Telling our Stories with the Truth Left In

The importance of telling our stories with all the good and evil left in.

The yoke is easy because it is shared with Jesus and one another.   The burden is light because we no longer need to carry sin, shame and sorrow.  We can offer it up and free our spirits in the grace of Jesus Christ.  We offer it up to God’s mercy and become merciful to ourselves and one another in return.  

We who are heavy laden – let us lighten our souls in speaking the truth of our stories

We who are weary now – let us find peace in mercy and great love

May we all have the courage to love, to be vulnerable and to find the rest for our souls by following Christ’s way of mercy and opening to His grace.

Space of Sanctuary

A sanctuary is a place where you feel that you no longer need to battle as if your identity depended on remaining strong.  Its space restores, replenishes, and nourishes.*

“Church is where I come to the quiet and set aside the worries and activity of the world and spend time in peace.”   A Vestry member wrote words to this effect in her bio and not only did they strike a chord at the time of first reading, but they guide me in planning worship in the time of COVID-19.  I ponder what each of us misses about Sunday morning’s worship in the sanctuary. 

Initially it seemed we missed seeing one another, and worshiping live on Zoom made sense as we entered one another’s homes virtually accepting unreliable, clunky technology and all.  We sang out of sync and prayed as a group.

Lately it seems what we need most is sanctuary in terms of a space or place to enter, a portal which takes us to the quiet, an intentional entry into God’s presence.  Indoor communal sanctuary will remain closed for awhile depending on how coronavirus plays out.  In the meantime let’s look at finding, creating, and visiting places and spaces of sanctuary.  Intentionally seeking a space and setting a time to be present shall nurture us.

Intentional Portal:  consider a special chair, corner or other location at home to which you are drawn most often.  Perhaps a spot in the back garden or a place close by calls you when you are needing a space away from daily cares.  If indoors or outdoors in your dwelling, special objects, books, candles may help create this space as sanctuary.  You can change these up by season or mood.  It is a space where you enter and call upon God’s presence.

Intentional Practice: consider what happens when you enter the space and what can help make time there different from scheduled or anxious time.  Perhaps silence or a beloved piece of music draws you to a realm of peace.  Centering prayer, regular readings from a devotional book or poetry, or a ritual of movement ground and center one again in God setting aside individual worries of the ego.

Intentional Presence: consider the divine within which is always present.  God is present, and we are to recognize it.   We are wired for worship in a space of sanctuary as part of God’s deep call to us to be in relationship in the oneness of God and neighbor.  Sometime we need simply to go to that space, and if our usual space is closed off, we still can open ourselves to divine presence.  

We have shifted for now to recorded worship which I hope shall provide a space to enter the quiet, to set aside any battles and anxieties and offer a portal and a clearer path to experiencing God’s presence.   To support this I send again an excellent summary of Edwards Hays’s guide to setting up a prayer shrine. **

* with thanks to Terry Hershey in “Creating Sanctuary for Ourselves and Others” 

** with thanks to Maryse

Creating a Prayer Shrine

The information here is adapted from Edward Hays’ book Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim, published 2008 by Forest of Peace, Notre Dame, IN.

Having regular spiritual practices can often provide strength and comfort to people.  One way to encourage such practices is to a have special place that makes prayer easier.  We attend church services partly for this reason, but there are ways to create such spaces at home.

A Prayer Shrine need not be a large or fancy area.  Chances are good that you can create such a space using a corner of a room.  

You may wish to include various items in your Prayer Shrine, such as a cross, one or more small candles, pictures that represent your spiritual beliefs, and a single piece of furniture such as a chair or prayer rug.  Or you may choose to create a space that has no visual imagery at all, if you find visuals distracting.  

These items can be placed on a table, shelf, or even a windowsill.  Your preference, as well as experimentation, will determine what your Prayer Shrine looks like.

Edward Hays suggests occasionally changing the objects in your Prayer Shrine, either seasonally, or in commemoration of special days, or to reflect changes in your life.  These changes need not be large or permanent – add an extra candle for Easter, a nativity picture for Christmas, flowers for spring or to remember the passing of a family member, etc.  

