proud to be an Episcopalian

Today I am so proud to be an Episcopalian!

The Episcopal Church USA elected the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori to be its 26th Presiding Bishop. She is the first woman elected to be the leader of the Episcopal Church as well as the first woman to lead any of the Provinces of the World Wide Anglican Church. She will be consecrated as Presiding Bishop in November at the National Cathedral.

This is a great day not only for the Episcopal Church but for the Christian community as a whole.

At a press conference and in interviews following Sunday's election, the Presiding Bishop-elect spoke with eloquence, compassion, humility and conviction as she answered challenging and forthright questions about the future of the Episcopal Church and its relationship with the Anglican Communion. Only two other provinces, New Zealand and Canada, have women Bishops though some allow women to serve in that position. Her election will be considered by some as a continued affront to the more conservative members of the Church. As quoted in a story by the Associated Press The Rev. Canon Chris Sugden, a leader of the Anglican Mainstream, a Church of England conservative group, said that her election "shows that the Episcopal leadership is going to do what they want to do regardless of what it means to the rest of the communion."

To those questions the Bishop-elect said that she believed that relationships are the most important component of reconciliation. She cited an example of being the lead scientist on a research vessel early in her career. The captain refused to speak to her because she is a woman. Jefferts Schori stated, "that lasted about 15 minutes and then he got over it. I think when we get to know one another we can work together."Her experience as an oceanographer and scientist, she said, has prepared her to be "open" and approach every circumstance with a "let's learn" about what "new adventure" we are on.

The Bishop-elect stressed the Millennium Development Goals as a priority. She constantly referred to the reign of God as being a place for the marginalized. She insists that the reign of God must focus on feeding the poor, working for health care for all and protecting the welfare of all children.

Jefferts Schori voted for the consecration of the Bishop Gene Robinson. When questioned about her support of Bishop Robinson and her views of gay and lesbian clergy she said, "God welcomes all to His table which includes a variety of theologies and opinions." She encouraged that those who disagree be willing to continue to stay in relationship and remain at the Eucharistic table.

Personally, I find this startling news to be so very encouraging and uplifting. This is powerful statement that the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies have made for and about the Episcopal Church. On a Sunday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, they were able to speak for the inclusion of all of God's creation. For words of inclusion without the opportunity to be in position of power is just weak and worthless rhetoric. But, the Episcopal Church has once again proven that indeed the reign of God is alive and well.

No matter your position on this issue and any of the other hot topics being discussed at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I might ask that you do offer prayers for the Bishop-elect, the Episcopal Church and World Wide Communion.

The prayer of St. Francis: Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Friday, June 16, 2006

God? Vacations?

God, can I just take a few weeks off from you? Oh, it's actually you who want to take a few weeks off from me? Oh great, now I'm in real trouble. All I wanted was just a couple of days where I wasn't always thinking about whether you are actually there or here or somewhere. And I could really use a break from trying to talk to you or pray or whatever it is that I'm doing. Just for a moment I'd like to clear my mind and be released from the wrestling that is always going on in my soul. Now I find out it's you, God, who would like a break from my two-year-old like whining temper tantrums and paradoxical clinging. That scares me to death. Do you really want a vacation from me?

The Peregrini gathering made some passes at my wandering and rambling questions. We have unique fellow travelers; Christians of wide stripes, some nothings and don't want to bes, former this and that's, a few agnostics and some admitted doubters. Each in their own space. While the group rarely comes to consensus, this was one of those odd nights.

It seems that we can not get away from ourselves. To quote an Irish saying, "Wherever you go there you'll be." Life is a fabric, a woven tapestry, of which, to pull out some thread is at least dangerous, if not unwarranted. And to put it back into its place, well, that ridiculously impossible. While we can weave new threads into our life, temporarily withdrawing colorful pieces or bland lines, can only create a weakening and unraveling of the art of our life. If God is an intricate part of my life, maybe even the weaver or the loom itself, how could I extract myself from what is myself? Not possible.

As for God's taking leave? Well, we are promised that God will never leave us or forsake us. We trust that is the case. True, I'm pretty sure God gets real sick of my childish antics - but, we're supposed to have childlike faith; right? Ok, I know about the need to stop drinking the babies milk and start eating the meat of adulthood (well, at least good protein of some kind for vegetarians) - time to grow up. Well, sort of.

It is time to recognize that taking time off from God is no more possible than taking time off from the essence of myself. God, ever Present and constantly moving in the grace of the mystery of life, faith, struggle and the evolution of personhood.

Peregrini has formed community that exists beyond itself. It continues to grow, develop, change, re-invent itself and acknowledge new personalities. The chemistry of the experience is no other way explainable than it is a God-thing. Thank you to all pilgrims for your participation, support, interest and thoughts. Join us when you can on the first and third Thursdays of each month at 7:00 pm at the Fair Trade Cafe in Phoenix, Arizona - on Central and Roosevelt just behind Trinity Cathedral. All are welcome and every question is possible; just don't expect any answers - even though sometimes they do arrive.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Summer Reading

Reading in incredibly enjoyable for me. I spend a lot of time reading; so much to read and so little time left. That being the case, I am careful what I spend my time reading. And extremely careful what I recommend. It has also been important for me that if I'm not finding the book meaningful to give myself permission to stop reading it.

