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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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Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Trap Door of Familiarity

You may have had the experience of plopping down in the car and doing the drive that you've done 50, 100, 1000 times. Arriving at your destination you can't remember what you saw on the road or the license plates or what jingle was on the radio... not a clue. You were there, now you're here and no clear memory in between.

A very dear friend of mine has recently rattled me to a renewed consciousness. After she challenged me to start taking digital photos of my 'world' my eyes were re-opened to the diversity and wonder in it. Here's an example from the end of last week:

It takes less than a minute to come up in the elevator from the third basement of the UN parking garage to my destination, the visitors lobby of the General Assembly hall. The doors open and it was as if I had been transported to Copenhagen - a dancing troupe of men and women were twirling in the General Assembly lobby in a folk dance, resplendent in traditional costume. Walking through the massive, sculpted front doors, I stroll across the flagstone/concrete expanse between two amazing sculptures, down the marble steps, through Security, across First Avenue. Turning west onto East 47th Street there was a demonstration in the pedestrian boulevard: Rabbi Rally for Darfur was taking place. Their public address system was in fine order and one Rabbi or Cantor after another got up to the microphone to plead the cause of the oppressed in the Sudan.

Continuing forward I dodge a string of couriers on their bicycles, zipping, zapping, weaving at breakneck speed through rush hour traffic. A riot of daffodils, strong and a defiant yellow provide a contrast to the gaggle of reporters and cameramen waiting to get a soundbite from the controversial Mr. Bolton, recently appointed US Ambassador to the UN.

I work in a department with people from: Burma, Indonesia, USA, Cameroon, Senegal, the Philippines, Haiti, Russia, France, Scotland, Finland, Spain, Cuba, Ireland, India, England, Trinidad, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Taiwan, Japan, Granada.

Good grief! Where had my appreciation been? My appreciation for all the unique texture of cultural, ethnic, religious diversity?

While serving at the altar as deacon on my last Sunday at St. Bartholomew's I looked out on the congregation of whom I am very fond. My eyes raised and I saw large rose window in the back of the church - over the entrance doors - and was struck by the hues, the blues. It was - it is - it had always been magnificent.

There is a trap door of familiarity. We fall through that trap door into a rut and go round and round on a very small circular track. We put ourselves into autopilot or cruise control and so much of what gives our lives shape, grain, contrast, brightness is overlooked, ignored, taken for granted.

It can happen on Sundays - or any other occasion of corporate prayer. Line up the books and the bulletin.... follow the outline, say the prayers .... there it is... it sneaks up on us... it is so easy to fall through the trap door. When did we move from praying our prayers to saying our prayers???? There is a world of difference. When, with a congregation around you, were you given more than 10 seconds before the invitation to confession and the confession itself? What became of the silence, the sacred space between one action in the next. When is the last time you got to church early, got on your knees (or other prayerful position) and prepared for the Eucharist and receiving the body of Christ? I am guilty of going into worker bee mode and neglecting these things myself..... perhaps more often than I care to divulge.

The trap door is there, make no mistake. There is one antidote --- grace. Perhaps you are shaken out of your numb by a big Dutch girl - that is grace, or the beauty of a stained glass window - that is grace, or a hint of remorse - that is grace.

How do we come through without plunging into that pitfall, through that trapdoor of familiarity? GRACE.
" 'tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home". Ask for it - then count on it.


Speaking of familiarity, it is now one year since I've had the priviledge and pleasure of writing - at Barbara's invitation - More or Less Church (or MOLC). It has become a familiar part of my prayer life and my activity. Grace gives me the strength to acknowledge what an opportunity Barbara gave - and gives me - and the hindsight to see she put a lot of faith in God that this unorthordox storyteller could slowly become a writer who would plant new seeds on the Farm for the benefit of others. Many thanks, Barbara - and all you readers and contributors out there. I'll keep doing what I do here in the hopes that there will be pieces that help you pray, think, laugh, sing, cry....... by the Grace of God! Amen and Amen.

DATELINE (NBC) "The Mystery of the Jesus Papers" Sunday, April 2

There have been accusations going back and forth between Mr. Baigent and the publishers of the bestselling The DaVinci Code for copyright enfringement. Now he has written another book.

Here's the 'teaser' I copied from the MSNBC webpage:

It started with a provocative— and many say preposterous—claim that Jesus was married. Now get ready for a new theory: Michael Baigent, author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, alleges that Jesus may not have died on the cross. And there’s more: he says, there are actual letters written by Jesus himself. Dateline’s Sara James tracks down the facts behind 'The Jesus Papers.' Dateline, Sunday, April 2, 7 p.m - NBC.(That's Eastern Standard time.... oh- and "Daylight Savings Time" begins tomorrow, so factor that in as well). Of course, check your local listings.