Sacred Images

Traditional images, such as the Cross, pictures of saints, or stained-glass windows, can certainly be placed in your Prayer Shrine.  You may wish to incorporate natural items, like stones, flowers, or feathers.  Specific items or images can be added if you are praying for special intentions – for justice or the health of the Earth, for example.  If someone has specifically asked you to pray for them, jotting that prayer on a slip of paper and placing it in your Prayer Shrine can help.

Furniture

Choose a position that is comfortable for prayer.  Do you prefer to pray standing up?  Sitting in a chair or on the floor?  Kneeling?  This choice will help you decide what furniture to include in your prayer space.  

Clothing

Hays suggests wearing comfortable clothing, which will be less of a distraction.  You can use the same type of clothing each time you pray.  Incorporate a prayer shawl, a special piece of jewelry, or other item that facilitates your prayer.

Special objects

Your Shrine can include relics, such as a rosary or medal or prayer book passed on by a family member or friend.  Set up photos of family or friends, particularly if you are commemorating their passing or celebrating a special occasion.  Your Shrine can also house special stones, dirt, or other reminder of a place where you felt a special connection to the Divine.  Keep a small notebook with special intentions written in it.  

Traveling Shrine

If you travel, it’s possible to take a version of your Prayer Shrine with you.  Pack a candle, a cross, or another spiritual symbol to set out when you’ve reached your destination.  You can construct a folding Shrine using paper or other light-weight materials.  Create a stained-glass window from torn pieces of tissue paper glued into a window-shaped frame.  Pack your prayer shawl or special clothing item to take on your trip.

Conclusion

While many of the suggestions here are particular to Christianity, consider using items from other traditions as well.  Flags, prayer beads, fans, and incense are used in many spiritual traditions around the world.  If they, or other objects, have a spiritual meaning for you, they have a place in your Prayer Shrine.  Even books may be kept in or near your Shrine.

Experiment and see what works for you.  

Whoa – Surf’s Up

Riding the Wave of Paradigm Shift

Off the coast of Hawaii soul-sized waves form.  Whether one is a surfer or a steady swimmer or beachcomber, the only response is, “Whoa.”   

The meaning of “whoa” varies.  For the surfer, it is a whoa of excitement in anticipation of becoming one with the wave for potentially the ride of a lifetime.  For the steady swimmer is it s “whoa” tinged with fear, the wonder of the wave also yielding wonder of survival.   The beachcomber most likely seeks to watch from further inland.  

We are in a paradigm shift, a wave of transformation which points us all as humans and planet to new life.  The tricky, merciless, ongoing coronavirus means normal is changing, and there is no going back.  The rising voices telling the stories of racial injustice of centuries, whether colonial domination or slavery, mean we can no longer avoid or unhear the pain still inflicted each day.   Voices silenced by fear or outright killings finally refuse to stay quiet.  Hallelujah.

Right now I see the wave and long to surf.  Granted when my daughter tried to teach me to surf I spent more time off or under my surfboard than atop it, and I never achieved riding a wave through its course.  That said, I love watching “Endless Summer,” and “Morning of the Earth,” and feeling one with the water.  This is an exciting time!!  We are awakening to wisdom full of pain toward full life and joy.

Yet, I have also been the steady swimmer, striving to keep up the steady pace of offering a normalcy of worship and connections we knew of daily life.  Let me tell you it does not work.  Last Sunday we hit a wall, and recognized the great limitations to worship striving for normal.  Churches and others re-gathering as normal mean we see the highest ever one day increase of virus infections.  Coronavirus will not allow us to avoid the shift.   We are in the big wave and joining it seems the safer choice as well as the most joyful and freeing one. 

As our economy went into lockdown, and we rightly offered unemployment benefits, the inequities of our wage system shone forth.  When benefits set to cover the basics are better than the pay on offer, it is time to reconsider the pay and our tendency to do things on the cheap while seeking to consume more ourselves.

The shifts from the virus also have raised new questions about how and where we live. Young adults, especially those with children, no longer want to live in the larger cities. They discovered they can work from home, and home can be anywhere. 

Those held down literally by laws and customs and bias grounded in fear of white people no longer are willing to join in hiding each one’s full humanity.  Our usual tactics of denial or claiming white victimhood will not hold up now.  