My spiritual director asks me every time we get together what I'm reading. At first I thought he was just curious. Then I realized how what I read is such an open window into my soul.

Because of the opportunity to take vacations and maybe get a little down time, the summer is a great space to catch up on reading. While it might be presumptuous of me to make some recommendations for your reading, I will be so bold as to make an offering of some recent books I've read that have been worth the time.

As a follow up to the recent book study at the Cathedral and Lenten conversation "Resurrection? So What?" two possibilities are Resurrection by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue edited by Robert Stewart.

Rebecca McClain suggested I read The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church by Diana Butler Bass. This book has been a good resource for me as I have been dreaming what St. Brigid's Community at ASU is going to look like.

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why written by Bart Ehrman was recommended to me Kerry Neuhardt, Priest-in-charge of St. James in Tempe. I read that book parallel with Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything. While Ehrman's book is more academic it does explore the early history of Bible's transcription and the process of "editing." McLaren's book is from an evangelical perspective trying to lean into something more open. His Generous Orthodoxy has some value in providing a voice for trying to figure out "where my theology fits in all this world of religious pluralism?"

Anything Anne Lamont writes is good. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith isn't her best but I would re-read it given time. She makes me laugh and cry in the same sentence. She also assuages my guilt for some of my more colorful metaphors.

For all those considering vocation in the priesthood On Being a Priest Today by Rosalind Brown and Christopher Cocksworth is a musical and poetic understanding of what it means to walk the pilgrimage path of being a priest for others.

Veronica encouraged me to add fiction reading to my spiritual practices. John Banville's The Sea won Ireland's "Man Booker Prize." It's a story of a man returning home and there he discovers his soul that he left behind. Joanne Harris wrote Chocolat. If you enjoyed that piece you will find this story of a seventeenth century woman fascinating and enlightening as well as intriguing. My daughter Alicia gave me a copy of Paulo Coelho's Eleven Minutes. It's a unique tale, all things Coelho, of a young woman who is on life's pilgrimage that takes her in some places she never wanted to go but finds through some experiences, her purpose in life.

Well, I've got a big stack of books to read for the summer. Better get busy.

Friday, June 02, 2006

God? In the Bible?

Peregrini gatherings are enlightening, challenging and often a little rough. The questioning of God in the Bible evoked all kinds of ideas and emotions. The challenge of the conversation was in every way invigorating and was not disappointing in the least. As is always possible, a God moment appeared in the midst of the evening. It almost went unnoticed, as maybe should be the case.

Lori was our cook for the evening. She made this fascinating and wonderful dish she calls "dirty rice." Trust me, it tastes a lot better than it sounds. We had salad, fruit, garlic bread, chocolate chips cookies and of course, wine. It was quite the feast. We always seem to have more that enough food to feed the hungry pilgrims.

Deep into the evening's conversation, Lori got up and slipped to the door of our downtown coffee shop. She had noticed one of the young homeless men who we often see near the shop. As quiet as an angel she invited him in and with her warm smile prepared him two heaping plates. He went on his way and she returned to her place around the table without saying a word. I'm not sure who else noticed; it seemed so natural. Lori was being the very Presence of God; for the hungry pilgrim and for us as well.

Discussing God seems to always unfold the mystery in our midst. Talking about the Bible, however, for some reason, evokes the theological trail to be followed. Our question for the evening had to be narrowed to "can you find God in the Bible, and if so, how?" So many passionate gifts of insight were offered by our band of pilgrims. Here is some kind of collection of our thoughts.

The Bible is story and narrative. It is a living text. Brought to life by the openness and the processing of God; in our lives and God's experience. The vivid stories (and our wild interpretations of them) of Abraham and Moses and their encounters with the living and dynamic God brought a lot of laughter and questions to the table.

Jesus' as a Jewish rabbi understood the text through his own worldview. His critique and context informs ours. Yet, God continues to speak to us in and through the word of the Bible in a way that is fresh and meaningful for our times. A biblically guided life can constantly be relevant yet connected to the ancient world in a uniquely invigorating manner.

The Story is sacred and authoritative. It contains all things for salvation. Yet, we still are drawn into conversation with it; to challenge and seek out all the possibilities of meaning from within this living text. We can ask questions of the writers of each text. Who were they and why did they write these words are questions that help to educate us as we struggle to find the bridge from their time to ours.

We find ourselves touched by the stories of women and men through the scripture. Our lives are moved through and with the pain of the Psalter. Daily we grapple with the lectionary text. Confronted by words that make us laugh, cry, get mad and often confuse us; still yet, we come back again and again, day after day, seeking the face and mind of God. What is here in this ancient manuscript? We ache to know.

Genuinely, we know that we don't hold the "right and only" view of the Bible. It is clear we don't reflect a literalist or fundamentalistic construct of the Bible. We are not the spokes persons for the conservative church, nor do we want to be. No one would confuse our band of pilgrims with being on the "right" side of much. But, without the eye, hand and foot of the church, we are not the complete body. The Bible is the sacred text that the band of Peregrini look to and it is also the sacred text of the conservative church. If we are to be followers of Jesus we have no other choice than to recognize and respect our fundamentalist brothers and sisters. As well, we must honor the sacred text as they understand it. They have a lot to teach us and we seek to listen and learn, though at times it is a great strain.

