Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lent 4: Heaven and earth rejoice

Lectionary: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-2; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Today, the 4th Sunday in Lent, is called Laetare Sunday. "Laetare" means "Rejoice" and on this day we remember that our Lenten work is meant to lead us to joy. The liturgical color is rose (pink).

This Sunday is also known as "Mothering Sunday.” In the English tradition, on this day people return to worship at the church where they were baptized. It’s is a kind of check in on our spiritual journey which begins at baptism; but where we are at any point in our life, is up to our responsiveness to God’s leading; and it may or may not have any resemblance to the plans we or our families might have made. As the joke goes: If you want to make God augh, tell Her your plans.

Just when we think we have it all figured out, when we think we know who we are, where we’re going, and how to get there… God moves in a way we didn’t see coming and we have to rethink, redirect, and repent, that is, turn around and go another way – the way God is showing us – just as the Israelites did as they wandered in the desert. The traditions that guided who they were and how they lived had to be suspended in the circumstance their exile.

They had to let go of what they knew and had planned, and walk on in faith toward the future God had prepared for them. As a people traditionally tied to the land, this wandering people had no laws to govern their lives as wanderers. They had to figure it out as they went along.

At times it was hard for them to tell if they were actually heading somewhere or if they were just wandering around lost. The generation who began the journey into exile was now dead and gone and a new generation was arriving at their God-given destination: the Promised Land. Honoring their forebears, they began re-instituting the traditions that proclaimed their identity and belief; but they did this as a new generation in a new place, with a new understanding.

St. David’s has been on this kind of journey. In our history is a de-consecration and re-consecration and today we are in a transition as a new generation being guided into a new understanding of ourselves.

The Israelites’ time in the desert had revealed only part of the big picture of the will of God for them. The rest of the story (as Paul Harvey would say) is found in the words of Jesus in today’s gospel from Luke.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is the third of three parables Jesus uses to teach about reconciliation. In this gospel, Rabbi Jesus tells a wild story, filled with things that would make his listeners cringe. For example, a son asking his father for his share of the inheritance would be akin to a death wish; the image of a Jewish man, even a desperate one, wishing he could eat the slop of swine would be horror upon horror for a kosher people; and no self-respecting, elder Jewish man would ever run to greet his son. (Source)

In addition, I think there are a few reactions Jesus counted on from his listeners (then and now). For example, it was the son’s own choice that led him to his desperate situation. He was selfish, disrespectful, and disobedient. He made his bed…(as they say). He has only himself to blame.

Finally, what about the older brother? He’s been good and faithful all along, and hasn’t asked for reward. But now his father kills the fatted calf for his low-life brother, and he’s understandably upset.

Looking at this parable from a “human point of view” these reactions make sense. But we who are followers of Christ must no longer look at things that way. We are a new generation, in a new place, with a new understanding.

Like the father in this parable, God does not count our trespasses against us. The world doesn’t love hearing about that kind of extravagance of mercy and love.

We’re good with it, of course, when it’s our own sin that needs forgiving, but we’re often less happy about it when it’s someone else’s sin. Then we, like the older brother in the parable, feel justified in our resentment. Some of us even feel justified in being violent toward the sinners we particularly hate.

I once heard Brother Curtis Almquist from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Anglican monastery in MA, say: “If you don’t have mercy for someone, you don’t know enough about them.”

God does know – and God never fails to seek the lost and bring them home with a joyous welcome. And God has called and prepared us to be partners in this work.

That’s why, as we consider this parable of the Prodigal Son, it helps to remember that we don’t know what led the lost brother to ask for his inheritance. We don’t know how he came to disrespect himself so much that he would live a life of such self-destruction. We don’t know how he came to believe that he wasn’t worthy.

Everyone has a story that plays out within the silence of their hearts. God knows our stories, our interior battles; and has mercy on us. The invitation during Lent is to return and claim it, just as the Prodigal son did when he ‘came to himself’ and returned home where he once knew love.

Upon seeing his father, the Prodigal son utters the words of repentance: “…I made a mistake…” and in response - there is rejoicing!

Once we realize the unfathomable love of God for us, then we truly are a new people in a new place with a new understanding. As St. Paul says it: we are a new creation.

We begin to see with the eyes of God and we notice that everyone is beloved. We respond with the heart of God, which breaks over anyone’s suffering - no matter how it came about. We respond with the heart of God that rejoices whenever someone returns to themselves… and returns to love.