We do not know where this is going, but it is up to us each one to choose how we will respond to the wave, to choose how to respond to the wonder and power rising up around us.  God is present; we cannot even try to be complacent.  

I invite us all to choose excitement and anticipation in the face of the enormous wave of change.  Even so, this is not an easy time though opportunities abound.

May we go forward eager to love, and to be open to one another, listening to the pain and welcoming change.   For some change is harder than for others, but there is no turning back. 

May we go forward with kindness and with gentle hearts, grounded in Jesus Christ whose service is perfect freedom and who reminds us the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Because these times are uncertain and call for the very best of ourselves in vulnerability, courage and strength, may we help one  another be brave.  

Surf’s up!!

A Juneteenth Resolve: Love Thy Neighbor

A Lien on our Hearts

“I learned I had to get a lien on his property,” a lawyer recounted about his first case.  He had won the case for his client, but the loser chose not to pay up.   In the face of his client’s complaint that he received no money after judgment went in his favor, the lawyer was stymied.  Then he learned to ask for a lien so that if the losing side did not pay his client, his client had the right to the equivalent amount in property, i.e. he could potentially sell the loser’s car to receive payment. 

Banks have liens on our cars or mortgages to be sure we pay up.  Sometimes the federal government does this until we pay our taxes.  It seems we white people of America may need a lien on ourselves, our property and expectations for our lives until we pay up for the judgment that slavery is no more.  

Lately I have been thinking about the legal document of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 which ended slavery in the United States officially but not in fact.  As Union troops moved South, more and more slaves were freed and some emancipated themselves but fleeing to Union Army camps.   The Proclamation was 157 and a half years ago, and it seems we are not living full emancipation.  For generations, we have not paid up or fulfilled the judgment against slavery.

Most certainly, we in America have not fulfilled the judgment of subsequent Constitutional amendments and laws which affirmed the equal citizenship and humanity of African-Americans.  In the initial decades following the Civil War African-Americans given a chance became well educated, entered a wide range of professions and held significant elective office.   The clear full humanity, intelligence, courage and more of former slaves and descendants shone forth.  Certainly many remained as sharecroppers, equivalent to slaves, but many others succeeded and lived the range of lives similar to white Americans.

And this freaked people out.  In the early twentieth century Jim Crow laws of segregation reared their ugly heads, and in the 1920’s, statues of Confederate “heroes” went up.  America not only did not fulfill its judgment but committed the crime anew.   The protests over the past century and more seek to put liens on our property and livelihoods.  In this light, taking to the streets, and even the looting seem appropriate and even small liens on us.  Did we wake up and realize we had to pay before the bus boycotts of the 50’s, the sit-ins, and the looting, large, peaceful protests and riots over the past 50 years plus?  NO.  We need a lien on our hearts. 

God has placed a lien on our hearts in commanding us to love our neighbors as ourselves, not as equivalent to ourselves, but as ourselves.   As we do to our neighbor, so we do to ourselves.   It is time to fulfill the judgment, to pay up, to right the balance and respect the dignity of every human being in action, mind and heart.  

With every blessing and a call to action, 

Mother Elizabeth

Why Juneteenth?

The Emancipation Proclamation took effect January 1, 1863.  Why are we celebrating June 19, 1865?   The South, in rebellion against the United States, certainly was not enforcing the end of slavery during the war.   Even after the Civil War ended in April 1865, it took awhile for Union troops to get the word of Emancipation out for all.  On June 19, 1865, Union troops arriving in Galveston, Texas proclaimed the end of slavery.

Juneteenth has been an official holiday in Texas certainly since the 1930s when the governor declared it a holiday.   If like me you were not fully aware of Juneteenth until more recent years, just know that like Cinco de Mayo, the holiday was not widely known in the Eastern/Northeastern U.S.  But now we know it!!  So celebrate away.

How to celebrate Juneteenth:

— Join in virtual events sponsored by the Binghamton Juneteenth Committee or ones in your local area.   See facebook.com/bingjuneteenth

— Watch Just Mercy which is streaming free this month; read the book.