To engage with God and to be spiritually formed by God, we have few other options than to engage the sacred text. The Story beckons us to read, study and inwardly digest the meat and marrow of the lives on the pages of the Bible. God whispers and we lean into the narrative trying to find our own place among the pictures painted for us by Ruth, Esther, Isaiah (all three of them) Amos, John, Peter, Mary (all three of them), Paul and Jesus.

The stories are alluring and we spend the time to discover their meaning. Personally, we crave to hear. But, we know that our true learning is done in community. For without community we could find ourselves in a blind gully on the trail. Worse yet, we could do the unthinkable and wind up "creating God in our own image (swearing and all)." Scripture is understood with reason and tradition of which we are obligated to contribute. Yes, we are part of the past for the future.

Do we all need to stop now and go to seminary. God save us all - NO! We are called to live our experience in who we are and how we hear and to share that with our fellow travelers. Some times we are even needed to pick up the pack of our weary companion as we walk up the steep hills of the mount on which God will speak to us. And, we must recognize the need to lay ourselves down and rest in the field of the Good Shepherd. We are pilgrims traveling together.

All this rhetoric is just that unless we can be aware and be present to those who need a meal. Thank you Lori for providing action to our questions. You embodied the living text in a sacred way.

The next Peregrini is June 15 at Fair Trade Cafe in downtown Phoenix.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why I bought a Dixie Chicks CD on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who have made sacrifices for this country. I remember my uncle who gave his life in the service of country. I remember family members who have served in World War I, II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq. All have made great sacrifices for their country. Those sacrifices were made for a variety of reasons and I honor those reasons and those who gave so much. I also remember a very special friend who is currently in Iraq (for his second tour) and I remember those others that I know - and I pray for them daily.

On Memorial Day the President of the United States standing before the Tomb of the Unknowns, stated that the nation can best honor the dead by "defeating terrorists....and laying the foundation for a generation of peace."

How does war bring peace? How does more killing honor the lives of those who have died? The world has been at war throughout history. No war has brought definitive peace to any generation much less the next generation. What chance has this war to bring peace more than any other war of history?

Maybe the best way to honor the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives in war is to find a better way to bring peace - a peace that will last - a peace that will be meaningful for generations to come; a solution that will replace killing.

On the eve of the Iraq invasion, Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, told a London audience that the Chicks were ashamed that President Bush was from their home State of Texas. The Chicks spoke out against the invasion of Iraq. Their fans and the country music industry responded like fans have the right to do - they reacted by not buying the Dixie Chicks CDs or playing their music on the radio. Some fans, however, decided to do what they do not have the right to do and that was to threaten the lives of these three young women.

The Dixie Chicks risked their careers for saying what they believe. Their risk was great. It cost them a huge fan base. Just last week they released their new CD with the anapologetic song Not Ready to Make Nice. The first CD since 2003. In the first week of play country fans have again responded with rejection which further questions their future careers.

It's one thing to speak out against the war when you know those who listen will agree with you like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young; it's quite another to have the courage to risk your career when you know for sure your fans don't agree.

I wonder if that's why our churches are not speaking out against the war, this war or any war? Is the church afraid that it fans, those in the pews who pay the preachers salary, will stop buying what the church is selling if they speak the word of peace and pacifism?

It is impossible to justify war using the words of Jesus Christ. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to promote peace and forgiveness. To attempt to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to strive to find a better way to solve global problems other than by killing one another.

So, to honor my family who has served this country and to honor my friends currently serving in Iraq and to pray to be a follower of Christ I am inspired by the Dixie Chicks and resolve to speak out often and loudly against this war and any other; seeking to find solutions that will bring lasting peace. And I started by buying the Chicks new CD on Memorial Day and I'm going to their concert here in Phoenix. Peace will come at a price but that price should not include a commitment to the shedding of wartime blood. Jesus' life was offered so that we might have peace.

Check out Leanard Pitts, Tribune Media Services, Chicks spoke up, and their voices filled a void, in the May 30 Arizona Republic, "Opinions."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's in a name?

Kansas U. Softball shortstop is Destiny Frankenstein. That's her real name. She said she doesn't use her name at restaurants because people don't believe that's her name. Our name can effect our behavior.

When I was born, my dad's favorite baseball team was the Brooklyn Dodgers and he named me after their firstbase man Gil Hodges. I went on to play five years of minor league baseball and I coached college baseball for 20 years. A name can set a course for our life.

I wonder now, what name would people give me? Conservative, moderate, liberal, post-liberal, post-modern, post-Christian, leftist, rightist, fundamentalist, literalist, environmentalists, feminist, separatist, isolationist, nativist, hawk, dove, gay, straight, orthodox, heretic, evangelical, low church, high church, broad church, Christian? What's in a name?

The first people to be called Christian lived in Antioch, 300 miles north of Jerusalem. It was in the earliest days of the new found sect. Followers of Jesus defined themselves as followers of the Way. It was their critics who first called them Christians; more as a term of derision and to probably to set them apart from other Jewish sects of the day. But, there must have been something different about those early Christians to warrant a special nickname.

