Saturday, March 17, 2018

Love





The past several weeks we've been reading from First Corinthians at Matins.  I had felt guilty that I wasn't writing much, but so much has been going on!  Then we read Chapters 12 and 13.  Paul is describing the variety of gifts in the Church, stressing that all are needed.  Then he crowns that with his chapter on love.  No matter which gifts I bring, if I don't have love I'm nothing and my gifts are nothing.

This helped me.  The commitments that have kept me from writing, I realized, have come from my increasing capacity to love those near at hand.  I'm more involved with people in face-to-face work, doing more community formation, trying to live the balanced and sane life our Covenant calls us to.  So sometimes my writing takes a back seat.  I suddenly saw that rather than being a problem, there's an invitation to listen with love, to listen to love, and do what is needed.

Don't get me wrong.  I "love" to reflect and write, and I feel such fondness for those of you who write back or respond.  But lives shift, concerns and needs and context shift, and those shifts call us to let go as well as take up.   I'm still writing, though not often.  But I'm thrilled beyond measure that some other calls, calls that brought me into religious life 18 years ago, are finally manifesting.

When I left New Mexico for the convent in 2000, I told people I was ready for the advanced course on love.  Wrong!  I was a mere beginner.  But living in community taught me how far I have to go.  Continuing this life as a Companion of Mary the Apostle is working on me.  I'm still not ready for the advanced course, but I'm making progress.

As we head toward Holy Week and the supreme acts of God's love, I invite you to be looking for the love you give and the love you withhold, or don't know how to give yet.  God will teach us, if we ask. But, as Jesus knew, love is a risky and painful business.   Asking to love is asking for trouble.

May you be blessed with trouble this season, and rise to new life in Christ.



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Inclusion?



Everyone is buzzing about the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's resolution to adopt gender-neutral language for God.  Curiously, most of the reporting about this is from conservative or reactionary sources: whatever.  Friends are celebrating.  I am too, mostly, but I have a caveat.

The resolution calls for "inclusive" language and images, but also, and more clearly, for "neutral" ones.  I've spent a long time praying in gender-neutral language, and it does indeed make God more accessible to me and many others.  I've also learned from that, however, how deeply the masculine abides within the neuter/neutral.

When I say "God" instead of "He" or "Father," people are mostly OK.  But if I say "She" or "Mother," I can hear the breath drawn in throughout a congregation.  This reaction isn't just from opponents; it's often a breath of delight, of daring to claim such an affiliation with God.  I have heard of parishioners who've said it's "disrespectful" to refer to God in the feminine.  Both sets of reaction tell me that "neutral" is often a license to avoid the fact that "God" is still masculine.

We learned this more deeply by reading the daily lessons as written, but substituting feminine pronouns for God.  So "She" goes to war, issues commandments, punishes, as well as nurturing and covenanting.  It sounds different.  It will bend not only your image of God, but your image of the feminine.  That's a good thing.

When the language is neutral, we don't have to notice.  It's like the Elizabethan compromise: you can believe what you want, just use these words when we pray together.  And that may be as good as it will get for a generation - or longer.  But it's not the goal.

My goal is that we can really celebrate God's excess of meaning, God's beyond-ness, not by silencing but by multiplying images.  Father and Mother.  Divine Daughers and Sons.  Fierce mothers and tender fathers.  Plus all the images from the Scriptures that don't have easy genders.  Plus all the gender-bending mothers and fathers and daughters and sons.

Julian of Norwich wrote that Jesus is our mother.  That's where I'm going.
God, Wondrous Mother.  Until we can say that without stumbling, we won't be an inclusive Church.

Onward!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Freedom and Frankness

We are reading a lot of John Main lately, and look to continue for quite a while.  He is not as widely known as some contemporary teachers, but Elizabeth and I find him to be a rare soul, full of love, and a guide on our road of new forms of community.  He left England to found a Benedictine priory in Montreal, in which they shared the practice of mantra meditation along with the traditional Benedictine life.  He died too soon, in 1982, and the priory eventually closed, but his successor continued to build the network.  Today it is the World Community for Christian Meditation.  Check it out at http://wccm.org.

Today I read these words:
"As our society becomes increasingly less religious its need for the authentically spiritual intensifies.  Religion is the sacred expression of the spiritual but if the spiritual experience is lacking then the religious form becomes hollow and superficial and self-important. . .

How often does the violence with which men [sic] assert or defend their beliefs betray an attempt to convince themselves that they do really believe or that their beliefs are authentic?  The spectre of our actual unbelief can be so frightening that we can be plunged into extreme, self-contradictory ways of imposing our beliefs on others rather than simply, peacefully, living them ourselves.

When religion begins to bully or to insinuate, it has become unspiritual because the first gift of the Spirit, creatively moving in man's [sic] nature, is freedom and frankness."

May you be blessed with that Spirit today.

(Source: John Main: a selection of his writing, ed. Clare Hallward.  Springfield IL:  Templegate.)

Our January Newsletter

Happy Florence Li Tim-Oi Day!