A final word about the older brother in the parable, who represents us: the church. Like the brother, we try to live faithfully, and we’re tempted to be judgmental about someone who seems to ‘get away with’ not “being-hāve” as my kids would say. (When I’d tell my children to behave they’d reply to me: ‘I am being-hāve!)

Did you hear the father’s response to the older brother? Hearing this as the voice of God, the reply was: Beloved one, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

Think about that for a minute – it’s amazing in its reality. What if we, the church, believed it when God says to us: My beloveds – you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours”?

There would be no building or budget concerns, no resource issues that would distract us from fulfilling our divine purpose. If we truly believed that, heaven and earth would rejoice! Laetare!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Lent 3-C, 2019: Choose to repent and live

Lectionary: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

We were created to be in perfect communion with God and with all God created, living in a harmony that resonates throughout eternity, a harmony Jesus called us to when he named as the greatest and root of all commandments, that we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves with all our hearts, minds, and strength.

In our relationship with God there is mutual vulnerability. Love is like that. Once you love, you suffer when the ones you love suffer. Once you love, you risk losing that love to death, and a piece of yourself with it when you do. God shares the same risk we do in this relationship of communion.

But the risk is totally worth it, as God demonstrated in the Incarnation of Jesus, the Christ, and in the story from Exodus today where God demonstrates that we do not suffer alone. God assures Moses that God notices our suffering, and promises redemption, relying on the fact of our relationship to motivate us to participate in making that happen.

The poetry of Psalm 63 beautifully depicts the human experience of this harmonious relationship: “you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you… or your loving-kindness is better than life itself… so I will bless you as long as I love… My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.

God is steadfastly faithful to this harmonious relationship with us. We, in our humanness, often fall short. We either underestimate the ineffable love of God for us, or we underestimate ourselves and what God’s love can do in and through us. This is sin.

In his book, The Shaking of the Foundations, theologian Paul Tillich describes sin as a three-fold separation: from God, from each other, and from ourselves. I would add to Tillich’s description: separation from Creation.

This separation distorts all of our relationships. It is only by God’s grace and our willingness to repent that our relationships are restored and we are returned to righteousness.

Sin is about our being, not our doing. The behaviors we see, what most people point to when they talk about sin, are but visible outcomes of this disruption, not the disruption itself. So when we are called to repent, as we are during the season of Lent, we are called to notice these visible outcomes because they point us to the locus of the disruption.

Once we notice it, we can choose to address it; inviting God to redeem it by redeeming us. That is repentance.

Jesus speaks plainly to us in the gospel of Luke on the issue of repentance: “I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish” and he goes on to explain what he means in the parable of the fig tree, which was a popular near-Eastern story in those days. In this parable, the lord of the vineyard sees a fig tree that isn’t producing fruit, judges it as useless, and cuts it down.

In Jesus’ re-telling of this story, however, the owner of the garden shows mercy, giving the tree one more chance and all it needs to flourish. In order to live the tree and the tree’s community (the gardener) must change how they’re living together… which is the point in this parable: repent, change how you and your community are living together, or you will die… not because God will punish you, but because the way you are living is not life-giving… it leads to death.

Our world has become a place where harmonious relationship is in short supply. The way we are living together is killing us –literally. And when I say us, I mean the global human family.

We have a long and regret-filled list of people for whom we pray: the 50 innocent Muslim people most recently killed while praying in their mosque in Christchurch, NZ. The young girl who survived the Parkland school shooting massacre only to die by suicide last week.

According to the World Bank, there are 1.3 billion people, nearly half of the world’s population, who live in extreme poverty, a majority of whom are under the age of 18. If current trends continue, they say, it is projected that by 2030, 9 out of 10 extreme poor will be in sub-Saharan Africa. (Source:

Fragile governments, racism, differences in beliefs and spiritual practices, inadequate access to healthcare, clean water, food, and education --these are the disruptions to harmonious relationship we face as a global community.

In addition, according to National Geographic: “It has become clear that humans have caused most of the past century's [global] warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, [melting glaciers], rising seas, and a range of other impacts. All of those changes are emerging as humans continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely on.” (Source)

The way we’re living together currently is killing us and creation and we must repent. We must identify where the disruptions are in our relationships, then repent of them. That means making a fundamental change in the way we understand God, our neighbors, ourselves, and creation, inviting God to restore us to the harmonious relationship God intends.