— Join in discussions with others on Just Mercy, Juneteenth, family and other experiences

— Donate to Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, other like groups

— Support black-owned businesses

— Share your suggestions for ways to support racial justice, fulfilling the judgment for the rights and dignity of every human being

Creating Home Practices – Life Going Forward

Ascension Day

Prayer Shrine for Maundy Thursday

“Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven?” (Acts 1:11). Why indeed?  Today we recall Jesus’s Ascension forty days after the Resurrection.  Jesus has appeared to many disciples, interacted with them, and helped all see the full promise of new life.  Still, as reported in Matthew 28, “some doubted.”  New life revealed, the invitation to going forward to new life, hesitation and doubt shall remain part of our own spiritual lives while here on earth in this mortal coil.   

The promise of resurrection comes with a call to live fully now on this earth in our bodies with open hearts.  Why are you standing there looking toward heaven?  Come back to earth. Look around at other people and all creation.  May we be fully present here, to witness to the love of God, and Jesus will be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).   

Why are we standing here longing for a church sanctuary, looking toward a life that was?  While I expect Christ Church to return to the beautiful long prayed-in sanctuary and the natural beauty of our church lawn for mass, this is a time and space for each of us to deepen practices at home.  For the church building is not is our spiritual life.  

Consider the Hebrew people who had to seek a way forward once the Romans fully destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in the first century CE.  Consider early Christians. Consider the invitation and importance of our faith each and every day.  

During the season of staying home and gathering anew in various stages, our home resources team offers way to connect with God and to explore our faith more deeply.  

This week, with thanks to Edward Hays and the friend who discovered him, here is a guide to creating a home prayer shrine, a space dedicated to prayer and pondering which can help one intentionally give attention to God.  

This week I invite us to begin to explore questions of faith and start to learn ways to talk about spiritual aspect of our lives.  Thanks to a couple of friends medium-aged and much younger, I offer questions to ponder and respond to.   A list of faith questions is attached.  I invite each of us to ponder these, to add to the list, to respond.  

This week I begin with: What rituals do you perform at home to maintain your relationship with your faith?

My home ritual includes praying Morning Prayer each day.  We are blessed to offer Morning Prayer on Facebook live at 8 a.m. (and you can watch later Christ Church, Episcopal Church).  I have longed to have more than dogs and a delightful cat join me, and now I can.  Some days I am more eager than others to join in but I always am in a better frame of mind and heart to start the day after this prayer.  My personal prayer space or shrine at home had deteriorated to a spot on the couch.  Inspired by Hays, I am creating a prayer shrine in the corner of my “broadcast” space.   We pray before meals, and now (thanks to a friend) have a new prayer – see below.  My husband and I have started discussing faith questions.   Tell us all about your home rituals.  

Blessing of the Stew Pot

Blessed be the Creator
and all creative hands
which plant and harvest
pack and haul and hand
over sustenance –
Blessed be carrot and cow
potato and mushroom,
tomato and bean,
parsley and peas,
onion and thyme,
garlic and bay leaf,
pepper and water, 
marjoram and oil,
and blessed be fire – 
and blessed be the enjoyment
of nose and eye,
and blessed be color – 
and blessed be the Creator
for the miracle of red potato,
for the miracle of green bean,
for the miracle of fawn mushrooms,
and blessed be God
for the miracle of earth:
ancestors, grass, bird,
deer and all gone,
wild creatures
whose bodies become
carrots, peas, and wild
flowers, who
give sustenance
to human hands, whose
agile dance of music
nourishes the ear
and soul of the dog
resting under the stove
and the woman working over
the stove and the geese
out the open window
strolling in the backyard.
And blessed be God for all, all, all.


~Alla Renee Bozarth

Creating a Prayer Shrine

The information here is adapted from Edward Hays’ book Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim, published 2008 by Forest of Peace, Notre Dame, IN.

Having regular spiritual practices can often provide strength and comfort to people.  One way to encourage such practices is to a have special place that makes prayer easier.  We attend church services partly for this reason, but there are ways to create such spaces at home.

A Prayer Shrine need not be a large or fancy area.  Chances are good that you can create such a space using a corner of a room.  

