Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Something New

Spring is my second favorite season. I love the cool but clean, fresh air;  the blossoming flowers and the brand-new leaves on the trees; the excitement of spending time outside; and the hope of adventure that can fill one’s heart. Spring is a time of new life, of transformation, and of different things to come.

In May, many people complete a chapter of their lives with graduation and set off on something brand new and exciting. Ten years ago, I graduated from Asbury University. As an alum, I still have strong connections to my class identity. At Asbury, you receive a class name and colors, a class hymn, and a Scripture verse that represents your class name. I am part of the Transforming Class. Our class verse is 2 Corinthians 3:18, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 

I believe that we are always changing and growing as a person and becoming more like God's image. Life is meant to teach you about yourself and develop your gifts and talents. We are meant to grow and cultivate a relationship with God to become more like Him. We are meant to be transformed in life, not remain stationary.

Transformation should not stop when you reach a certain age or a certain level in your career. Transformation should continue every day of our lives. We all have things to learn about ourselves, about others, and about God. The danger is to stop uncovering the depths of your heart that God created. Revelation 21:5 states, “Behold, I make all things new.” God wants us to continue growing in Him and when we do that, we find out more of who we are, who He created us to be. We are transformed into who He intended us to be. We become something new.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Our Hearts Burn

     As they were slowly walking away from Jerusalem, the two friends talked about all that had happened the last few days.  A stranger came to join them and asked what they were talking about.  They shared their story of grief and disbelief with him.  Their friend had been murdered – they had thought that he would be the one to free Israel.  Now he was gone, however some women had been to the tomb and found it empty.  Nothing made sense to them.  The stranger began to unfold scripture to them as they walked on.  The friends invited him to stay with them as they went into an Inn for a meal.  As they all ate, Jesus broke bread and their eyes were opened.  He disappeared at that moment.  They thought back to the walk with him.  On remembering, they knew that there had been a burning within them that they had dismissed.  They knew then, though they did not realize it at the time.
     Since Easter day, I too have had many of these experiences.  A friend asked me the other day if I was ok – she had noticed me teary for the past few days.  She was right, I had been.  It was not out of sadness however.  I was overwhelmed with the depth and beauty of human creation and nature.  My heart had been burning for days.  I knew the presence of Jesus.

  • ·         In the story of a son lovingly giving away his deceased father’s clothing

  • ·         The story of an animal bringing a person back to what truly matters

  • ·         The life of a coal miner’s son

  • ·         Experiencing new depth in the life of someone I love but see no longer

I     I continued this practice of remembering with the children in Children’s Chapel yesterday.  We explored the story of The Walk to Emmaus.  We then got quiet to think about our week and where our heart may have been burning.  Maybe Jesus was there and we did not realize it.

  • ·         On a swing with Nana on Nana day

  • ·         Snapping turtles

  • ·         When I was sick and my mother took care of me

  • ·         The pouring rain

     Christ is alive in all of us as we strip down to the core.  All of the things that we wear to cover him up are not essential.  They cover up the resurrection appearances.  My guess is that all of you reading this have had a number of “appearances” in the last few days.  We need to be awakened to receive them.  Slow down and examine your life.  Live it intentionally and expect to be surprised continuously.  Share your stories with friends.  Like the disciples, everyone may not believe your story but trust it.  Your heart was burning within you to let you know he was there. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Preparing for Lent

We are officially one week away from Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent, a season of penitential practices and fasting. This is the 40 days we mark as Christians to take the time and space to honor Christ’s own penitential journey in the desert, where he fasted for 40 days and nights. The early Christians used the season of Lent as a time of preparation for those who were to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, or for those who were seeking to rejoin the church. This time was set aside for creating intentional discipleship through fasting, learning, and worship. As we seek to renew our own Baptismal vows (BCP 292) centered around our call to be disciples of Christ in the world, think about what practice or fast will most serve you in this quest.

Every year many of us come to Ash Wednesday wondering what we will give up or take on as our Lenten discipline. As you discern how you will enter into this season of penitence and fasting I encourage you to consider taking something on or giving something up that feeds your soul and draws you closer to the Divine presence in your life. I have collected a few online resources that can be used to guide you in your Lenten journey. Check them out, see how these might assist you or your family as you seek to use this season of penitence and fasting to ignite the light of Christ in your life.