Those Christians were followers of Jesus. The Jesus who taught his followers to love one another as he had loved them. Sounds pretty tame? But, his message got him crucified. His message of love must have been threatening and dangerous.

Love becomes dangerous when it is more than words. Doing love is dangerous.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that Christian love means to encounter the love of God in everyone met and to be God for that person. In other words, to meet the very presence of God in the other and to be the very presence of God for the other. Bonhoeffer was preaching a "religionless Christianity." A kind of Christianity that is only concerned with the needs of the person that I am being confronted by each day; not the dogma or teachings of religion.

In preparing to become a priest I took Clinical Pastoral Education from Banner Thunderbird Hospital. The Director of Spiritual Care of BTH is Ss. Sat Kartar Kalsey Ramey. She is one of the few women in the world who is ordained Sikh.

Sat Kartar taught me that in order to really be present to the patients in the hospital I had to realize that I am not the Lone Ranger. First, she said, I had to be present to myself. Second, I had to be honest with who I am as a Christian so that I might be present to God. And then and only then could I be present to the patients. It would take me being a Christian and she being Sikh and the other Chaplains being present to God in their tradition for us as a team to be effectively present to the patients in the hospital. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with being present to God.

Being truly present to someone who is in need is difficult. That person doesn't need my theology and religion; they simply need me to be present for them.

So, I ask myself when I with someone:

Am I really present?
Do I see God in them?
Am I being in the place of God for them?
Is my love dangerous enough that others might call me a Christian?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

God? Are you here?

This entry is dedicated to Justin who tragically lost his life as a victim of a hit-run accident while riding his bicycle.

The Peregrini group gathered around the table for a great meal of falafels, lentil and pita prepared by Justin's best friend Tyler. Tyler's grief process included cooking for his friends. We are grateful that he shared his gifts with us.

In the pain though, we all realized that they are times when the presence of God is in question. In fact, a lot of the time we've found ourselves asking, "God? Are you here?" And we're not hearing any response. Why is that?

Why is it at the seemingly worst times in our lives we can't hear God, or feel God or recognize any tangible means of determining that God exists? Tyler lost his best friend to a needless, reckless act, by no fault of Justin. Where is God in this senseless random act? I must admit, I don't have an answer.

But, I still ache for God. I long for God to hear me and respond to me. Where do I find God's presence when I need it most?

Joan Chittister wrote, "The monastic heart in not just to be a good heart. The monastic heart is to be good for something. It is to be engaged in the great Christian enterprise of acting for others in the place of God."

So like monks who believe that the two most important things in life are good food and prayer - we gathered around good food and tried to be present for one another and especially for Tyler. As Chittister wrote, "acting for others in the place of God."

We also found ourselves being present to one another as we were honest with our stories of loneliness, abandonment, confusion, frustration and doubt. The opportunity to ask the honest questions and express real doubt somehow made it comforting and reassuring; we are not on this pilgrimage alone.

Is that good enough? Is that all there is to it? I think that's all we have.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

She's walking 500 miles

Fellow pilgrims, Tamie is walking 500 miles on the Camino. She is on a literal pilgrimage. She started today. While most of us talk about the pilgrimage of life, Tamie is taking her talk on the road - a long dusty road; uphill, downhill, through the 32 days of Spain's weather.

Many of us have committed to pray daily for Tamie while she is on this soul journey. Tamie attended St. Brigid's Community service last Sunday on ASU's Tempe campus and we offered prayers and blessings for her. We will continue to pray for her each Sunday during her trek.

The Lord be with....let us pray.

"Direct Tamie, O Lord, in all her doings and with your most gracious favor, and furhter her with your continual help; this is all her works begun, continued, and ended in you, she may glorify you holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; we also pray that you keep over Tamie with the grace of your Presence through Jesus Christ our Lord." Amen.

Friday, May 05, 2006

God? In this crazy life?

God, it seems the faster I go the more I have to do. Is this the way life is supposed to be? Deadlines, pressure to commit, expectations to perform, demands from those who think they can and intimations from those who I would hope would not - is this insanity or the way life is going to be?

Who dares to answer the question is the one who is left with the possibilities. Our pilgrims gathered to open their souls and share the practices that draw them into "that" space. What space is "that space?" Maybe a place of quiet? The experience of silence floating in a pool with ear plugs in. Taking a long walk to hear your own soul. A good run to clear the head. Yoga, to be. Eastern mystic orthodox worship complete with icons and incense. All are "that" space. Each individually arrived; for one, not necessarily for all.

Is God always in "that" space? You'll have to go there and discover your own story.

Fall back into the soul and rest for a moment - let your eyes flicker and search; see into the dark and the light, both together and one the same. How is it I arrived in this place? Who is walking along this pilgrims path? I thought this my road to be trudged alone? "Oh, no, I don't think so," whispers the singing voice of mist and dream. But, this is no dream. It has connection, palpable presence. Who is this reaching out for my soul? I pray it is you Holy Abba, hear my prayers and know my heart. For in you I fall back and rest.

