Pentecost 14 (RCL): The Best Things in Life AREN'T Things!
Preachers and Teachers - feel free to use any of the below material with a simple accreditation. No further permission necessary.
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8,22-23;Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16 and Luke 12:32-40
Ah, these are the occasions when I wish we had the facilities here on the Farm to post an audio essay. Having an easy ear for accents,(and working all those years @ the UN didn't hurt) one would be very effective in shorthand for the reading from Isaiah this morning. I confess to you now that in my spiritual life, God has appeared to me in several different guises - sort of like in Joan of Arcadia, if you recall that series.
One that is recurrent is that of an older, somewhat talkative Hassidic Jew from Brooklyn. Dressed in traditional garb for work, we are on a cross town bus together... and it is taking forever. In my most recent 'encounter' with God's emissary (as I finish my morning prayer time in preparation for doing this piece),he is reading the Torah in small travel-sized book form. For some reason he closes the book abruptly and looks directly at me - "Elohim was right, telling Isaiah that, you know. Who needs all the blood? the dead animals, the dead faith, the burning flesh, the festivals that have no life in them? No amount of incense could cleanse the air of such a stench. OI VEY IS MIR! Elohim wants a live life! Cleansing, forgiveness, justice, defending the weak. You change your ways to life and the scarlet of your sins and offences will become as white as new wool, as snow! Such a blessing if we bless and not curse." Standing up slowly, full of arthritis, he says, half under his breath, "He wants our LOVE, not our things!" Pushing the button for his stop to switch to the train for Brooklyn, he wags a finger at me - "You're a mensch at heart. Keep it up!" 'I will, sir' I say has he descends the side steps. "Your lips to the ear of Ha-Shem!" he says with a wink and a smile, clutching his book, his overcoat opened enough to see his tallit katan hanging out from under his shirt with the tzitzit showing. The showing ended there, but was sufficient indeed.
Psalm 50 follows Sol's (that's my Jewish rabbi's name: Sol) train of thought. To paraphrase line 24- 'Whoever makes a thanksgiving offering honors me - but whoever follows My path will be shown salvation".
The first line from Hebrews is one of the best definitions of faith(which defies description)'..the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen'.
How do you believe? Because my heart knows. How does it know? It embraces faith.
Finally, in Luke, we are bolstered to put not our trust (or faith) in the temporary. God's love is endless, limitless, timeless, ceaseless. We must remain steadfast in the everlasting and in service to the most high. In the final analysis, the best things in life will NEVER be things. The best things in life we will ever have or receive will be the love and grace freely given by God. Nothing we could buy or earn; nothing with a price tag.
And so may it be, from age to age. Spread the news, you mensches and mensches in the making. Live a good life. THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE AREN'T THINGS! The reward is in the doing and in the obvious pleasure to the Almighty. Amen and Amen.
Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on http://www.geraniumfarm.org/
Separation withdrawal: REAL retirement
Dear Gentlemen and gentlewomen- if you are out there and have a low tolerance for anything that could in any way relate to the mention of something which may associated only with women or any body parts, it's time to skip this entry over. Tune back in the future to an entry where I am writing in a poetic or perhaps universally humorous way to speak truths. I will get there, but this is not that day. Fear not, however, for I will not neglect you. Today I am in a graphic state of mind. For the fearless, read on. If you come up with a nod of recognition or an sympathetic ouch, then I have done my job correctly.
Alrighty then. The two of you left aren't going to blush on this one.....
I have never had a 'bikini wax' (not even in fantasy have I ever had the body to go through the procedure).... but I am finding retirement a psychic, emotional, spiritual bikini wax. Everything that was fixed and stable has been uprooted (pardon the pun). The income that was rolling in regularly stops- and you finally realize that it was tied to that thing you called "the job". It wasn't for your good looks, sense of humor or occasional innovative idea or the sheer joy of your presence. Your predictable days of over 28yrs (17 March 1979-31 July 2007) have vanished. No more driving into the city - first in a colleagues carpool, then driving myself the 50 mile round trip.
I left with work on my desk (in a neat pile, of course) still to be done, and a project which I could have been seminal in producing never even got started. I left many friends, more colleagues and a few relieved people in the front office. I left silently during a time when folks were on vacation. There was no hooplah. Tears were shed with friends, good will left with former opponents, loud silence from management who, never having been able to stop my questioning of motives or their result, were probably heaving a sigh of relief behind closed doors. There were bumpy years, for sure and certain.
That all being said, I am still strangely sore. That part of identity has been ripped or stripped away and the newly exposed skin is tender indeed. No more of those business cards or IDs or access to the complex. Other than bogus pleas for "investment opportunities" or unsolicited destitute women - with internet access!
there are no cases of honest financial hardship I can address on behalf of the Pension Fund. My my prior expertise was useless. One of my longstanding purposes is gone. It also occured to me that one of the major motivations for retiring may have been more wishful thinking than reality and may never materialize. This brought me to a strong but brief jag of aching,acidic tears -not something I indulge in frequently.
The reality of my disassociation and the shrinking of my world of input seeped into my newly opened folicles yesterday and it was a chilling experience. God - with the most tasteful of twists of humor - is flashing back to me what I have even written a paper about: Living into being a human BEing, not a human DOing
. Gotta hand it to you, pretty good one there, Wisdom Omnipotent! Humble pie for dessert,anyone?
The lack of income haad been expected, but now looks to string into November, straining my resources: if I need medical treatment or medication I have to pay full price and then get reimbursed at some level when my retiree insurance kicks in. Ever the survivor, I have taken on extra massage work (I bring my table, sheets, towels, oils, soothing music and my hot hands to the clients house and they receive a massage that is therapeutic because it is prayer centered). Lowe's, the home improvement store turned me down because they want everyone to be able to work weekends, and I could never promise THAT. I will walk and board dogs when I am home and give refresher courses on obedience.
