30 November 2009

Happy (belated ) Birthday C.S. Lewis!! 29th of November

Disappointed on the day of judgment

There are lots of apocalyptic references in the readings for Advent, it can be hard to get your head around them, whether or not you are a fan of the Left Behind series!  So, I was amused to find the following quote at the start of a New York Times article yesterday on the Grand Canyon.

“I HAVE heard rumors of visitors who were disappointed,” J. B. Priestley once said of the Grand Canyon. “The same people will be disappointed at the Day of Judgment.”

Do check out the article - a fine one.  And, it is indeed true that the wonders of nature are wonders that we are to behold, and they do reveal a bit of the glory of God.  Do we have eyes to see them?  Are we so busy with our cares and occupations that we fail to see the brilliant sunrise, the gliding hawk above, the gray trees standing guard over a silent wood?

It is Advent, and we live into this time of expectation, of anticipation, of longing by taking time to notice, taking time to ponder the ways that God created the world, came into the world, and is still coming into the world.

May we not be so crazy-busy that we are disappointed at the wonders all around us!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

photo credit - Richard Perry - New York Times

29 November 2009

Discussion of the liturgical season of Advent

Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 


From 2007,...Discussion of the liturgical season of Advent with the Rev. Peter M. Carey, in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

Rowan Williams reflects on the Copenhagen Summit and on Advent

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams reflects on the importance of the Copenhagen Summit and asks 'what do we deeply hope for this Advent?'. 

Advent 1 - sermon image via wordle

26 November 2009

The gift of this day, David Steindl-Rast

Brother David Steindl-Rast is a wise and wonderful writer and speaker who emphasizes the way that we can develop gratitude in order to live a rich and abundant life.

In this short video, "A Good Day," with David Steindl-Rast, he explores the gift that this day is for us.

A beautiful reflection for any day, but especially for Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

25 November 2009

Johnny Appleseed Prayer

Johnny Appleseed Prayer

The Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me
The things I need
The sun, the rain and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me

All things come of thee, O Lord

All things come of thee, O Lord;

and of thine own have we given thee.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Thomas KenManual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College, 1674.

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
he chastens and hastens his will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing:
sing praise to his Name, he forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning:
thou, Lord, wast at our side: all glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
and pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation:
thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Words: Nederlandtsche Gedenckclanck, 1626;
trans. Theodore Baker (1851-1934), 1894.

Let yourself be built into a spiritual house

1 Peter 2:1-5, 9-10
1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation- 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God's people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Reflecting on what the church is can be quite interesting and tricky.  Of course, there is the local church on the corner, and then the organization of churches within denominations, and even the whole number of churches around the world.  But the New Testament writers, and Jesus himself, talk not much at all about these church buildings and the organization - the "institution" of the church.  The images seem far more metaphorical, or mystical.  Here, in 1 Peter we hear the urging that the members of the church be made into "living stones" which will be built into a spiritual house - and that all members will become a royal priesthood - the embodiment of God's people.

So, as enter the season of Advent in just a few days, it would do us well to ponder these things in our hearts, as Mary, too pondered what she had been told.  How can we more fully be the living stones, built into a spiritual house for God and God's people?

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

24 November 2009

Thanksgiving every Sunday

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
Know this: The Lord himself is God;
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Of course it is "Thanksgiving" week this week.  But, we celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday in the church.  Eucharist comes from the Greek word, eucharisto, which means "thanksiving."  And so, every Sunday we remember and we give thanks for all that God has given us.  Our whole lives are gift, after all.  All that we have, and all that we have comes from God.  We offer up a bit of what we have been given as a symbol of our thankfulness.  So enjoy your Thanksgiving, and also offer up thanksgiving every moment of every day, and on Sunday in the Eucharistic feast.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

23 November 2009

19 November 2009 - Region XV Council Meeting Eucharist - Sermon

The Rev. Peter M. Carey – Diocese of Virginia Region XV Council Meeting at Emmanuel, Greenwood – Eucharist – Sermon – 19 November 2009

We have heard Matthew 25 before.  Sometimes, we may find it hard to hear the words of the Bible anew, as these readings roll through the Sunday lectionary and the Daily Office, and today in the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary.   These commonly quoted readings can become pillars that support our faith, but over time, they may not sound like the living and breathing Word.  When Karl Barth began serving as a working pastor after working solely as a scholar, he remarked that he wanted to enter “the strange new world in the Bible.”  And what a strange world it is, Christ as King, but nothing like any king we know, Christ as the hungry and thirsty, Christ as a stranger, Christ naked, sick and in prison.  What a strange new world this is.

In order to enter into this world, we have to do some clearing.  We may have some well-worn tire tracks that need to be smoothed out, like the dirt roads in my home state of Vermont.  We nearly have to develop what the Zen Buddhists  call “beginner’s mind,” so that we might encounter the scripture anew. 