Our pilgrims of evening came to hear fellow traveler stories. We left with a little bit of shared "that space."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

God? In the betrayer?

It seemed so easy to discuss the topic of betrayal as long as the pilgrims focused their attention on Judas. That universal bad guy. The ultimate betrayer. While the Gospel of Judas may try to do a "historical corrective," poor Judas' persona is set in the proverbial stone. Even the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar couldn't remove the stain of 2,000 years worth of bad press for the worse kiss in history.

But try and move the discussion away from a transference conversation into a personal mode of who screwed who, when; well that was almost impossible. Why is it so difficult to talk about being betrayed? Or worse still, the most obvious, is it even possible to talk about being the one who plants the wet kiss on a friend's cheek? Well, it's all too personal. And besides that, the issue of the "f" word always gets into the debate.

No, not that "f" word. I'm talking about Forgiveness. It's too hard to talk about forgiving and being forgiven or not forgiven.

To encounter the way too painful heart matter of betrayal in a manner that opens the wounds of reality and honesty, the faint notion of forgiving and being forgiven must surface. Surface, because forgiveness is suppressed out of hate, revenge or more often just for emotional survival.

So let's deflect for a minute. Did Jesus forgive Judas? Would you? Ok, never mind that second question. Back to the original. Did Judas receive Jesus' forgiveness? Maybe, that's two different questions. There is a difference between Jesus offering the forgiveness and Judas feeling forgiven. In that difference may lie our own issues with the slash of betrayal and the healing of forgiveness.

There are no easy answers. Only more complex questions. However, only when the questions are asked can the betrayed and the betrayer move one step closer to possibly embracing forgiving and being forgiven.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Every Life is a 7 mile pilgrimage

One of my dear friends made pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Another walked the Wicklow Way. Both of their lives were deeply touched. They endured aching backs, blistered feet and iffy weather to make pilgrimage; to journey down the road to find soul and self.

On their pilgrimage each story is filled with meeting new people. Every story encountered is centered around the sharing of meal and drink. It seems to be the ritual of life for pilgrims.

It's 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Two of Jesus' followers were walking along the road three days after Jesus was crucified. A "stranger" joins them on their journey. This man is intriguing because of his lack of knowledge of the biggest "news" in the land; Jesus, the Rabbi, has been crucified and some women say his tomb is now empty.

While on the road they talk theology and scripture. They found a common language. They were hoping to understand and the stranger offered interpretation. As the evening drew near and the travelers arrived in Emmaus, the stranger was invited to stay the evening and share a meal. He accepted their hospitality; the ritual of life for pilgrims.

As they sat at the dinner table the stranger took the bread, blessed it, broke the bread and gave it to his hosts. At the table of life in the ritual of pilgrims the Christ was revealed.

All people are "peregrini:" life is a pilgrimage. Life is a 7 mile pilgrimage from expectation down a long dusty trail of reality. It is in the ritual of life with those who travel the same path that we might find hope's nourishment. What appears to be most startling is that the revelation of life's secret is found in the stranger.

Sit down from your walk for a moment. Take off life's burdensome pack. Take out some bread and wine. Make a table. Offer a stranger who walks along some nourishment. See what is revealed in the breaking of the bread.

Easter's peace.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

God? In this tasteless wafer?

Feast Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, Easter we celebrate! Yet, when many of us walk down the aisles of our Churches we will be handed a small piece of something that has little of any reminder that we are experiencing a feast. It actually tastes more like cardboard or Styrofoam. Fortunately, we can wash it down with a little wine. Some may be fortunate enough to have bread that tastes like a feast. The question, though, has nothing to do with the culinary value of communion bread.

The question is: Is God really in this tasteless wafer (Or Wonder Bread)? However, this isn't a theological question. The question has nothing to do with transubstantiation or Presence or rememberances. The real question is: Where is God? Can God be contained in a wafer and wine? Or in a Church? Or in nature? Or in anything for that matter? So where is God? I'm not really sure. But, I can share with you where I've experienced God.

The experience of God was palpable last week when Peregrini gathered at Fair Trade Cafe around a table of pasta, bread and wine. We didn't say any magical words. We asked lots of questions about God and of God. We opened ourselves to one another. We had fellowship. We had communion.

Ok, so Church isn't important? Not sure about that. I think Church gives us a language around which to formulate questions. It gives us some benchmarks with which to sort through the possibilities in community. But, Church is not in the building. Church is where the people gather and share in the communion bread of life. Church is where people are present to one another and where people open themselves to the possibility that God is Present to them.

God? In this tasteless wafer? Come to think of it I was looking for a miracle in Easter. As I share in Easter communion this week my visual image will be sitting around the Peregrini table with laughing and story telling friends, eating bread and drinking wine.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What would MLK do?

April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on a Memphis balcony as he rallied to support sanitation workers for better wages. The day before he was killed Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed that he had been "to the mountain-top," and he had seen the "promised land," a land where all people would be "free at last."

April 4, 2006, a 1,000 people gathered outside the Arizona State Capital to pray for God's Presence as Congress and the State Legislators consider proposed laws that could make 12 million people in this land instant felons.

Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano preached words that sounded as if they were spoken by MLK himself.