This suggestion comes from the source of much knowledge and miscellany, Debbie S. Loeb, who today celebrates the first anniversary of the posting of her first offering on Hodgepodge on the Geranium Farm - you might check it out and wish her all the best.... we at the Farm do - she has offered many a helpful hint, thoughtful tome, product suggestion and musical moment. As Rev. Buddy (sweet-talkin' voice of the e-Mo's) and the DJ in tandem would say: Miss Debbie, you go girl!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Pass-Along Joke from the nearly Virtual Deacon

While this joke may be amusing to some, it may be painfully awful to other visitors here at MOLC --- I just couldn't resist the temptation to pass it on!

JESUS & SATAN: a modern analogy

Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering.
Finally fed up, God said, "THAT''S IT! I have had enough. I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, I will judge who does the
better job."

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away.

They moused.
They faxed.
They E-mailed.
They E-mailed with attachments.
They downloaded.
They did spreadsheets!
They wrote reports.
They created labels and cards
They created charts and graphs.
They did some genealogy reports.
They did every job known to man.

Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster than hell. Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled,
rain poured, and..................

the power went out.

Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed.

Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted their computers.

Satan started searching frantically, screaming: "It''s gone! It''s all GONE! "I lost everything when the power went out!"

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work. Satan observed this and became irate. "Wait!" he screamed. "That''s not fair! He
cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have any?"

God just shrugged and said, "JESUS SAVES"


...... kindly keep the groaning down to a dull roar. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Resource materials for Lent, Holy Week and Easter

The following question came from Farmer Carol Heist of St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Douglassville, PA:

I teach 6 to 9 year olds in Sunday School. Are there any sources you recommend for Good Friday/Stations of the Cross. We have never specifically taught this subject and would like to try this year.Thanks!

Dear Carol and others,

Here is an attachment from the Diocese of New York that has several resources that may provide what you are looking for.

Children & Family Ministries Newsletter - Lent, Easter & Pentecost 2006

In addition to these which are geared toward children, please see past postings on More or Less Church for: 1) Easter Vigil Readings for Kids (posted Oct.31,2005) plus - for adults - 2) Stations of the Cross (posted May 11,2005), 3) Franciscan Stations of the Cross (posted yesterday) and 4) for good measure, I am about to post a 'teen' Stations of the Cross I wrote for Happening! NY 1 (which took place this past weekend).

Other than that I am trying to decide whether to write a 'children's' Stations or a '7 Last Words of Christ' (for Good Friday preparation). If I have some speedy feedback from readers, I will write one instead of the other ..... please cast your vote on that to Your input, as always, allows us at the Farm to address your needs and concerns..... we couldn't do it without you!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Franciscan Stations of the Cross

This piece was written by Justus van Houten, friar and deacon, Society of St. Francis. Thank you, Jusus, for sharing this with us!

by (Bro) Justus VanHouten, SSF, deacon

It has often been part of my lenten observance to reflect on the fourteen stations of the cross and sometimes to write a set of devotions that can be used by others. The last time I was at St Francis Church in Koke (Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea) I noticed that they had set up the stations of the cross around the church juxtaposed with a series of pictures depicting the Prayer often attributed to St. Francis. This year I decided to write a series of reflections interpreting each of the stations in light of the prayer attributed to St Francis.

1. Jesus is condemned to death. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

To become an instrument means to risk getting dirty. A garden hoe cannot stay in pristine condition if it is going to do its job. Even the precision instruments used by a surgeon can get splattered with blood. So too, in order to become an instrument of God's peace, we need to get "our hands dirty and our feet wet" by resisting the forces that undermine the peace of God. Jesus was condemned to death as he became an instrument of God's peace, forgiveness and reconciling love. For us to become instruments of peace, we, too, need to become actively involved in peacemaking in what ever way we are suited and not just be pius wishers-for-peace.

2 Jesus takes his cross Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Jesus said if we would be his disciples we must pick up our cross daily and follow him. Jesus took up his cross and by so doing revealed his great love. Jesus had already resisted escape from bodily harm when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Now he takes up his cross knowing that this will result in his death. And yet out of love, he can do nothing else. He died for love of our love. Can we live for love of his?

