Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009: prayer

Creator, Redeemer, Renewer God,
Lord of all creation
you have given us land and the environment as part of our common wealth;
you have drawn all creation into covenant with you.

In the Spirit you have called us to follow Jesus
you call us to stewardship and joy in the land
to cultivate and care for all creation.

Earth Day 2009 beach CD coverJust as you carried Israel through the Exodus desert, shaping them into a people for yourself,
you accompany us, making any wilderness a habitat for making us into your people.

You have shown us deserts in bloom
and brought us into this wilderness Eden

You have given us this city grown out of a garden
a habitation for diversity, a place to faithfully live out your call to us.

You have revealed yourself in creation's commonest stuff
and given us essentials for life from the heart of the earth.

On this Earth Day 2009, as we acknowledge your sovereignty over all creation,
we celebrate creation as the living stage of your self-revelation,
the place from which prophets spoke your word of justice and hope,
the arena of history and of your life in Jesus Christ.

earth day 2009 city cd cover We gather here on this Earth Day agreeing on Jesus Christ
and agreeing on the Church as Jesus' Presence in the world.

We are of a single mind on your calling us to lives that reflect Jesus' compassionate grace
and mercy-filled love for all creation.

You have given us baptismal waters of new birth
you have gifted us with land that grows the substance of your self-giving in the Holy Meal;
when we celebrate the ultimate Earth Day at your Table of joyful reconciliation
as we have gathered the ground's fruitful yield and collected the labors of many.

You feed us with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation,
visible signs of the reign of heaven on earth.
and a foretaste of the Feast to come as bread is broken, wine is poured,
as Christ is spoken and seen and heard
…as earth can breathe and loaves abound!

God of grace and glory, we thank you for your constant love and mercy;
again we ask for your abiding Presence with us in this room—
that you will bless our conversation as we seek to be your creative, redemptive presence wherever we go.

In the name of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for the life of the world,
Amen!

Monday, April 13, 2009

thirsty journey

Throughout the just-passed season of Lent, the baptismal font in the entrance of the church on Excursion Byway was dry, very dry, gathering a patina of dust. "We're going dry for Lent" the spiritual leader allowed. A few blocks away at the Expedition Trail building, after Brother Will inadvertently overflowed the font, the spiritual leader suggested he dry out the drenched surrounding floor. "Water is life," the banner on one of my favorite Facebook apps reminds us; know-it-all Wikipedia says the human body is 55% to 78% water, "depending on body size." What is thirst? This is a little sophomoric, but the 3rd definition for thirsty in dictionary dot com describes "eagerly desirous; eager," citing "thirsty for news" as an example.

Both the parched – thirsty – desert and watery baptism are constitutive experiences for us as individuals and as community, events that define, shape and refine us into our identity as God's called-out people. How many times have I essentially said, "in the sparse economy of the desert, God's nascent people Israel learned to receive a gift—and to recognize the gift"?! I could recapitulate a lot of what I said during January 2005 in "wilderness handbook: the desert again."

"It's a thirsty journey," the pastor of the Excursion Byway congregation observed. We know something about death from H20 dehydration and dying from lack of nutrition; what types of dying and dessication happen to individuals or communities who try to journey without water from the fountain of first death and second birth?

Five years ago in longing for home I explained:
...just like the Israelites of the Exodus, in Jesus Christ we live in the precariousness of nomadic, unsettled existence, daily undergoing baptism's liminality: each day recalling and actually reliving the perilous and risk-filled underwater moment in that watery tomb of death that at the same time is sustaining womb of new life, the fragile instant in which we need totally to trust the baptizer - who, after, all represents God, the One Who really baptizes.
Legend tells us every day Martin Luther looked into the mirror and reminded himself "I am baptized." Likewise, we need daily awareness of the uncertainties, hazards and especially the tremendous promise lying underneath ("in, with and under?!") shifting sands, rocky streets, enterprising endeavors and exciting opportunities. No one and nothing ever offers a distinct pathway or a reliable navigation device to anyone, but the God of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ journeys alongside us and gives us the gift of resurrection at adventure's end, and many times along the way.

It's a thirsty journey because it's also a dusty walk...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Resurrection of Our Lord: Eucharistic Prayer

A Glorious Easter to all! Although I'd intended to make this Great Thanksgiving more generic for the Sundays of Easter, it's quite focused on the Easter Day texts plus a couple of hints from Holy Week. Of course you can rearrange the elements of the prayer for your preferences, as well as adding or subtracting to your taste. I really like the drama of positioning the verba after the Sanctus and the triple epiclesis parallels the one in the Canon I wrote for Nativity 2007 (it got great reviews); the doxology is Revelation 7:12.