"Instead of building walls along our border, instead of allowing men, women and children to die in the desert while they seek only bread and hope, let us commit to finding ways together to create a world of justice and of peace. The time has come for undocumented immigrants to be allowed to come out of the shadows of life in this country, be acknowledged for the contributions they have made to our society and given the opportunity to become citizens."

What is frightening though is that there are people in our country who are advocating a vigilante violence as a solution to immigration. On April 3 on KFYI Radio, talk show host Brian James said that he "had no problem" with shooting those crossing the border. Does this man speak for the mainstream? I pray to God that he does not. But, I fear otherwise.

Racism and bigotry is showing its ugliest of heads. Have not the lessons learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. made any difference in America today? Is fear the driving force of our society? Or is it greed; a greed that breeds isolationism and protectionism. Is this country on the verge of a civil uprising?

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. lead us to do today? What would Jesus ask us to do? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, and welcome the stranger. It seems pretty clear what Jesus expects and its obvious what MLK would do. The question is what will I do? What will you do?

It could be overwhelming. But, as Edward Everett Hale said, "I cannot do everything but I can do something, and what I can do I will do, so help me God." Do unto your neighbor as you would have do unto you and welcome the stranger. How's that for starters?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ode to grandads

A few friends and my own children have lost their grandads in the past months. Grandads, papas, tatas, seem to capture that special place in our heart. A place inhabited by great story tellers who smell like Old Spice and cigarettes; never offensive and somehow funny while not trying to be.

To be a "good old man" takes the seasoning of many battles with a just a few more wins than losses. It takes the kind of grace brought on by having suffered through the tragedies of life while still keeping a love for a child's smile. That old man wisdom that is shared by telling a story but never from a direct command of "you oughta do it this way or that."

While grandad might tell the same story every time you see him, it takes on a different meaning which each re-telling. I once used to think it was my grandad's maturing that salted the story. Now I know its my own grey hairs that enrich the flavor of remembering his tales as if he told them last night, though he has been gone from this earth for 16 years. I even hear his voice and see his wry smile when I think of him telling me about the red-headed grandmother I never knew.

Love is being hugged by your tata when you know his embrace is saved for you. Love is seeing his tears shed for your imperfect life seen through his eyes that make you somehow better today than yesterday. Love is knowing papa will hold your hand like no other can or ever will. Love is remembering.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Resurrection? So What? Materially Present

Author, theologian, teacher and baseball fanatic Tex Sample, led our pilgrims through the daunting discussion of the Resurrection of Jesus. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Was Jesus' corpse raised? Was it a metaphorical resurrection? Was Jesus raised in the hearts of the disciples? Just what happened?

Tex offered two stories for possible consideration. There are two stories of tradition: the empty tomb tradition and the appearance tradition. The empty tomb tradition offers several possibilities including the corpsal resurrection of the body of Jesus. The appearance tradition includes Jesus appearing unexpectedly without explanation. Not as a ghost, or an appartion or simply in "the hearts of the disciples" but, as the mystery of the Presence.

Tex offered that through his research, as best as he can determine, no reputable and respected theologian suggests that Jesus' corpse was raised from the dead. They do offer a few possibilities. Tex suggested we consider the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' understanding. In Williams' book, The Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel, he argues that Jesus Resurrection was a "material presence."

"The risen Christ is not a resuscitated human individual....but, an active and transforming presence never exhausted or assimilated....He never belongs to the past in the sense that what he does or is is over, completed and sealed off. And he does not act in the present simply by influence and is in confrontation with his presence that human lives are restored and reshaped." (Resurrection, Williams, page 55)

Jesus' material presence is still confronting us this very day continuing to transform our lives and challenging us to live into the radical hospitality of Jesus' invitation to the table; the Eucharist. Tex stated that the Eucharist is the most important thing in his life. It is the transformative call of the Eucharistic life of Jesus, his disciples and we as his followers that "moves" us into a community of radical forgiveness. "Thus to welcome or be welcomed by him at a meal on the further side of Calvary is the ultimate assurance of mercy and acceptance, of indestructible love." (Williams, 100) It is also the call of the Christian community to be Christ's active agents of love and forgiveness in a world of pain of suffering as Jesus taught in Matthew 25.

The Christian community is also, by virtue of the confrontation of Jesus' material presence, called to a voice for Jesus' message of peace, egalitarianism, and trust in God. This is a challenge for the Church in a capitalistic America. The question for the Church and the Christians within it is this, "how far have I (we) allowed Christ's questioning to transform my (our) life into compassion, and how far, therefore, I have allowed compassion in me to transform the world?" (Williams, 79)

Jesus' Resurrection is The call to live the transformed life found in the Presence of God. This life is lived as a Eucharistic life, broken and shared. It is to be given to feed all who come to the table. It is radical hospitality and forgiveness shared with those who are hungry, naked, thirsty, sick and in prison, and the stranger in our land.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Resurrection? So What? Politics?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Christ the Center, "What is the meaning of the empty tomb, before the news of the resurrection? Is it the deciding fact of Christology? Was it really empty? Is it the visible evidence, penetrating the incognito, of the Sonship of Jesus, open to everyone and therefore making faith superfluous? If it was not empty, is then Christ not risen and our faith futile? It looks as though our faith in the resurrection were bound up with the news of the empty tomb. Is our faith then ultimately only faith in the empty tomb? This is and remains a final stumbling block, which the believer in Christ must learn to live with in one way or another."