5 Marks of Love - Society of Saint John the Evangel
“This six-week series (beginning Sunday, February 26) provides the opportunity to observe and to reflect on the ways in which the Divine Life expresses itself in and through us; individually and in our faith communities, as well as in the world around us.  Each week we will explore the Anglican Marks of Mission (Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform and Treasure) through videos, questions and exercises so we can speak more clearly and act truthfully, motivated always by hearts marked by God’s love.
The Brothers of SSJE will draw on their own monastic spirituality to help us balance action with contemplation, so that our words and deeds proceed from the deepest places of our hearts, where God dwells.  The resource encourages us to reflect on how we should live, not what we should do.”

Join here:

A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert - Forward Movement
“Exile, hospitality, and migration are recurrent themes in the Bible and throughout the history of the church. Starting on Ash Wednesday, and continuing through Lent, Forward Movement invites you to a season of prayer. Each day we will offer you a prayer from The Book of Common Prayer or a passage from the Bible. As we grapple with these issues as Christians, we invite you to make these prayers and scriptural passages part of your Lenten devotions. May they help guide your Lenten journey and help us find in Christ our Promised Land.”

Join by following Forward Movement on Facebook:

Lent Madness - The Rev. Tim Schenck & The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn

“A fun and engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints. The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket… The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.” This is a great Lenten practice that involves fun, competition, and learning about the mystics who helped found many of our contemplative traditions.

Join by following Lent Madness on Facebook or on their website:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pausing to Remember in Whose Image I am Created

" Then God walked around, and God looked around
   On all the he had made.
   He looked at His sun, and he looked at his moon.
   And he looked at his little stars; 
   He looked on his world, with all of its living things, 
   And God said: I'm lonely still.

   Then God sat down- 
   On the side of the hill where he could think;
   By a deep, wide river he sat down;
   With his head in his hands, God thought and thought, 
   Till he thought: I'll make me a man!

   Up from the bed of  the river
   God scooped up the clay; 
   Any be the bank of the river
   He kneeled him down;
   And there the great God Almighty
   Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky, 
   Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night, 
   Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
   This Great God, 
   Like a mammy bending over her baby, 
   Kneeled down in the dust
   Toiling over a lump of clay
   Till he shaped it in his own image;

   The into it he blew the breath of life, 
   And man became a living soul.
   Amen. Amen."
                         - James Weldon Johnson from God's Trombones Seven Negro Sermons in Verse

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Psalm 8

Psalm 8 speaks of God's creation and, through creation, God has shone his light, his glory into the world. At Evensong this past Sunday, the Cathedral Choir sang an arrangement of Psalm 8 by Gerre Hancock. Gerre was Organist and Master of Choristers at St. Thomas Church in New York City, who passed away five years ago on January 21. He was a light to the music world and to all who knew him. Below is a link of the Cathedral Choir singing Psalm 8 for you to listen to and meditate on. May your light shine into the world.

Psalm 8 
O Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy name in all the world;
Thou that hast set thy glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouths of very babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies,
That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens, even the work of thy fingers; 
the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained.
What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?
Thou madest him lower than the angels, to crown him with glory and worship.
Thou makest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands;
and thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.
All sheep and oxen; yea and the beasts of the field.
The fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea; and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas.
O Lord our Governor, how excellent is thy name in all the world!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end. Amen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What Do We Do?

St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the Spanish priest, theologian, and founder of the Jesuit order (Society of Jesus), believed that through imagination we could draw closer to God. His Spiritual Exercises teach a practice of imaginative contemplation that draws one into a deeper relationship with God through scripture.

In one of the work’s early exercises, Ignatius invites the reader to meditate on the birth of Jesus: to imagine Mary’s home - its size, how many rooms there were; to imagine the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem; to imagine the place of the Nativity - Mary in labor, Joseph at her side, and the birth of the Christ child. When I took a moment to try this exercise for myself, it nearly took my breath away. The dirt, the smell, the sweat, the fear, the hope, the cry of the newborn child. The world-altering, boundary-crossing incarnation of Love left a lingering scent of dung and moldy straw.

I often wonder how it is that we celebrate Christmas with such pomp, when the reality of the event we commemorate was one of danger and fear, devastation and sorrow, difficulty and pain. In little more than a week’s time, we’ll celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of God in Jesus as revealed to the Gentiles in the persons of the Three Magi, or Wise Men. It is another event of celebration and joy, of a special wonder in children’s eyes as camels process through our beautiful Cathedral.

But what of the reality of the event?