I thank God to have been brought up to live a simple life and making do - not extravagant: other than the house and car, each of which I have paid dearly for, my 'classy' stuff were gifts, like my KitchenAid mixer. I don't turn on a light I don't need. Before I take my working vacation I will unplug or turn down anything I can. I buy generic. I reuse shopping bags and recycle plastic ones. Those are nearly inbred tendencies.
For now there is only IRS paperwork to be accomplished and 25 yards of topsoil/mulch to be spread in the backyard before embarking on a midwest vacation and physical pitching in time. I heard the rain would let up for tomorrow.
Then back to the east coast to work mostly weekends - either traveling with Barbara or doing a solo sermon or retreat, doing paperwork for the Geranium Farm and bringing my house back up to snuff for curbside appeal, attend to spiritual directees and work with Matt the Web Dude to make the entire Farm as user friendly as possible.
When I rethink that... rethink the push God has given me to take a different path in His name, in His service, I guess the waxing has its place, at least in my spiritual life if not at the bikini line (the hippos from 'Fantasia' come to mind). I haven't converted into a blob without form or worth. I am retired from the 'international corporate' world to be working in entreprenurial, clerical(office) and clerical (spiritually speaking)fields. It's just like when I was learning to stick shift on my first car (which had an "H" configuaration on the steering column! There was the occasional grind and growl of gears, but when things fell into place, the car went where it was supposed to!
OK kids, I have begun to regroup. Show me to the tanning booths - I've gone this far, might as well go the whole 10 yards (wearing a discreet one-piece, of course). Keep me in your prayers, my dears, as I will continue to keep all of you in mine. In the love of Christ, DJ
Ah, blessed are those who can laugh at themselves.....
These two gems were sent to me by....... my spiritual director..... humor is one of the best remedies around. Thanks, Sir Canon!!!!
A man comes into the ER and yells, " My wife's going to have her baby in
the cab! " I grabbed my stuff, rushed out to the cab, lifted the lady's
dress, and began to take off her underwear. Suddenly, I noticed that
there were several cabs -- and I was in the wrong one.
Submitted by Dr. Mark MacDonald, San Antonio , TX .
At the beginning of my shift, I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and
slightly deaf female patient's anterior chest wall. "Big breaths", I
instructed. "Yes, they used to be, " replied the patient.
Submitted by Dr. Richard Byrnes, Seattle , WA
It was a wonderful retreat by all accounts.... the side by side presentation of prayer and involvement, justice and social responsibility.... with the offering by a well spoken, passionate woman about the greening of the South Bronx - to the benefit of generations in the immediate area and the environmental benefit to the entire city.
Prophets- regardless of the age in which they live, their ethnicity, their far-reaching messages - are a much needed yet oft abused lot. We yearn for people with a vision what goes beyond the immediate (although the action required should begin immediately) to generations of generations.
Politicians, willing to be seen in a positive light will often play a type of shell game - more specifically, a bait and switch game - when it comes to minority communities. The organization (Sustainable South Bronx)attempts to work with city bureaucracy. Plans and forecasts are shown to the principal legislators, showing how creating jobs in the the area would improve the community, how renovating unused space to esplanades and biking trails would boost community pride, improve overall health and ease the strain of urban life. Greening would cool city temperatures in the summer, provide a natural air filtration system. Jobs will be created in an area yearning for meaningful employment and a sense of contributing to the lives of the generations coming up.
Oh yes, says the city, but Rykers Island facilities need renovation - we will need a new detention site. You give some to get some..... only to find out that the facility is to house more than triple the number of beds originally quoted. AND (the God's honest truth here) one of the ACTUAL justifications given by the city on how to look on the bright side of the revised plan??
"The families here would have an easier time visiting their incarcerated relatives".
That was not a sick, deranged joke. That was given as a valid reason. The unspoken premise being, of course, that black and hispanic (particularly) men would doubtless end up spending time behind bars.
I'm certain that this type of 'reasoning' would not be given to the Hilton family in their neighborhood...... even the Lohans, for that matter.
How long does it take to change a way of life, a stereotype, a 'predictatble' projection? How long will it take to reinstate self-respect in a segment of the population assumed to be an expendable, barely tolerable, draining nuisance. Grow up being called and considered 'good for nothing' and - without intervention - that worthlessness sinks in, festers, is vented through violence and apathy.
How long can the island of Manhattan - densely populated and with wild abandon squandering natural resources at an alarming rate - ship all of their garbage and recycling elsewhere? Why not process their own? Why not explore ways to go green by cleaning up their own mess? Planting a shallow layer of topsoil on rooftops -not only to insulate the buildings but also NATURALLY deal with airborne contamination?
Majora and her colleagues have their hands full. Being a prophet is a heavy load to carry on one's shoulders.... yet I did not hear Majora asking for the responsibility to the community, the city, the state, the nation, the world...to go away.
If she has her hands full, then let's lend more to the cause. Many hands make lighter work and facing the 'powers that be' with more bodies, more voices, more passion across the board will be heard.This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine
... we have much work to do. Even in Jesus' day, there was a harvest to be had, but the laborers were few. We cannot afford to stand on the sidelines on this one: Global warming, further distinction of peoples and priorities. I don't have to ask twice "What Would Jesus Do". He would roll up His sleeves and pitch in. Our legacy as Christians is that - in love and solidarity - we can roll up our sleeves (figuratively or literally) as well to pitch in.
For further information on Sustainable South Bronx (and how you might help), go to www.ssbx.org. And, in the voice of Whoopi Goldberg, I'd like to add "We're with you, girl".