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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, March 24, 2006

Lightening Rod for God

My good friend Carol has a theory about what happens to people in their lives. In the gospel of Carol goes something like this: there are basically two kinds of people. One variety can move into a crowd of people and become a part of the human wave. This type of person has friends, family and probably a car that is silver. This individual can move from one place to another without undue notice, manages to drop off and pick up their dry cleaning without an incident either in transit or to their clothing.

The other variety of person - in temperament, personality, upbringing - colors outside of the predetermined lines. They seem animated, even when motionless and silent.

From early, early on I have been the other variety..... as is my buddy, Carol. One of the auxiliary cosmic repercussions of being 'the other variety' is that your paths cross those of extraordinary, eccentric, memorable people. Serendipity to the highest power.

An example? The reason I got the job at the United Nations is that I got in a car accident.... doesn't sound as if one thing would lead to another.... I was working 3 jobs: in the accessories section of a department store, in the catalogue department of a publisher and as the reader of non-solicited manuscripts for the children's book division of the same publisher (I reviewed under the pseudonym Rose Lopez.... the editor-in-chief had quite a sense of humor)! Having crumpled my car when a NYC cab ran a traffic light I needed transportation. My generous editor-in-chief offered to loan me her venerable VW beetle..... circa 1964 (it was 1979 at the time)... which was being stored at the home of an associate (a Hungarian married to an Egyptian) in New Jersey.... wouldn't you know it, the friend's husband worked at the United Nations .... and he handed me an application. The rest is history.

Another? Let's see..... the request for suggestions to the service which I posted on MOLC yesterday came from a woman who had been in the novitiate of a women's religious community with my faithful friend Charlotte in 1982. You just never, never, never know.

In God's good balance there is another side to being 'the other variety'. With great gifts there is great temptation, there are struggles with ego and boundaries, there are losses that come in threes and fours and fives at a time. How does the passage go...... " to the one much is given, much is required". Sometimes I picture myself as a spark plug, but the reality is as a lightening rod.

Here's to you, Carol, Barbara, .... lightening rods for God!


p.s. I will be away over the weekend with a group of 15 teens and 22 staff at the first HAPPENING! in the Diocese of New York.... for background, check MOLC entry for Nov.15, 2005. Say a prayer for us! Meanwhile, I'll be back here on Monday or Tuesday next week. Go in peace to Love and Serve the Lord. DJ

Thursday, March 23, 2006

....I will, with God's help.

We Episcopalians are an amazingly sacramental lot..... we find new and different ways to commemorate milestones in our life with celebrations and rituals that contain elements of the transcendent and the here and now. There is a certain amout of subdued (or exhuberant) pride we take in all things liturgical - in combining tradition and innovation, personal and corporate, moments of one-on-one intense individuality within the context of a very public event.

Just want to put in a plug to you-all to use the various services available in the Book of Common Prayer, including Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child (p.439), the Reconciliation of a Penitent (p.447) and Form of Commitment to Christian Service (p. 420).

About two weeks ago Barbara received a request from Janet Adkins - a GF reader and new Spirititual Director - asking what might be helpful to add to the very broad service. Here is the next of what I wrote for her to be used at the Sunday Service in her church --- you might like to modify for a need you may have in your parish. The questions and answered are patterned after the same form in the Baptismal Covenant.

To start things off......At the appropriate time, you should be invited to come forward. Clergy presiding at this commitment should say a few words, something along the lines of....

"Janet has come before us today to make an Act of Commitment before the Body of Christ. No commitment of such a public and private nature could have been contemplated without the groundwork of a great deal of soul searching, prayer and guidance. The function and art of being a spiritual director combines the talents of agreeing with another person to join their spiritual journey - as a companion and a guide. Anyone called to this unique vocation must be certain to deepen and maintain their own spiritual life in order to be able to have the compassion and wisdom to minister to anothers."

Janet, Will you endeavor to maintain a Rule of Life that will support and enrich your work as a spiritual director?
I will, with God's help.

Will you continue to surrender your life and your will to Christ and be led by his compassion and example?
I will, with God's help.

Will you practise your vocation, being and instrument of God's unconditional love and peace?
I will with God's help.

Will you maintain the privacy and dignity of each of those under your care?
I will with God's help.

Will you assist others in the process of discernment should they believe they are called to exercise the gift of spiritual direction?
I will with God's help.

Then comes your Act of Commitment. My understanding is that it is either read or, having been written and printed out, is signed and handed over to the Presider.

Then it finishes with the concluding prayers and instructions on p. 420/1 BCP.

We can do so much with God on our side, with God's help!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All that there is

You have heard the expression, no doubt: "110 per cent".

"During this peak period we expect 110% from each of you"....

"If we have any hopes of getting to the playoffs, each one of you has to give 110% 100% of the time".....

The phrase is tossed around at staff meetings in offices, in the locker room before a big game, as part of dialogue for a sitcom.