I invite you to take a moment to try St. Ignatius’ exercise of imaginative contemplation on the Gospel Reading appointed for the Feast of the Epiphany: Matthew 2:1-12. Imagine yourself in the home of an anonymous young couple and their toddler son as Herod’s murderous campaign descends on Bethlehem. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you see? What do you feel? What do you do?

What do we do?

That’s the question that startles me every Epiphany - what do we do? What do we do with the voices that the text has neglected or silenced - the hundreds of families whose children were murdered? What do we do with the voices with us today that are repressed, oppressed, and that no one seems to hear?

I can only wonder how popular opinion and public policy towards refugees might shift were we all to engage in St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises.

Who are the Holy Innocents, today? And what do we do? 

Allison Duvall

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent Meditation Series: Salvation - Not for Sale

Matthew 11:2–11
Salvation—Not for Sale

Open our eyes, O Gracious God, and bless our Advent journey.
Enable us to look beyond the familiar and observe instead your
presence before us and around us. Remove the blinders of
resentment and fear, and by your Spirit help us to see Jesus
in the face of both friend and stranger, for your love’s sake.

What do you see? In mysteries, whether on the pages of books or on the screen, the detective is not necessarily more suave, more sophisticated, more impressive than the other people in the room. Far from it, sometimes. But the detective—at least, the successful detective—is the one who notices what others miss, who observes what others gloss over. To those who do not truly see, a half-empty glass or a torn piece of paper is simply that, but to the observant one, it can be an important clue that unlocks the puzzle.

When John the Baptist sends messengers to inquire whether Jesus might be the Messiah, Jesus tells them to go back to John and report what they have seen: remarkable healings, changed lives, unimagined possibilities. As the messengers depart, Jesus goes on to ask those around him what they expected to see when they first encountered John in the desert. Perhaps they thought they would see someone dressed to impress, someone living the easy life. But what did they see? A true prophet, someone who challenged all their expectations.

Elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel, we find the story of Jesus looking in vain for figs on a barren fig tree, cursing it when he found none. His disciples were surprised since they themselves could see that the tree would not bear any fruit. Why was he so upset? What did he expect? That is the question, isn’t it? The disciples saw what they expected to see. Jesus always sees beyond the expected. Jesus sees more.

As twenty-first century followers of Christ, it is all too easy to take up with those earliest followers and only see the expected. If so, we will miss so much. Sure, we can pray and go to church and move forward knowing that God loves us…and all this is good. All this is of God. But God wants more for us. God wants us to do more than just settle in our faith. If we just settle in our spiritual rocking chairs, we will miss out on all the miracles, we will miss out on all the divine opportunities, we will miss out on all the unexpected possibilities that God wants us to experience. If we dare to open our hearts to God’s grace, if we dare to open the eyes of our spirits, then we will discover what the beloved old hymn says, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

As Christ’s followers today, as members of the Jesus Movement, we need to throw off the blinders that prevent us from experiencing the abundant life and remarkable ministry to which God calls each one of us. Let us follow not simply in the footsteps of those early disciples, but let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus himself who offered salvation freely. There are still people to be touched, lives to be changed. But will we dare to open our eyes and see what God may be trying to show us?

Will we dare to open our eyes and be evangelists, messengers of hope to those around us who may not even realize they desperately need that hope? When the earliest disciples were afraid to accept Saul of Tarsus into their community—because all they could see was an angry, dangerous person—it took Barnabas to look at Saul/Paul through a different lens and to see…not just what was…but what could be.

Will we dare to open our eyes and be reconcilers, building bridges where chasms of hurt and resentment exist between people? When thirteenth-century crusaders looked at those who were different from them and saw only enemies, it took Francis of Assisi to view the situation in a different way, crossing through battle lines with courage and humility, and opening up crucial lines of communication with the Sultan himself.

Will we dare to open our eyes and be true stewards of God’s creation? When countless people…both those who call themselves Christians and those who don’t…continue to take this planet for granted, it takes those with eyes to see to look around, step forward, and do what is needed to preserve “this fragile earth, our island home.”

As those who would indeed follow Christ, let us open our eyes to see what we have all too often missed. Let us, by the power of the Spirit, become the evangelists, reconcilers, and stewards of creation, that God calls us to be, because salvation is not for sale. ✦

Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (United States)

Borrowed from a series of Advent devotions prepared by the leaders of Anglican and Lutheran churches in full communion. Click here for the full booklet.