  • The Lord be with you.
  • And also with you.
  • Lift up your hearts.
  • We lift them to the Lord.
  • Let us give thanks to God.
  • It is joy to offer thanks and praise!
This is the feast of victory for our God, alleluia!
This is the feast of victory for all creation, alleluia!

Lord God, you created the heavens and stretched them out,
you spread out the earth and all that grows from it,
you gave a portion of your Spirit to all creation, alleluia!
Now you have brought former things to pass
and you have made all things new, alleluia!
Jesus Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has died for our sins; Christ has been buried and has been raised from the grave, alleluia!
Christ has ransomed us with his blood and has washed away our guilt; he has annihilated the powers of darkness and death and opened the gates of heaven, alleluia!
You have made for us a feast of fat things and well-aged wines, alleluia!
You have given us water and bread and fruit of the vine as signs of your presence among us, alleluia!

And so with the hosts of heaven and with all creation in every time and every place we sing:

Holy are you, God of mercy, glory and love, and blessed is Jesus, your Son. He came to earth and lived among us as one of us, he died for all on Calvary Hill, and was raised from death for the life of the world and ascended to reign in justice and righteousness.

With the Church in all the ages we proclaim the mystery of faith:
  • Dying you destroyed our death;
  • Rising you restored our life;
  • Lord Jesus, come in glory!
On the night of betrayal and desertion, our Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way after supper, he also took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again in glory.
Come, Spirit of Holiness; come upon all creation everywhere and upon this assembly;
Come, Holy Spirit; sanctify these gifts of grain and fruit of the vine uniting us with all creation;
Come, Spirit of Life and bless our feasting at this table of reconciliation
That baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Spirit we may live as the just and righteous presence of the Crucified and Risen One...

Praise and glory
wisdom and thanksgiving
honor and power and
strength to our God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
endlessly throughout eternity,
Alleluia, Amen, Alleluia!!!

© leah chang 2009

enough, sufficient

Blog pal, Facebook friend and sister in Christ Theresa Coleman tagged me; this is one many people and probably most Christians constantly need to consider.

NASB text of Matthew 25:31-46; I especially appreciate the cross-references (check out the Bible Gateway page). Here's the NRSV passage Theresa posted:
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
Theresa began by talking about her 22 year old fridge and contrasting replacement options priced at $2200 and $1200. She wonders, "Why do we always want more than enough? And what exactly is "enough"? There is a book [that] states that enough is when all your basic needs are met. One dollar more than that becomes 'wealth.'"

The contemporary English word wealth derives from the Old English "weal" or well-being. Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky of the United States of America are commonwealths, originally carrying a connotation of political governance for the common good, for the well-being of The People rather than the benefit of a particular owner class. (We know all about landed gentry and property rights in the Constitution!)

Theresa ponders, "Well then, what are 'basic needs'? According to another book...there are 5 basic needs: Food; Shelter; Clothing; Medical; Education..." In addition, she is considering a "permanent" place of residence (also one of hospitality and possibly refuge?) for formal retirement and as a place from which to itinerate (she's a true circuit-riding United Methodist) and asks, "Is this sufficient? Is this enough? My impulse is to junk the trailer and build fresh, but there are so many who would be grateful for this. What is enough?"

It's interesting that the Matthew passage became part of chapter 25 and we find the Jubilee text in Leviticus 25. The jubilee mandate is not only about sufficiency and enough-ness; it's especially about active justice that redistributes and restores resources that for whatever reason have left society lop-sided, with a few folks having just right amounts and other having far more than they need and others not nearly enough.

I often reference a taxonomy I found somewhere; it accurately says our Body Image is where: body, mind, psyche, spirit and culture converge, and further explains its impact reverberates in all areas of life: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. That's a short description of the way culture becomes embedded, grounded and deeply rooted within our very beings.

life stuff buttonThe concept of "shalom" in the Hebrew Bible means not simple peace in an absence of active conflict sense, but about sufficient essentials for everyone, a fullness of "enough." Considering this blog topic (thanks, Theresa!), we cannot escape that always there element of culture. For a pair of examples from my own life, about two years back I'd arranged to be pianist for the wedding of a couple raised in another country and culture but when I arrived at the church the pastor told me they'd changed their mind and asked someone else to play. In that case I needed to be professional and explain they'd contracted with me, I'd reserved that hour plus of time (it hadn't involved a separate rehearsal) and I needed to be compensated; without a doubt, that type of conventional USA middle-class practice can be assimilated and followed. In a related case, I told a wedding couple I was a professional (and yes, a friend of their ethnic UMC that had welcomed and included me with immense grace), but clearly they valued having 50 roast suckling pigs for their reception and were willing to pay whatever those cost, and no, I would not play pro bono.