You may wish to include various items in your Prayer Shrine, such as a cross, one or more small candles, pictures that represent your spiritual beliefs, and a single piece of furniture such as a chair or prayer rug.  Or you may choose to create a space that has no visual imagery at all, if you find visuals distracting.  

These items can be placed on a table, shelf, or even a windowsill.  Your preference, as well as experimentation, will determine what your Prayer Shrine looks like.

Edward Hays suggests occasionally changing the objects in your Prayer Shrine, either seasonally, or in commemoration of special days, or to reflect changes in your life.  These changes need not be large or permanent – add an extra candle for Easter, a nativity picture for Christmas, flowers for spring or to remember the passing of a family member, etc.  

Sacred Images

Traditional images, such as the Cross, pictures of saints, or stained-glass windows, can certainly be placed in your Prayer Shrine.  You may wish to incorporate natural items, like stones, flowers, or feathers.  Specific items or images can be added if you are praying for special intentions – for justice or the health of the Earth, for example.  If someone has specifically asked you to pray for them, jotting that prayer on a slip of paper and placing it in your Prayer Shrine can help.

Furniture

Choose a position that is comfortable for prayer.  Do you prefer to pray standing up?  Sitting in a chair or on the floor?  Kneeling?  This choice will help you decide what furniture to include in your prayer space.  

Clothing

Hays suggests wearing comfortable clothing, which will be less of a distraction.  You can use the same type of clothing each time you pray.  Incorporate a prayer shawl, a special piece of jewelry, or other item that facilitates your prayer.

Special objects

Your Shrine can include relics, such as a rosary or medal or prayer book passed on by a family member or friend.  Set up photos of family or friends, particularly if you are commemorating their passing or celebrating a special occasion.  Your Shrine can also house special stones, dirt, or other reminder of a place where you felt a special connection to the Divine.  Keep a small notebook with special intentions written in it.  

Traveling Shrine

If you travel, it’s possible to take a version of your Prayer Shrine with you.  Pack a candle, a cross, or another spiritual symbol to set out when you’ve reached your destination.  You can construct a folding Shrine using paper or other light-weight materials.  Create a stained-glass window from torn pieces of tissue paper glued into a window-shaped frame.  Pack your prayer shawl or special clothing item to take on your trip.

Conclusion

While many of the suggestions here are particular to Christianity, consider using items from other traditions as well.  Flags, prayer beads, fans, and incense are used in many spiritual traditions around the world.  If they, or other objects, have a spiritual meaning for you, they have a place in your Prayer Shrine.  Even books may be kept in or near your Shrine.

Experiment and see what works for you.   And if you like take a look at the entire book by Hays (see above). It’s worth it.

Discussions of Faith 

Do you ever feel like Jesus is not there for you?

Do you ever pray for stuff? If so Why? Do you feel like if he knows all why should you have to ask for things? 

What are your prayers like (formal prayers/ conversations)?

How do you listen for Jesus’ voice and how do you know its Jesus speaking?

How do you know it’s Jesus’ voice?

Do you ever question him?

Do you ask why good/ bad things happen to people you see as good or bad?

What do you do when it’s hard to follow him?

Why are you a follower of this faith?

What rituals do you perform at home to maintain your relationship with your faith?

How would you describe your relationship to God? (parent/child, friend, teacher)

With Gratitude and generosity of spirit

God’s Abundance

God is the source of all life, and all creation is held in God’s grace and love.   From this space of love we are invited to offer up our lives and pour out ourselves for God and others as Jesus has done. Seeing and following the Risen Christ, we come to find the peace and true joy in living beyond our small selves which so easily can become bogged down in fear, worry, and self-focus.   We are Easter people called to awe and to love beyond all measure.

As Easter people all year long, our spiritual lives can deepen through stewardship of the gifts of our lives and possessions and in care for the earth.   When we live in fear and a sense of scarcity, it can be so difficult to know the peace God desires for us.   When we remember God’s abundance, hold our possessions lightly and see our oneness in Christ, we can discover perfect freedom.

Gratitude and generosity in spirit are practices to cultivate. I offer a few simple practices to begin to open our hearts and lives to stewardship and its spiritual gifts. 