These were words written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pacifist, who would enter into a plot to attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler, for which he was eventually executed by the Nazis. To ask Bonhoeffer his own question, "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?" And what is the evidenced impact of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in his life? The answer is found in his own actions. Bonhoeffer would attempt to become the "spoke in the wheel" of the government that was not practicing its obligation to be the protector and advocate of all its citizens, including the poor, the weak and the different.

The power of the empty tomb, the stumbling block over which all Christians must confront, is in its haunting way, the sustaniner of those called to be the "spoke in the wheel." The power of the empty tomb and the energy to be sustained as the spoke is found in the community of faith birthed from the empty tomb.

"We are to live together in ways that hallow the earth with peace and justice, and this power is not in the state, nor is it in money, nor does it come from the barrel of a gun. Rather, we are empowered to participate whenever we form into congregations that seek to hear and do torah (live Spirit led lives): individuals can and should resist injustice, but only in community can we do justice. In an unredeemed world, we are all refugees in need of congregational sanctuary." (Jim Corbett early leader of the Sanctuary Movement)

But what can I do against the machine of violence? Who am I to stop war? How can I stop poverty? How can I possibly be the spoke in the wheel of injustice?

Mike is a very good friend of mine. A few years ago he went up north to visit a good friend of his. While visiting, every morning, Mike's friend would get up and go the grocery store and buy two loaves of bread and a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. He would come home and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He would load up the sandwiches in a cart and go down to a nearby bridge under which several homeless men lived. There he would hand out his sandwiches and then head home.

After Mike got back from his trip he was so moved by his friend's daily actions that he sent his friend some money "to help in his ministry." A week later Mike got an envelope back from his friend. In the envelope was Mike's check with the words "make your own damn sandwiches" written across its face.

Where ever I might find myself and what ever I might be doing, I am called to make my own damn sandwiches and be the spoke in the wheel where ever I am. Bonhoeffer could not act alone and it seems on the surface his actions did have good results. But, as Shelly told me, God holds me accountable for my actions, not the results That I have to leave up to God.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Share in this cup?

Every once in awhile I see something that burns a forever image in my soul. I saw that something last week in Taos, New Mexico. In a small gallery tucked away down a back alley rested a striking reminder of the sacrament of the Eucharistic Cup.

An artisan using wood as his medium created the image of beauty and pain. With a lathe he crafted a local piece of wood into a short, fat cup no tall than eight inches. More cup than chalice, the red wood was filled with knots and imperfections. Yet, the artist was able to smooth the rough service that made it gentle to the touch.

At the mouth of the cup he allowed the natural surface of the wood to emerge and protrude over the lip at least three inches. It was as if the cup was still attached to the rough wood from which it was birthed. Somehow the artist had blessed the possibility that the cup was cut from the Cross.

Under the lip from which no single person could easily drink a twist of brambles was wrapped around the cup. If I was drawn to drink from the cup my bottom lip would have to share the crown of thorns.

Down the side of the cup were two knots, broken and open to the boldness of the imagination. Dripping from each knot was one drop of the most red "blood." How could I even hold the cup without getting "blood" on my hands?

Could I share in this cup? Would I dare take a drink and risk getting blood on my hands? Is it possible that I would place the cup to my lips and wound my own flesh? An image seared into my soul to connect the Sunday chalice to the sufferings of my Lord.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Lenny

Lenny was in his sixties, a gentle soul, who carried around a box of pencils so he could draw the same house over and over again. Lenny rarely spoke but always smiled. He went to Art Works everyday to spend time with his friends, who are mentally handicapped adults including my sister Dinah. Lenny was Dinah's "honey." Yesterday we gathered at Art Works to celebrate Lenny's life and acknowledge in our own way that Lenny had died.

All of Lenny's closest friends participated. One carried his drawings. Another brought his hat he wore on his daily walks. His picture was paraded for all to see; Lenny wore a very big smile in that picture. A favorite scripture was read, poems recited and songs sung. Lots of stories were told about Lenny.

Then came Dinah's turn. Dinah only has a few words more to say than Lenny. "My honey Lenny is gone. I love you. In my heart now." Death is hard and love is painful. Both mean letting go.

Abraham took his son Isaac on the longest walk of his life. Up the hill they went. Stopping at one point, the young Isaac questions his father Abraham. "We have the fire, the wood and the knife. But where is the lamb for slaughter?" All Abraham could muster was, "God will provide." The story tells us "So the two of them walked on together."

It seems that one of the hardest things in life is to keep on walking, even in the face of the greatest uncertainty. Dinah's heart is breaking. Her beloved Lenny is gone. Somehow, she has to keep on walking. But, we don't walk alone. We must walk on together.

The psalmist sung, "You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of life." In the presence of one another we can find the presence of God. As we walk along the path of life with Dinah we can only hold her hand and be present for her. In the walking we trust and hope God will provide.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Resurrection? So What? Fact or Fiction

Peregrini met to ponder the uncertainty of The Resurrection. Yes, that's right. The uncertainty of Jesus' resurrection. Was Jesus' corpse raised to experience the same heart pumping life after the crucifixion as he experienced before being hung on the cross?