One of the small steps we are currently making in this regard is the community dinner-discussion we are hosting this evening called, Abraham’s Table: a family reunion. Gathering together to share what we have in common, we intentionally invite God to restore in us a harmonious relationship with each other.

When we sin (and we will sin throughout our lives) we are to repent, to change our very being, not just what we’re doing, trusting that God loves us and desires to restore us to righteousness.

When we choose to repent, we may find ourselves “struck by grace,” as Tillich calls it, the way Saul – who became Paul - was struck on the road to Damascus, knowing deeply the truth that God loves us with an incomprehensible love, even though we may feel thoroughly unworthy of that love.

Repentance opens the way for all of our relationships to be changed, empowered by the grace of God’s acceptance. Trusting in the steadfast love of God who is always faithful and ready to redeem, we can choose to repent. We can choose to live. Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Lent 1: Temptation from belovedness

Lectionary: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; salm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13;Luke 4:1-13

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En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

If I could reduce the purpose and practice of Lent into a single idea, I would use this quote from a poem by St. Theresa of Avila:“[God] desired me, so I came close.” Here’s the fullness of that poem:

A thousand souls hear [God’s] call every second,
but most every one then looks into their life’s mirror and
says, “I am not worthy to leave this

When I first heard his courting song, I too
looked at all I had done in my life
and said,

“How can I gaze into his omnipresent eyes?”
I spoke those words with all my heart,

but then He sang again, a song even sweeter,
and when I tried to shame myself once more from His presence
God showed me His compassion and spoke a divine truth,

“I made you, dear, and all I made is perfect.
Please come close, for I

It’s very sad to me that the most common notion about Lent is that it is a dark and difficult season, to be approached with dread, guilt, and sometimes even self-loathing; that we have to “tame” our desires by giving something up, then use all the self-control we can muster to keep our Lenten promises.

The irony is that exerting our self-will is exactly what we are called NOT to do during Lent. Lent isn’t meant to be a time of practicing self-control. It’s meant to be a time of relinquishing it.

During Lent, we practice discipline and repentance. It’s a mistake to confuse discipline with self-control and penitence with wallowing. In fact, it’s sin: the sin of hubris – the very thing that got Adam and Eve in trouble in the garden.

Our discipline and repentance are the means by which we re-enter the womb of God where we can rest, be restored, renewed, and prepared. In his book, “Praying Shapes Believing,” theologian Lee Mitchell reminds us that: “Joy, love, and renewal are as much Lenten themes as are penitence, fasting, and self-denial; and we need to remember that it is within the context of preparation for our participation in the Feast of feasts that [our] Lenten penitence is expressed.” (29).

Jesus said: “Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28-30)… and “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15:11) St. Theresa of Avila said, “[God] desired me so I came close.”

Temptation is anything which leads us into sin – and sin is that which causes us to forget who we are, whose we are, and why we’re here.

The gospel writer tells us that Jesus, the Incarnate One, the manifest reality of the unity of humanity and divinity, was tempted to separate himself into a dichotomy of body and spirit; to focus on his humanity (he was famished) and forget about his divinity.

Next, though he knew his divine purpose, Jesus was tempted to walk away from God’s plan for his life and live out a different plan – one in which he would get glory and avoid pain and humiliation.

Finally, Jesus was tempted to throw his life away, daring God to prove that he mattered.

We share these temptations with Jesus. The first temptation, forgetting the divinity that dwells in us, goes to our very identity. We are body and spirit. The actual coexistence of humanity and divinity was made manifest first in Jesus. Now each of us is a living testimony to that co-existence.

The second temptation, putting ourselves and our wills ahead of God’s will for us, goes to how, or even whether, we will live into our purpose. If Jesus’ life is an example,living into our purpose won’t be all blessing and honor, but it will be redemptive – for us and for the world.

When we’re honest, it seems ridiculous that we think we can devise a plan for happiness and fulfillment by chasing after the perfect life partner, the perfect job, the perfect body, or the perfect car, home, or salary. That’s how the world tempts us away from our divine purpose, and about the only thing being fulfilled is the corporate bottom line.

The third temptation, testing God to prove we matter, goes to our core understanding of our relationship to the Divine, one another, and ourselves as beloved. Whatever our earthly experiences have been, our faith assures us that all whom God created are beloved of God. We don’t need to prove that – or prove it again - to anyone, not even ourselves. Our identity and purpose are fulfilled when we live into the divine belovedness that belongs to all.

Identity, purpose, relationship. Temptations are what lure us away from true knowledge and experience of these, which is why discovering what our temptations are and repenting of them is one of our goals during Lent.