The phrase has been rattling through my mind. I listen to my friends recount their days and how there seem to be more things to do than time to do them. I hear myself recount my day - with its failures and successes - to my God before bedtime and bemoan that there are more things to do than time to do them. Of course we want to do our best; we will give "110%" to the task at hand, and the next and the next and the next......

I don't recall a change in the cultural climate that precipitated this expectation of over-achievement. In retrospect it really doesn't add up, does it? The very, very best we can ever give - with our short attention spans, our aches and pains, our limited financial resources - is 100 per cent.

How much - in his passionate life and death - did Jesus give? All that He was. One hundred percent. All that there is for love. If that is our most perfect example, what then can we give for His sake? 100%: all that there is - and that is quite sufficient indeed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's the LAW!

In today’s readings one word comes up again and again.


In the time of Jesus there was a secular law - the law of the occupying civil government - Roman law. Of significantly more importance was THE LAW - the word of God as written in the Pentateuch, or the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books contain what the Jewish people held - and continue to hold - dear, essential. These books contain the Ten Commandments, a record of the covenant relationship between God and the chosen people, the laws/rules that govern every aspect of daily life including prayer, food preparation, diet, personal hygiene, business, marriage, agriculture, social responsibility and ethical treatment.

Here the story of Moses, the Lawgiver, unfolds before us. His life rivals any soap opera that could ever be written. He carries the tablets, inscribed by the finger of God, not once but twice down a mountain to deliver and reveal to the people for all time. He really ‘laid down the Law’ the Law of God.

Psalm 19, a song of David, continues the praise of the Law - the Law of the Lord is "perfect....revives the just....rejoices the more to be desired than gold" and "sweeter than honey".

Now, stop me if I’m wrong, but - other than in an overly and overtly melodramatic movie from the 1940's - when is the last time you heard someone wax poetic about the Law? about yearning to keep and abide by the Law? about considering the Law to be ultimately desirous?

Alright, let’s move onto the epistle because..... well, because we can RELATE to it in the here and now.... we may need to unwind the convoluted style, but we get the picture.

The author - purportedly Paul - puts the conflict in terms we can easily recognize and relate to... even in this day and age. (let me paraphrase here). The Law is spiritual and good - intellectually I know the Law is good - and my mind wants to do what is right-what is good. Despite that, I find I am drawn (by evil) to do that which is contrary to both the Law and my better judgement. I am at odds with myself to do the right thing. When I read this passage over and over one thing popped into my consciousness: He comes just shy of the Flip Wilson one-liner: the Devil made me do it!

Finally we come to the Gospel. It does not, precisely, even bring up the word Law..... but regulations and rules are implied. In John’s account the Passover is about to occur - the most sacred time of the year for the Jews- the time when the people were to remember how the angel of God passed over the households of the Israelites, sparing everyone, including each first born, leading Pharaoh to free the Israelites and the eventual deliverance of all the people by the hand of God. The holiday was truly a holy day. A day of honoring the Law and all the laws and customs of the people.

Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the holy day. Going to the temple - he saw what had become commonplace. Money-changers: men who exchanged Roman currency the currency of the Temple which in turn could be used by the faithful to buy any number of animals for sacrifice from the merchants on premises. This activity was NOT illegal - it was NOT against the Law. And yet, he was obviously infuriated. He drove out the people, the animals and set the coins flying into the air. The pilgrims, the vendors, the money changers were all beside themselves and they demanded an explanation. "What sign can you show us for doing this" in effect - what’s your justification in the Law? what rule book are you using?

They did not see - they were blinded from seeing- that Jesus was the culmination and outward and visible sign of all that the Law contained in the Ten Commandments: loving God above all, worshiping God alone, honoring God in word and deed, keeping God a priority by setting aside a day for study, meditation, worship and re-creation, honor of parents, life, property, sacred unions, honesty in all things. The bazaar that had evolved around and within the temple had become at least once removed from the intent of the temple itself - the setting aside of holy ground for the Holy of Holies.

There are times when we too lose sight of the Law of Moses which - to this day - is the foundation of a good, holy life. We can become cynical and callous to the love of a system of justice that can create order and peace. We can fall to the temptation of instant gratification rather than sticking to that which we know to be right, to be good.

Similar to the people in the time of Jesus, we can become distracted from the true purpose of this temple - this holy ground - this church. We could disintegrate into a merelsocial club or a forum for human rights issues. If the Church is to continue, grow, and thrive we must do what is in our power to worship the Lord in beauty and holiness, to - individually and corporately - adhere to the promises in our Baptismal Covenant: to "continue in the apostles’teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers; strive for justice, peace and respect for others; seek and serve Christ in others; strive to do what is right, and - when we fail - earnestly repent and rededicate ourselves; proclaim the Good News of God in Christ by word and deed." Then we will be following, living and loving the Law.

"Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be now and always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer". Amen.

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