— We try in this and all times greeting the new day with the words: Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Starting out with this phrase puts an open and thankful perspective on the day ahead whatever it brings.  

— We join with Dolly from “Hello Dolly” and recall that money is like manure: it doesn’t do any good unless one spreads it around.  That may sound funny in the discussion of spirituality, but it can truly help us see what we have is meant to be out and around doing good. 

— We remember the sacredness of creation and take time to consider the much cleaner air and return of animals to once abandoned places such as Venetian canals.  While walking about or observing from our window, we can consider how our actions affect plants, animals and the air around us. 

There is no season for stewardship or spirituality.  It is the stuff of our very lives each day and each year and is the path of Life.  God shows us the paths of life (Psalm 16) and in the Risen Christ we have a living hope.  Knowing this we pour out ourselves, respect the holiness of all creation and increase our spiritual joy through conscious stewardship of God’s gifts to us.

Each One’s Loveliness


Each one of us is made to manifest a Name of God in our own particular individual way.   This is the task of our living and dying in the physical form we are given for Earth, our responsibility and gift for the now and not yet of eternity.

Compassion, strength, love, mercy and truth, each one a Name of God, becomes known to Creation and Godself when reflected in one of us.  Our work is to clean the mirror of our lives that God may be seen by all the World.  The light radiating from our lives in God and God in us may show the path clearly.*

As we are present in the world turned upside down, the best response is remembering we reflect Godself, remembering each one’s loveliness.  As manifestations of God we are lovely and blessed.  We pour ourselves out for the world and one another so that our beauty within yields hope, charity (love and care), and trust, releasing the force of Life to all around.  

Each one of us is made to manifest a Name of God in our own particular individual way.   This is the task of our living and dying in the physical form we are given for Earth, our responsibility and gift for the now and not yet of eternity.

Compassion, strength, love, mercy and truth, each one a Name of God, becomes known to Creation and Godself when reflected in one of us.  Our work is to clean the mirror of our lives that God may be seen by all the World.  The light radiating from our lives in God and God in us may show the path clearly.*

As we are present in the world turned upside down, the best response is remembering we reflect Godself, remembering each one’s loveliness.  As manifestations of God we are lovely and blessed.  We pour ourselves out for the world and one another so that our beauty within yields hope, charity (love and care), and trust, releasing the force of Life to all around.  

Each one of us is made to manifest a Name of God in our own particular individual way.   This is the task of our living and dying in the physical form we are given for Earth, our responsibility and gift for the now and not yet of eternity.

Compassion, strength, love, mercy and truth, each one a Name of God, becomes known to Creation and Godself when reflected in one of us.  Our work is to clean the mirror of our lives that God may be seen by all the World.  The light radiating from our lives in God may show the path to us and others more clearly.*

As we are present in the world turned upside down, the best response is remembering we reflect Godself, remembering each one’s loveliness.  As manifestations of God we are lovely and blessed.  We pour ourselves out for the world and one another so that our beauty within yields hope, charity (love and care), and trust, releasing the force of Life to all around.  

Today is Poetry Day in Ireland.   What better way to recall and bless the loveliness of each creature than with a poem by Galway Kinnell, “St. Francis and the Sow”. 

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;   
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch   
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow   
began remembering all down her thick length,  
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,   
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine   
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering   
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow

*with thanks to Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, p. 51

Reflections on Emmaus

Be Known to Us in the Breaking of the Bread

When selecting hymns with our music team for this coming Sunday’s service, it struck me how much I miss breaking the bread with all of you and offering the Body of Christ to the Body of Christ.  This Sunday we read of the disciples who met Jesus on the Road to Emmaus and recognized the Risen Christ in the breaking of the bread.  

Even absent the breaking and sharing of the bread, we remain the Body of Christ; that does not change.  Each Sunday we ask Jesus to come spiritually into our hearts with the following prayer:

We ask you to come spiritually into our hearts. We unite ourselves with you, and embrace you with all the love of our souls. Let nothing ever separate you from us. May we live in you, and may you live in us, both in this life and in the life to come. Amen.