3 Jesus falls the first time Where there is injury, pardon
The weight of the cross - the burden of the sin of the world - is heavy indeed. The burden of sin is truly immense. Forgiveness is the only way the burden can be lifted. When we forgive others their burden, as well as our own, is lightened. Jesus carries the weight of unforgiven sin so that by his sacrifice our sins can be pardoned. Does the weight of grudges and remembrances of past hurts weight us down? Forgiveness is the only relief.

4 Jesus meets his mother Where there is doubt, faith
When the archangel Gabriel told Mary she would bear God's son, Mary did not fully understand what that would mean. Even Simeon's prophecy, that a sword would pierce her own heart, was veiled in mystery. Now her son is being crucified like a common criminal. Surely she must have wondered what had gone wrong. And yet she stands by him. Full of grief she will later hold his lifeless body in her arms. Her faith abides even in the midst of doubt, uncertainty, seeming failure. Faith, even in the midst of doubt, conquers despair.

5 Simon helps Jesus Where there is despair, hope
Jesus is alone. True, he is surrounded by a crowd, but he is alone in his agony. And then a stranger comes to help him and he is no longer alone. An outstretched hand of welcome, some unexpected assistance and the rays of hope break through even the darkest despair. Simon helps Jesus and in so doing renews his hope.

6 Veronica wipes the face of Jesus Where there is darkness, light
Simon came to Jesus' help and now so does Veronica. When everything seems overcome with fear of despair, one thing can help to lighten the darkness and then we can see another and another. A single ray of light pierces the darkness, but more light dispels it. We may not always be able to be the first to respond, but like Veronica, we can come do our part to turn darkness into light.

7 Jesus falls a second time Where there is sadness, joy.
Jesus now has Simon helping him and has also been helped by Veronica and yet he still falls a second time. Life is like that. Even at the best of times it seems like we take one step backwards every time we take two or three steps forward. But we can still be joyful. Joy is not the same as happiness. Even in the midst of sorrow we can have the joy that comes from knowing and believing that God is still in control. In Gethsemane, Jesus submitted to God's will and now on this, his final journey, even though he stumbles and falls, he can carry on because he has the joy and peace that comes from surrender.

8 Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem O Divine Master
Claiming Jesus as Master or Lord and King is not just a personal action. It brings us into a community with the others making this same claim. The women of Jerusalem come to Jesus, their master, for solace: both to offer it to him and to receive it for themselves. This is community in action: the community that we all belong to by virtue of our baptism.

9 Jesus falls a third time Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
Even with the support of a community where the members help to strengthen each other, there are still times when a heavy burden can cause one to fall. Others can comfort us and give us support, but we still must bear the burden ourselves. The weight of his cross is heavy for Jesus, but it is his cross and even with the help of Simon and the solace of the women of Jerusalem he must still bear it. We, too, must bear our crosses even if we do not bear them alone.

10 Jesus is stripped to be understood as to understand
We all wear masks and hide behind them. There are things we know about ourselves we don't want others (and sometimes hope that even God won't) to know about us. And there are things we even try to hide from ourselves. Jesus is stripped of his clothes and we need to be stripped of these masks so that we can begin to see ourselves as God and other people see us. The more we understand ourselves, the more we can begin to understand others with insight and wisdom based on our knowing the truth of our own selves.

11 Jesus is nailed to the cross to be loved as to love
Here the great love of Christ is revealed. As he is nailed to the cross and as the blood flows from his wounds, we see his love. He didn't come into this world to condemn us, but to love us. By this act we learn what it means to truly love. We learn how to love from other people; we learn what true love is from God.

12 Jesus dies It is in giving that we receive
Jesus died as a ransom for many and as he is lifted up on his cross, he draws the whole world unto himself. He gives his life in order that he might receive us. We receive something to fill a lack, without a lack and with God's grace abounding there is no room to receive it. We have to give something in order to be able to receive something.

13 Jesus' body is taken from the cross it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. He became a true human being so that we might share in his divinity. In his death, we see the true cost of forgiveness. We can only be forgiven as we are able to forgive and our forgiveness of others may be nearly as costly as Christ's forgiveness of us.

14 Jesus is laid in the tomb It is in dying we are born to eternal life.
Jesus dies and is laid in a borrowed tomb. He is dead, as dead as a coffin nail. His friends will later come to properly prepare his body for burial; but instead will find him resurrected to eternal life. You cannot receive eternal life without dying to the things of this world.
See also an open journal from Br. Justus under Letter from PNG in the "Happenings" Section of Check it out!

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