Culture-bound as we are, can most of us learn to live comfortably in fewer square feet? Probably. Setting our dinner tables with food locally produced in less labor- and resource-intensive ways? Without a doubt! It may take extra effort and at times it may cost more in $$$, but just as frequently the $$$ cost to the consumer will be less, the benefits to everyone greater.

Matthew the gospeler at least paraphrases Jesus, who went about doing good and being good, Jesus the guy who informed people in order to be saved they needed to "keep the commandments," the guidelines for loving self, neighbor and God that are all about living well in community by looking out for each other. If I look out for you and my other neighbors, presumably you and they will watch out for my needs, at least if they're faithful. According to this text those who did not feed, clothe, visit, the least of these will go away into eternal punishment and the righteous into eternal life. Those who didn't do don't get a label like wicked or evil or bad, but the doers get called "righteous." In theology we refer to works-righteousness, the concept that a person can earn goodness, actually become good by doing good, which both Old and New Covenant scriptures hint at almost as much as they tell us only trusting God and Divine provision get us into the Presence. In very brief, the prophets clearly let us know the religious fast God chooses is to *do* justice and righteousness, to know God is to plead the cause of the poor and the needy, God measures and assesses length and height and depth of a person, of a society with how they do in the justice and righteousness - and mercy - departments.

However, I'm asking what is enough for me, not considering the tension and/or complimentarity between faith and works. Does God's economy allow me to purchase or otherwise acquire more than minimum basics? Do I need to give away anything that exceeds bare sustenance? How about concepts like food storage, like saving for a rainy day, for my own future need so I don't burden society and the public fisc or private charities? Or can I hold on tight until I actually observe or accidentally encounter a least of these in need? After all, I do want to be "righteous," as I sing "clothed in the righteousness of Christ alone, spotless to stand before the throne." On a slightly different accent, I know I have needed beautiful color, pattern, line and design in my immediate environment as long as I can remember, but for sure I don't need to spend big bucks and buy textiles, tiles and trinkets, because I have the gifts and experience to design my own beauty for my own surroundings to a great degree. Possibly even as hunter-gatherers, people did what they could to surround themselves with pleasing visual artifacts, and music also was an early, "primal" discovery. So what now? I'm going to post this blog, that's what now.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Time Out Friday 5

Sally hosts today's RevGals Time Out Friday 5; In her intro Sally reflects:
Holy Week is almost upon us, I suspect that ordained or not, other revgal/pals calendars look a bit like mine, FULL, FULL, FULL........

Mary and MarthaJesus was great at teaching us to take time out, even in that last week, right up to Maundy Thursday he withdrew, John's gospel tells us he hid! He hid not because he was afraid, but because he knew that he needed physical, mental and spiritual strength to get through...

So faced with a busy week...
1. Restful sleep (not always for a long time) and good food restore me physically. Long ago I finally(!) realized that intensive working out, jogging or related physical exercise makes me agitated and increases my overall restlessness, so I do those activities very cautiously and sparingly.

2. Food and conversation with others strengthen me emotionally and mentally, above all giving me a reasonable perspective and affirmation telling me no, I'm not quite that crazy and my believing I need a community of support is biblically rational, not self-centered and irrational.

3. The example of Jesus (of course) encourages me spiritually, and even more so, saints like Apostle Peter and the reformer Martin Luther, who, just like us regular people, consistently took 3.4 steps forward followed by 2.5 backwards.

4. Love One Another, a Maundy Thursday and any time reflection by Paul Hammer is my favourite poem or piece of music from the coming week. I also was thinking of Francois Couperin's Tenebrae Services for Holy Week but didn't want to take the time to search for CDs or videos.

5. Maundy Thursday is my most looking forward to liturgy for this coming week. I love the sacraments and when I served as associate it seemed as if I always got to preach on Maundy Thursday... The Easter Vigil is my favorite liturgy, but for various reasons I haven't attended one for too long, now.