Today is the feast day of Elizabeth of Hungary.  She was a princess and was married at 14, and that she was pious.  She spent her money and time among the poor, the sick, and the needy.  When her husband died, she lived the life of a third order Franciscan – giving away all that she had, and living as a follower of Christ among the poor in the model of St. Francis.  Her work was so radical, her life so dramatic, her practice so selfless that though she died at 24, many hospitals around the world are named after her to this day. 

We have this challenging reading from Matthew, and we have this life of Elizabeth, which set a high mark, indeed, for the Christian life.  I don’t know about you, but I wonder whether I can do this work of charity – caritas – and love.  We know that actions speak louder than words, but we also know that actions are costlier and can appear more difficult.

However “good” she was, Elizabeth did not do all this out of mere generosity, she did not do this out of noblesse oblige.  This was not a tithe, this was her life.  Elizabeth encountered Christ in those she served.  Jesus has turned it all on its head, not only doing unto others “as you would like to have done to you,” but also doing unto others because in that encounter, one encounters Christ.  This is beyond pragmatic “good works,” beyond a narrow view of charity.  Archbishop William Temple famously said, “The Church is the only organization dedicated to the betterment of those who are not members.”  And this dedication is based on the reality that in these interactions of compassion we might know Christ.

When I think of St. Elizabeth’s, I think of interviewing for a CPE site, and I visited St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for a day along with my friend Charles.  St. Elizabeth’s is the mental hospital in the South East neighborhood of DC.  Though I had spent time working with needy populations in cities, I was nervous to be at “St. E’s”.  I was preoccupied with stupid things like what I was wearing, and how I might be perceived.  At one point, we were separated from our guide and temporarily locked in a waiting area along with some patients. I could feel the redness come into my neck and head.  I could feel the nervousness and anxiety wash over me.  By contrast, Charles had sat down on a folding chair next to one patient, and took the opportunity to get to know him a bit.  Charles didn’t have any magic words, and didn’t have any special training.  But he was open enough, and relaxed enough to recognize the gift of the person he sat with on those metal folding chairs.  They chatted about this and that until the door was unlocked.  Not only did Charles recognize Christ in the patient, but also was able to invite me into the conversation so that I, too could enjoy this gift.  We may not be able to be Elizabeth, and we may not even be able to be Charles, but we can be who we are, and we can strive to live so that we might also be transformed by the interactions of compassion.

In “Where God Happens,” Rowan Williams notes that “each living being in the world rests upon a unique creative act of God . . .  Every being has at its heart its own word, its own “logos.”  A truthful relation to anything is an uncovering of that word.”

A truthful relation to anything is an uncovering of that word; that Christ within them.  So today, we remember Elizabeth of Hungary, who in her short 24 years certainly did the work of Christ in the world, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and giving shelter to the needy.  But she also offers us a challenging and encouraging image of someone who did these things out of Joy, who was transformed by them, who encountered Christ in these children of God.  May we also live out our faith so that we might do the work of Christ, and meet Christ in one another.

21 November 2009

Lord, you now have set your servant free

Canticle 17 The Song of Simeon
Nunc Dimittis Luke 2:29-32

Lord, you now have set your servant free *
to go in peace as you have promised;

For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:

A Light to enlighten the nations, *
and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Episcopal Church (Team) Welcomes You!

Yesterday, the Episcopal Church ran a full page ad in USAToday which laid out some statements about the Episcopal Church. As good as this was, I was among a group of folks who thought that images and creativity might have been utilized to greater effect.  Here's my offering.  There are other WONDERFUL images posted by the Rev. Frank Logue at his Irenic Thoughts blog.

Any graphic designers out there?  What are your ideas?

Happy Saturday,

18 November 2009

St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity

St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
    to give and not to count the cost,
    to fight and not to heed the wounds,
    to toil and not to seek for rest,
    to labor and not to ask for reward,
    save that of knowing that I do your will.

They may curse, but you will bless, Psalm 109, first thoughts - Psalm 109:8

They may curse, but you will bless; *
let those who rise up against me be put to shame,
and your servant will rejoice.

Let my accusers be clothed with disgrace *
and wrap themselves in their shame as in a cloak.

I will give great thanks to the LORD with my mouth; *
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;

Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, *
to save his life from those who would condemn him.

Interestingly, Psalm 109 came up in the daily office lectionary this morning.  I had already spent some time exegeting this scripture and reflecting on it.  In the lectionary, the verses from 5-19 are left out, because of their hateful, cursing, and violent language.  I see why they are left out, but I think that if they were left in, we might be able to better see that this psalm is far more interesting and complex than some might think it is.

The verse that has become well-known on bumper stickers is 109:8 (or 109:7, depending on your counting of verses - there were no little numbers in the original Hebrew, of course).  "May his days be few; may another take his office." 

For those who take scripture seriously, it seems to me that it is important to see it in its entirety, and in reading one of the Psalms it is most helpful to look at an entire psalm.  While I am no scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, I do have a few thoughts on this particular psalm.