This week our prayer is more assuredly a prayer from the entire community that Jesus enter our hearts, live in us and we in Christ.   In the Episcopal Church, the sacrament of Holy Eucharist is a communal rite, not a private one.  It begins in gathering as community, continues in the reading of scripture, the music and the homily and proceeds to the gathering around the table and the dismissal out into the world.   

Especially in Zoom worship services, we can look at one another, hear one another and recall we are gathered in community.   For those watching later, please know we hold you in our hearts as community and may you hold us in yours.  For all, may we know the bonds of Christ’s love connect us even when we are physically apart.  

It is hard without the literal gathering around the table and sharing in the bread and the cup, but wisdom and love for one another precludes this now.  As we pray this Sunday, may we know we are gathered around Christ through the entire service which is the full Sacrament, and we are One in Christ. 

It’s Not Yet Summer – only the beginning of Spring

remember, it isn’t summer yet, only the beginning of spring;

warmth hasn’t taken hold yet, and the cold’s returning— “Polder” Seamus Heaney

We are in the world of resurrection as Easter people.  Alleluia!!  There are glimmers of hope in dealing with COVID-19; the sun is out; Lent is over; let us rejoice.  As we said in Psalm 118: This is the day the Lord has made; we shall rejoice and be glad in it.  

And, yet.   Our period of isolation remains, and, as poet Seamus Heaney writes: remember, it isn’t summer yet, only the beginning of spring;

warmth hasn’t taken hold yet, and the cold’s returning—

Today’s snow reminds us it definitely is not summer yet.

Seamus Heaney was born April 13, 1939, and I find myself returning to his poem, “Polder” as I seek out a new post-Holy Week, ongoing distancing routine.   Polder is Dutch for the reclaimed land from the sea, the land one can use thanks to an excellent system of dikes.  What can we reclaim now and what must we recognize is gone forever in this transformed world?

In creating a new routine, I know it may last awhile or a short time.  Self-distancing remains our best defense against the virus with its illness and death.  And the choice is hard because self-distancing brings economic hardship and points out the great chasm between those who can self-distance in relative comfort and those for whom it is a disaster whether due to domestic violence, lack of food and other supplies, or something else.  

This virus is not done with us and will not be done with us for awhile.  Perhaps, and we hope, we shall get some respite this summer before the anticipated second wave in the fall.   Whatever happens, certainty and our previous normal routines shall not return as Heaney concludes in his last stanza.  

Waiting til COVID is over to engage with one another and to build polders to reclaim the land of friendship denies an opening to life and new life.  May we now step out in courage and eagerness for life in the midst of uncertainty.  We are Easter people: let us seek life even as the old passes away.

With blessings for Eastertide

Mother Elizabeth

Polder by Seamus Heaney

Today the sun was shining

so my neighbor washed her nightdresses in the river—

she comes home with everything folded in a basket,

beaming, as though her life had just been

lengthened a decade. Cleanliness makes her happy—

it says you can begin again,

the old mistakes needn’t hold you back.

A good neighbor—we leave each other

To our privacies.  Just now

She’s singing to herself, pinning the damp wash to the line.

Little by little, days like this

will seem normal. But winter was hard:

the nights coming early, the dawns dark

with a gray, persistent rain—months of that,

and then the snow, like silence coming from the sky,

obliterating the trees and gardens.

Today, all that’s past us.

The birds are back, chattering over seeds.

All the snow’s melted; the fruit trees are covered with downy new growth.

A few couples even walk in the meadow, promising whatever they promise

We stand in the sun and the sun heals us.

It doesn’t rush away. It hangs above us, unmoving,

like an actor pleased with his welcome.

My neighbor’s quiet a moment,

Staring at the mountain, listening to the birds.

So many garments, where did they come from?

And my neighbor’s still out there,

fixing them to the line, as though the basket would never be empty—

It’s still full, nothing is finished,

though the sun’s beginning to move lower in the sky;

remember, it isn’t summer yet, only the beginning of spring;

warmth hasn’t taken hold yet, and the cold’s returning—

She feels it, as though the last bit of linen had frozen in her hands.

She looks at her hands—how old they are. It’s not the beginning, it’s the end.

And the adults, they’re all dead now.

Only the children are left, alone, growing old.