Wednesday, May 8, 2013

People's Prayers for Sunday, the Seventh Week of Easter

Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year C)

Prayers of the People

O Holy One, we pray for your Church universal;
that its members may be strengthened to carry out your mission in the world.

Give the leaders of all nations wisdom, patience, and wide hearts;
that peace and justice may reign, and all peoples flourish.

Grant safety, stability, and sufficiency to every home, neighborhood, region, and country, especially in Syria, Israel, Palestine, and Nigeria;
that every person may seek after you and find you.

We pray that your good creation may be honored and conserved;
that our children's children may enjoy the riches of nature's blessings.

We pray for all in distress, and particularly for the victims of sexual violence, the incarcerated, the abducted, the hungry, and those without access to adequate health care;
that all needs may be met through the power of your Holy Spirit and the generosity and courage of your people.

Grant the departed rest eternal;
let your never ending peace be with them, now and always.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bjorn Marcussen

I'm looking forward to working with Bjorn Marcussen, the priest-in-charge of the Misa congregation at St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego.  Here's an article he wrote a while back.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


“To ask whether God exists is really to ask about what the relations are that you can recognize yourself as involved in—because God is irreducibly a living complex of relation, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Rowan Williams, “Foreword,” in John Zizioulas, Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (New York: T&T Clark, 2006), xi.

In other words, to Whom do we relate and how?  Does it matter if we don't know, as long as we know (and can feel) that we are loved finally and wholly?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Glory Goes Forth

Here's Laurel's reflection for the Christian Century blog's lectionary page, Blogging Toward Sunday, on the Last Sunday of Epiphany:

Exodus 34:29–35; Luke 9:28–43

For this Transfiguration Sunday, the preacher faces at least two temptations.
The first is to move too quickly to the pastoral and personal dimensions of these texts, to consider how we, too, are transfigured by God’s love, glory and grace. And the epistle lesson does bring this theme up. But Exodus and Luke invite us to explore the nature of God’s glory itself, and it’s rewarding to focus first on these rich texts.
When Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai, he doesn’t just have a frighteningly shiny face. He also carries the two tablets of the covenant, a second-chance way for his people to live gracefully with God. In the wake of an intimate dialogue with the almighty, Moses comes bearing God’s fearsome radiance—and a gift.
The Hebrew word that we translate as “shining” implies beams of light coming forth from Moses’s face. Jerome translated it as “horn,” leading Michelangelo and others to depict Moses with devil-like protrusions. This is an unfortunate distortion in more than one way, for it implies a glory that extends—but only slightly.
The Israelites beholding Moses know otherwise, for they are keenly affected by his transformation. This is no mere glow that surrounds only him. God’s glory moves outward into the world.
Among the synoptic writers, Luke alone depicts a frank and intimate conversation among Jesus, Moses and Elijah that is clearly about Jesus’ own “exodus” or “departure.” What do they mean? Are they talking only about his journey toward Jerusalem—with its horrifying and hallowed end—or also about the resurrection and ascension?
Scholars debate the details, but what’s clear is that Jesus is discussing how next he will move in the world. It’s often said that contemplation and action cannot be separated. Here Jesus focuses on action even in the midst of intense, transfiguring communion with the divine.
Then Jesus comes down from the mountaintop rather quickly—“on the next day.” Luke makes very clear that the three sleepy-eyed disciples are dumbfounded by what they have seen and heard.
And then come the parenthetical verses the lectionary lists for Luke (9:37–43). Neglecting or omitting this passage is the preacher’s second temptation: between the shining of Moses and the dazzling of Jesus, it’s easy to decide that there’s already enough to talk about.
But Luke concludes these additional verses—in which Jesus expresses unbecoming frustration and then heals a boy whom the disciples apparently could not—with a big statement. Back on the mountain, the three disciples were amazed. Now at the healing, “all were astounded at the greatness of God.” God’s glory goes forth into the world.
In her memoir Breathing Space—about ministry at a church named after the transfiguration—Heidi Neumark writes this:
Living high up in the rarefied air isn’t the point of transfiguration ... [It was] never meant as a private experience of spirituality removed from the public square. It was a vision to carry us down, a glimpse of unimagined possibility at ground level.
At this hinge between Epiphany and Lent, Moses and Jesus ask us to reflect on the nature of the dazzling divine glory that illuminates them. In Epiphany, we contemplate the ways that Jesus manifests God’s light to the ends of an earth blanketed in darkness. This week’s stories might be seen as a culmination of this theme of God made manifest, of holy light on the move.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What I Learned from Watching The Hobbit

(This piece was first published on the Christian Century blog January 18, 2013).
As the band of weary travelers leapt, ran, and tumbled away in dazzling fashion from a caveful of goblins inThe Hobbit, I was convicted. I’m a late Gen-Xer, and I’ve seen plenty of impressive cinematic special effects in his life, from Forrest Gump to Independence Day to The Matrix. But The Hobbit’s multilayered motion of monster-laden ladders crisscrossing over a dark abyss, its wildly imaginative fight scenes and the depth lent by my 3D glasses convinced me that we humans have crossed a significant line: we now have the creative capacity to fashion new worlds.

I was certainly entertained. And it cost a lot to entertain me. Warner Brothers budgeted $530 million to produce the new trilogy. New Zealand granted the studio $25 million in tax rebates and changed the nation’s labor laws to secure the magnificent setting. And the first film has already raked in more than $800 million across the globe.
We humans love this kind of immersive entertainment. We love to enter into Middle-earth, the center of the earth or the far reaches of the galaxy. Why? And what do we forget back home while our imaginations take us elsewhere? Our too-long unemployed neighbors? Our shot-through set of gun regulations? Our swiftly heating planet?
I’ve often assumed that humanity just can’t solve problems like poverty, gun violence and climate change. It seems reasonable to conclude that we just don’t have the money, intelligence or creativity. Watching that goblin chase scene troubled this assumption. Humans made The Hobbit! Maybe we just lack the will to apply our considerable resources and ingenuity to toward social problems instead of entertainment.
I’m no pop-culture-hater. My partner and I recently switched our allegiance from Glee to Downtown Abbey, and our two-year old is already falling in love with Elmo. There’s a place for a good thriller or tear jerker when we need a break.
But what does it mean when we use our wildly capable imaginations to entertain (or protect!) ourselves rather than take care of those in need?
It means our politics suffers. Not the name-calling and sound-byte jousting we see on the news, which is its own form of entertainment. I mean the politics that forms the moral backbone of our society: our will to work together to ensure that all lives thrive. Churches have a role to play here. As Christians we are called to a clear-eyed view of the world and its daily suffering so that we may, with God’s help, serve the least and lost among us.
We need church to be a place of respite from our media-saturated lives, a place to recenter and reground ourselves in the astonishing Christian story, to relish its implications and allow them to move us to action. Through our worship we develop the eyes to see our entertainment for what it often is: distraction from the work we have been given to do. For where our stories take us, there our hearts will be also.
Of course, as creatures with limits we need our rest as well. But as we settle in to enjoy the next big blockbuster, may our special effects-produced awe be cause for not only fascination but inspiration. If we humans can craft a Gollum, we can figure out how to feed the world’s hungry, teach our young and care for the sick, too.