For example, some of us eat, smoke, or drink to comfort ourselves. Repentance might involve attention to the stewardship of our physical bodies - noticing the physical signal that starts the process of filling an emptiness within us, then acknowledging the justifications as they speak in our thoughts (I can have this one cookie, or I deserve this drink) and responding differently (which is to say repenting), saying “no” to the temptation; saying “no” to the self. Living in the emptiness until it is redeemed.

Others among us work too much in order to win approval or to feel like we matter. Repentance here might involve attention to the stewardship of our time and relationships - committing to a schedule that balances time devoted to work, family, leisure, and includes time devoted to corporate and private worship of God. Lent is a good time to commit to regular attendance at Sunday worship or Evening Prayer, remembering that we live out our purpose in community as the body of Christ in the world.

Some of us habitually deny ourselves anything good out of a sense of unworthiness or, at the other end of the spectrum, deny ourselves nothing from a sense of privilege. Repentance here might involve stewardship of our spiritual lives - fasting from criticism of self or others or keeping a prayer journal which acknowledges the daily gifts and blessings God is giving.

The disciplines we practice are meant to help us enter humbly into the presence of God, where we surrender ourselves to God’s unfathomable love and unfailing care for us. The emptiness in us that continually seeks satisfaction comes from our sense of separation from that love. I think we know this deep down.

God desires communion with us. Jesus came to make that happen – once for all. Remembering that helps quiet those voices of temptation that play like a tape-recording in our heads, saying: ‘you’re not worthy, you’re not beautiful, you’re not gifted, you’re not loved.’

We are. We’re also unfinished… continually growing and maturing in body and in spirit.

Our brokenness is not something to be ashamed of or to avoid. It is as much a gift as any talent we possess because it is the place in us where God dwells most assuredly, most compassionately.

Our brokenness is the cross we bear; the place where we witness the redeeming love of God still at work in the world. When others see spiritual growth and maturation happening in our brokenness, they are empowered to stop being ashamed of their brokenness, pick up their own cross, and walk into redemption.

God desires us to come close and we hunger for that too. Bound together in the eternal love of God in Christ we discover love that protects, satisfies, and delivers us.

This is our Lenten journey. God bless us as we begin it. Amen.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday, 2019: Divinely massaged soul-soil

Lectionary: Joel 2:1-2,12-17; Psalm 103:8-14; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

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En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

I’m want to share a story with you about my dear departed dog, Ollie. Ollie died a few years ago at the young age of eight (8), after having caught and eaten a mouse that had eaten rat poison.

Ollie was a mixed breed - dachshund and Jack Russell terrier, and it wasn’t a very good mix. I loved Ollie, but he must have gotten the DNA bearing the most difficult qualities of each of those breeds, and it made him… challenging.

Ollie was not a very good dog and he was doxie enough to make training him difficult. So, Ollie found himself in trouble a lot. When Ollie got in trouble he was put in time out, which meant he had to go to his crate until he could relax. Ollie knew when he’d done a bad thing, so he rarely disobeyed when he heard the command: “Ollie, go to time out.”

Over time, when he’d done a bad thing, Ollie just went ahead and put himself in time out. He knew the drill. When we’d come home from being out, sometimes Ollie was already marching himself to time out and we’d immediately look around to see what he’d done.

Eventually, Ollie would put himself in time out and walk right out again. He wasn’t really repentant and knew we’d forgive him anyway, so he didn’t bother spending any real time in time out. He just got the procedure over with.

I tell you this story because that’s how so many people I talk to treat Lent. But that isn’t what Lent is about. Lent isn’t just going through the motions of a perfunctory time-out without really repenting.

So what is Lent about? Well, let me start by saying what I always say: we don’t do Lent, God does it in us.

When we practice Lent we are responding to God’s invitation to us with an invitation of our own. We are inviting God to bring about that most feared, oft-avoided reality: change. We practice Lent so that we can be changed by God.

The season of Lent is a short, finite bit of time we set aside to allow new life to be formed in us. Our traditional Lenten practices of prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving represent our invitation to God to not only plant the seeds of new life in us, but also to change the very nature of the soil, that is, ourselves.

Medieval mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, talks about the “greening” of our souls which is, I think, a good image for what Lent is. I picture Hildegard’s concept like this:

We go about our lives basically unaware that the demands and influences of the world have caused the soil of our souls to slowly but steadily dry up. Our soul-soil hardens and cracks like a dried up river bed in a drought.