The Rev. Dr. Vernon Meyer led our pilgrims along the possible path of adventure. What are the clues to answering the questions? How do we find the truth? Where do we find some absoluteness?

Paul and the writers of the gospels offer some direction. But, it seems their answers are only more questions. What are the common threads? The empty tomb. Is that all we are left with? Seems so. The empty tomb and some interesting experiences by a small number of eye witnesses who never actually wrote about what they saw. They only told others. So what do we make of it?

The real question is: "So what?" What difference does the empty tomb make in my life? These questions and many more will continue to be discussed next Wednesday, March 15, 7:00 pm at Fair Trade Cafe, 100 W. Roosevelt Phoenix, Arizona. All are welcome. Bring your questions. Answers are optional.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

We live in the wilderness

Tradition and cowboy lore have it that in 1867 Jack Swilling stopped to rest his horse near the White Tank Mountains. He looked over the desolate wilderness of the desert and saw great potential. Now 125 years later we call this place Phoenix. It's the six largest city in the US and home to millions of people. I live here. In the desert. I live in the wilderness and this is where life is for me.

Jesus was baptized. "And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the desert 40 days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts and the angels waited on him."

I have found myself getting the metaphor of the wilderness confused with the painful living of life. As a Christian, I believe I live in the wilderness and this is where life is for me. I don't believe as a Christian I can separate the wilderness experience from life itself. The wild beasts AND the angels are both in the wilderness.

In the Christian experience of Lent we march the pilgrimage of the paschal mystery. Baptism to living the pilgrimage in the wilderness to the cross. Easter may be coming but life is in the wilderness.

Just a year ago I was working at a local parish. On Tuesday mornings the young adult moms gather for Bible study. At the conclusion of the study, Jen, just seven months pregnant went to the ladies room. Less than three minutes later another young mom followed. The second mom found Jen lying silently on the floor. Her face was already blue.

No amount of life saving cpr efforts by those with Jen nor the paramedics would bring her back to life. Her death was immediate and the cause is still uncertain. The paramedics rushed Jen to the local hospital. Every effort was made to save her unborn son. He lived six weeks. It was so tragic and seems so senseless.

Those, I believe, who are Christians are born by baptism into a called life. That life, is a life that is lived intentionally in the wilderness. It's lived in the wilderness because that's where life really happens. If we see "the wilderness" as just one or a series of those tough and hard experiences to go through, then we could lead ourselves to the conclusion that either God caused Jen and her son to die or that God didn't care enough to stop their death. I don't believe either thing.

What I am suggesting is a theology that says that God Incarnate came to live a vulnerable life among us; born of a woman, walking the dusty roads of life, sitting by the well thirsty, hungry sending the disciples off to buy food, raised by a widowed mom, mistrusted by his brothers and sisters, rejected by his own home town, betrayed with a kiss, abandoned by his closest friends, to die alone, naked and humiliated. God with us in the wilderness of life. Why do horrible things happen to good and innocent people? I don't know. But, I believe in a God who lives in the world, incognito in Jen and in her son and in you and me. And God understands living in the wilderness of life.

We live in the wilderness and this is where life is for us. And God is with us.

Friday, March 03, 2006

God? Six Feet Under?

God? Six Feet Under? Ah yes, we took a pilgrimage down the path of death. Ten brave souls ventured into the uncertainty and deep questions of death. Stories were told and a few tears were shed.

What does intimacy look like in death? We shared moments of being present with a friend and loved one as they took their last breath; holding their hands, kissing their face, lying with them in bed. How has this effected our intimacy with the living? How has this shaped our being present to our own selves?

Can God tolerate death? Where is God in death? Is there hope? Are we just a brain that sends electrical impulses and chemicals throughout our fragile bodies? Is there a soul? We surfaced all the questions but the last - maybe that will be a future topic for another Peregrini?

Death is a powerful subject. We rarely "want" to think about much less talk about death. Yet, death is all around us. It is part of life. The world actually needs the cyclical nature of birth, life and death. What is it that keeps us from reflecting about our own death? Fear of the unknown. Lonliness. The frustration of not having done everything we wanted to do. The despair of not having lived a life of purpose. Not having left something of value behind. All these were points of stress for us in the conversation about death.

If you have some comments about death please join in the conversation. Peregrini never really ends.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The pilgrimage of questions

Kildysart, Ireland is a three pub village on the southern tip of the Shannon. Mike invited me to spend a week with him after my ten days of pilgrimage in Glendalough. He invited Tot to join us for breakfast. Mike and Tot are seminary and football mates from almost 50 years ago. They served as priests in America nearly 90 years between them. Tot asked me why I had come to Ireland. I told him I been on a pilgrimage. He asked me, "You wouldn't be insultin' God by searchin' for him, now would you?"

A pilgrimage of questions. God? Could God be found? What if I find God, then what? So what? Is God searching for me? What if God finds me, then what? So what? The only possibility of answers lie in the pilgrimage of questions. Risking the power of the asking and being courageous enough to live into the questions beckon my existence. You?