And here's the link to our January newsletter:

http://conta.cc/2F2KEE1

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Happy Anniversary!



Today is five years since Elizabeth and I made our initial declarations of intent to live as community.  You might think of it as our postulancy reception, except no one was receiving us - we were stepping into a space we were creating as we went.  We made our declaration at Vespers at Holy Cross Monastery.  We said:

I desire to know God and serve God with my whole being.  I desire to walk with others on the road of discipleship, and to learn about life as a Companion of Mary the Apostle.

The next month someone came to us asking us to start a women's group.  Since then we have been growing and evolving and learning, struggling and rejoicing.

We are still only two in residence, but we see the community developing around us.  We are welcoming three new candidates for Covenant Companionship, and beginning a new Covenant Group for people who are exploring their vocation with us.  We are surrounded by gifted and loving advisors and counselors.  Something is happening.  God is with us.

Please join us in giving thanks this day for all those who follow their hearts in seeking God.  Give thanks for those who help others on this path.  We give thanks for you, and for one another.  God is awesome.  Hallelujah!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Saint John, Evangelist



Today we celebrate John of many names: "The Divine," "The Beloved," "Evangelist."  I'm disappointed that the readings today don't include the prologue to his Gospel; the selections from the Gospel focus on him, John, rather than on his distinctive view of Jesus.  But we hear echoes in the first office reading, Proverbs 8:22-30, where Wisdom tells of her close relationship with the Creator.  This Wisdom is, for John, the Word that "came down" and met us in the flesh.  In the Incarnation, Jesus' light shows each of us who we are and who we might become.  "He became human that we might become divine," as Irenaeus said.  But the road to divinity goes through our sin and our ignorance.  We are enabled to see ourselves through Jesus' eyes, and to choose life - or not.

Today, as the U.S. government continues to dismantle structures of collective responsibility and concern, we are each going to be challenged to decide what our values and priorities are.  Do we make contributions to charities, or tithe, in order to get a tax break?  Will we give when we can't get that benefit?  Will we share what we have with those who will no longer have access to even minimal food resources or housing?  Will we help our loved ones, and others, who will no longer have jobs, or Social Security or Medicare?  What do we stand for?

It's not enough to be nice.  At the end of the movie "Downsizing," I was struck by a scene when someone tells the protagonist that their journey on foot will be eleven hours long.  He is not prepared, and he's the last one coming.  After telling him this, the first person blithely says, "Stay hydrated," and he strides ahead, leaving him alone and with nothing.  What looks like a group of concerned, loving people reveals itself to be a nicer, eco-conscious version of the same old individualism.

Jesus wasn't nice.  He didn't teach us to be nice.  He became human, he went to the depths, he endured our worst, out of love.  Along the way he stripped bare the niceness of those who give out of their comfortable excess, or who give to pat themselves on the back or feel virtuous.  He kept choosing the path of possibility, a path that leads through uncertainty and failure.

The Word became flesh and tented among us.  And we too, in this flesh, are children of God.  May you see and honor that child in yourself, and in all you meet.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Saint Stephen, Deacon


Today we remember Stephen, the first deacon.  He's also the first martyr, and that tends to get more attention, but today I want to think about his crucial role in getting the Church moving toward a sustainable community.

The morning office reading (Acts 6:1-7) tells of the moment when the apostles got the need for deacons.  Fights were springing up (apparently all was not as happy as Luke sometimes wants us to think!).  The contesting parties came to the apostles, as the only authorities in the community.  But the apostles said, "This isn't really our job, and focusing on it will cause us to neglect the thing that is our job.  Let's appoint some people to do this job.  You all choose the ones you trust.  We will do what we are called to do, and they will do what they are called to, all for the good of the community."

Now, the translations can make it sound like the twelve are dismissive of this "mundane" task, but I don't think we have to go there.  They're just clear that it's not their task, their ministry, their gift.  But they're just as clear that it is needed, and that the people should choose those who will carry it out.

We've talked among the Companions about how to understand our different threads of membership.  Are we like monks/nuns, oblates, tertiaries, associates?  Last summer Dario said maybe it's more like the vowed members are like priests and the covenant Companions are like deacons; some tending the charism, focused on prayer and welcoming those who come, and others going out and bringing needs and resources back and forth.  We aren't settled on these analogies; there's always a danger that we will read too much into them and try to fit inside those categories.  We hope to have residential vowed members who serve the world by "waiting at tables" as well as attending to "the word of God."  But it is useful to have that lens.

I, Shane, have struggled for years with the sense that I'm supposed to serve with my hands more, to be "out" more, to be "relevant."  But today's lesson reminds me that some of us are called to prayer, to listening, to bringing words rather than deeds as such.  God's realm needs all of us.  So I'm tending the fire, hoping to bring something to others who go out and do what I'm not able or called to.  I give thanks for deacons, ordained and incognito.  Blessed Stephen, pray for us!

P.S.  Last night (yes, Christmas night) we went to see "Downsizing."  I think the lead character actually shows us diaconal ministry incognito.  It is a powerful movie, with a lot of commentary about our choices in the world.  See it if you can.