When we practice Lent we enter into a period of self-examination that brings to our awareness just how dry we’ve become – a revelation which brings with it the realization that we are unable to irrigate ourselves. There is almost a desperateness in this moment of revelation, a deep knowledge that without this irrigation, our souls will completely dry up and turn to dust.

But our faith assures us that it is from the dust we were created in the first place. So we trust… and we wait… 40 days, and 40 nights.

At some point, the hands of our Creator reach into the soil of our souls, breaking through the dry surface. The Almighty kneads and kneads the soil of our souls removing any hardened bits in there (like anger, judgment, hatred of self or other) and other miscellaneous trash (such as addictions, a hunger for power, elitism). Then our Creator moistens our soul-soil from the well-spring of life, Jesus the Christ, and God kneads the soil some more ensuring that the nutrient-rich, life-giving water reaches all the dry parts.

Into this divinely massaged soul-soil the Creator places the seeds of new life for us, sweeps the surface of the soil smooth, sprinkles on a bit more life-giving water, and asks us to wait while the seeds within us take root and grow.

This is Lent.

When we are ready to offer our invitation to God, the traditional practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving offer deeply meaningful as well as tried and true ways for us to practice a holy Lent. When we make time to pray during Lent, we are responding to the Holy Spirit who is already calling to us, gently awakening us from our world-induced sleep. By our prayer, we consent to open our eyes and see the face of Love looking back at us, inviting us to let go of the old day, the old ways, and live into the new life God is planting in us.

When we fast during Lent, we are actually and symbolically emptying ourselves of all that already fills us, including the need to be full and satisfied. When our stomach is empty, it cries out to us to fill it. Most of us here have the privilege of knowing that we can eat, and so we can choose not to eat for just long enough (which is what 40 days means) so that we experience emptiness in our bodies and in our souls. (Note: if you're taking meds or have diabetes or something else that prevents fasting - don't! It isn't about that, and you don't get demerits or score any points for fasting).

Only when we have emptied ourselves can we be filled by God.

Fasting also provides a way for us to experience solidarity with those who truly hunger. When we remember how real and compelling hunger is, we are moved by compassion to do something to relieve it – even if it means we must sacrifice our comfort to do so.

Which leads to the practice of almsgiving, which represents our consent to intentionally enter into a new relationship with the poor. Within each of us is the capacity to judge, blame, and avoid those who are needy or suffering. This protects our comfort and relieves us from responding to answer their cry for help. Giving money to the poor or food to hungry enables us to welcome their story into our awareness and them into our lives in a real and sacrificial way.

In a few moments, we will remember both the limits of our mortality and the limitlessness of God’s love by marking the sign of our salvation - the cross of Christ - on our foreheads with the dust of ashes, traditional symbols of repentance and humility before God. This action is our acknowledgment that God is as the Scripture says: full of compassion, slow to anger, and forgives our sins. God cares for us deeply, intimately, with a sacrificial love that knows no bounds.

So please, let’s don’t do Lent like Ollie - let's not just go through the motion of a Lenten time-out. Let’s go deeply, faithfully, fully into the dust of our souls and invite God to work the miracle of planting seeds of new life in us. Amen.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Epiphany Last-C: A cloud of new unkowing

Lectionary: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99 ; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]

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En el nombre del Dios: Pardre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

The story of the Transfiguration is a story of freedom and empowerment which comes from humanity’s direct experience of God. This represents a shift from the traditional expectation of that time that no one could see God and live.

Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John from his band of 12 disciples to share this experience. We don’t know why he chose only these three. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that they are better or more faithful than the others. In fact, it may indicate that these three needed this kind of dramatic, transforming experience more than the others to help them break through the walls restricting their freedom. Or, it may be that they were more open to receiving this kind of transforming experience. We don’t know because our Scripture doesn’t tell us that.

What we do know from this story in Scripture is that this kind of direct experience of God happens sooner for some, than for others. We see that when it does happen, Jesus leads his followers to it and we remember that are called to imitate him.

During the dramatic moment of transformation, Jesus is praying when the glory and presence of God is revealed in and through him. The disciples were “weighed down” our Scripture says, but since they stayed awake, since they remained open and aware, they saw his glory; and they heard a voice emerge from the cloud. From the fogginess that had covered their bodies and filled their minds came a voice that named Jesus as “my Son, my Chosen” and directed them to listen to him.

In that cloud of their new unknowing, Jesus is set free from the box the disciples’ expectations had placed him in – a box which their tradition had carefully crafted about the Messiah and how he would deliver Israel to freedom.

The revelation of the divine in Jesus’ countenance also sets the disciples free to experience God with no veils, no habitual expectations, no filters on their minds or hearts. In Jesus, they can see and touch and be with the glory that is God – and it is a tangible reality.

The journey down the mountain marks the beginning of a transformed life for these three disciples. The truth that has been conceived in them begins to take root and grow. It's a long journey for them; one in which they constantly come up against the limits of their own habits and thinking. Jesus allows them their growing pains, staying present with them and patiently guiding them beyond those limits again and again, as we see in the story of the failed healing that concludes today’s Gospel reading.

On this the last Sunday after the Epiphany, Christians around the world begin our liturgical journey down the mountain. We have been looking up as the divine light of Epiphany has filled our souls and senses. Now we are led to look down and in and enter the earthy wilderness of Lent where we will intentionally seek to discover what limits and restricts us; what veils and filters we have that get in our way of leading ourselves and others to direct experience of God.

The transitional time we are in has also offered us a wonderful opportunity to listen together for the voice of God that calls St. David’s to a new understanding of who we are as a church and what that means as the search for a new rector gets underway.

As you well know by now, transitions are always a bit uncomfortable and change can be scary. But this journey, like the journey of those first disciples, is held firmly in the loving hands of God in Christ who journeys with us.

So my prayer is that we will continue to cling to one another, and together cling to Jesus, remembering what our patron saint, St. David of Wales said,” Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about.”

The style of Christian life developed in the monasteries founded by St. David emphasized learning, asceticism, and missionary fervor. If we are to joyfully emulate our patron saint, we can begin with these – which, by the way, I see evidence of in our community already.

Learning: One of the most readily apparent gifts of St. David’s, Cullowhee is that there is a love of and devotion to learning. Perhaps our proximity to WCU helps, or maybe that’s a gift from God to enable us to nurture this part of our identity. Either way, as we descend the mountain and approach this Lenten season, the monastic commitment to prayer, reading, and writing at the monasteries of St. David can be our inspiration. It’s one of the sources that inspired me to offer a Lenten series on prayer, which is a reliable means for direct experience of God.

Asceticism: I’m not a big fan of severe self-discipline, but I do appreciate the goal of ascetic practice: to steer a person toward simplicity and to promote awareness of the many ways we mindlessly succumb to our own desire for satisfaction and satiety. I want to be clear: I do not hold pleasure or even indulgence to be sin.. to be something that separates us from God. Pleasure is a gift hard-wired by our Creator into our biology. Over-indulgence can separate us from one another and from God, but so can the severity of asceticism. As 21st century, middle-class Americans, however, it can do our souls good to identify and deny ourselves the satisfaction of some of our indulgences. Lent affords us just such an opportunity, but we’ll talk more about that in the weeks to come.

Missionary fervor: While some may not consider this a strong identifier for St. David’s, I do. This is definitely a characteristic where nurture and work can benefit us, but we have a strong beginning here. If you want to see missionary fervor, ask anyone to tell a story about Jo and how she brought so many people into this community, promising them welcome, healing, and a God who held them as beloved even while the world condemned them for their sexual identity.

The recent decision by our cousins in faith in the United Methodist Church offers us the opportunity to accompany our sisters and brothers thereon the difficult transitional journey to full inclusion they’ve begun – not to take their members, but to be a safe place for them, cradling them in love, and offering them hope in this moment of pain.

If you want to see the seeds of missionary fervor at St. David’s, watch the machine of this church engage when someone needs prayer or food or companionship. This particular gift blossoms missionary fervor when its offered beyond our walls, which the Task Forces are preparing us to do using the framework of the Stewardship of the Entirety of Our Lives.

The journey we are on as God’s people doing God’s work in the world today will bring us great joy and fulfillment. We will also hit walls and confront opportunities to grow past limits we didn’t know we had. As St. Paul says, however, we do not lose heart, because it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry.

God has chosen us and promises to guide us and be with us every moment, each step on the way. This then is why we can “have such a hope and act with great boldness” as St. Paul says.

Our faces are unveiled; our experience of God, unfiltered. The divine light, which now lives in us, shines into the world through us revealing God’s glory and presence. For so many who are lost and least, restricted by habit or expectations, or held at arms’ length by human-made rules and categories – this is truly good news, and it is ours to share.