First, it seems to me that there are three sections of the psalm.  There is a section from verses 1-4 that are an opening statement from a ruler or leader who has been unjustly accused by some who:
... repay evil for good, *

and hatred for my love.
The ruler / leader has been accused of all sorts of evil, and this psalm begins with him praying to God about this situation.  After the opening, the speaker recounts what has been said about him, what the accusers have said about him, and this is hateful talk, indeed.  From verse 5-19 there are a string of curses and threats and hopes for his destruction and the destruction of his family.  Finally, in the last verses, the voice of the ruler returns, and an affirmation is given that God will judge fairly, even if the accusers do not.  An affirmation that God will stand on the side of the all-too-human ruler, who has come under attack but who is striving to walk in the way of the Lord.

They may curse, but you will bless; *
let those who rise up against me be put to shame,
and your servant will rejoice.
Let my accusers be clothed with disgrace *
and wrap themselves in their shame as in a cloak.
I will give great thanks to the LORD with my mouth; *
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;

Second, I love the fact that people are reading scripture and even using it to express themselves.  If people are unhappy about one or another earthly leader, praying that the leader have a short time in office is certainly open to them.  Praying for the death of a leader or destruction of the leader's family seems a bit much, however.  As I said, I think we all have our views about leaders, and certainly get enraged by actions by them, and also, at times, support them.  

Thirdly,  I think taking one line out of scripture and using it to justify a previously-held position is problematic on several levels.  When this particular verse, Psalm 109:8 is used, I wonder if people realize that this is an accusation that is quoted by a just ruler who is praying to God and recounting the unjust accusation against him?  

Fourthly,  I would love to hear what you have to say.  But, please, read the entire psalm a few times first.  What do you think about it?

17 November 2009

Some photos from the "Installation Service" from Sunday

On Sunday we had a wonderful service at Emmanuel Church at the "Celebration of New Ministry" otherwise known as my "Installation Service."  We exchanged gifts, symbolizing the mutual ministry that we undertake as Associate Rector and as members of Christ's Church in the world.  It was a great mix of love and fun.  Thank you to all who participated, and thank you for the ongoing warm welcome at Emmanuel.  I feel blessed to be here among you!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Photos courtesy of elstudio.pro...thank you!!

Handout for the next "Revised Coffee Lectionary" Bible Study - Advent 1 Readings

Handout for our November 23rd meeting can be downloaded in a .pdf form HERE.  I've also posted the text (and wordle images) below.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Mudhouse in Crozet at 10am,

Peace to you,

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Revised Coffee Lectionary Handout for 23Nov09 – Advent 1 Readings – Year C – RCL
  1. First Thoughts?  2. Words that “Pop”?  3. Observations?  4. Questions about the text?  5. Theological Questions?  6. Application to Daily Life?
images courtesy of wordle.net

The Collect
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Jeremiah 33:14-16
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."

Psalm 25:1-9 Page 614, BCP  Ad te, Domine, levavi
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

Show me your ways, O LORD, *
and teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.

Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.

Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

Gracious and upright is the LORD; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.

All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Luke 21:25-36
Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

16 November 2009

Happy are the people who know the festal shout, Psalm 89

Psalm 89: 8, 15
8 Who is like you, LORD God of hosts? *
O mighty LORD, your faithfulness is all around you.

15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout! *
they walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.
From this morning's Daily Office, (morning prayer) we read a portion of Psalm 89.  The two verses that jumped out for me were verse 8 and verse 15.  Specifically, the sense in 8 that the Lord's faithfulness is all around him.  Faithfulness can be understood in part as something that we might "have," that is, that we might have Faith in amounts strong or weak, we might "possess" faith in God, or perhaps in things of this world.  Much of Christianity is, of course, built on the foundation of the believers' faith.

But this other type of faithfulness is the faithfulness of God, that God is faithful to the Covenants that he set down with our forefathers and foremothers, that God was faithful in the past, and is faithful in the present, and will be ever faithful in the future.  God's faithfulness in his love for us really imparts our own faith in God.  In the Psalm, verse 8 paints a picture of faithfulness surrounding God on every side.  This wrapping up of God in faithfulness is evocative and fascinating.

In verse 15, the psalmist lifts up the sense that people should be happy in their worship, that there is a radical joy and happiness in believing and in worshiping God in community.  These faithful people walk in the light of God's presence and are not gloomy or burdened.  Or, even through their gloominess and burdens, they know that God will be faithful, that God will give them joy and happiness even in the darkest times - that God is with them, and they respond with joy.

It can be easy to drop into our gloom and burdens.  If, like me, you spend time in your car, driving from place to place, dropping off family members young and old, getting stuck in traffic and dealing with aggressive behavior, you may drop into gloom or grumpiness.  We can turn into mere "ants marching" (as Dave Matthews describes us), going on to our jobs, gloomily moving from place to place, with our ears jammed into our phones and our hands wrapped tightly around the steering wheel.

So, where is our Joy, where is our Happiness, where is the sense of walking in the light presence of God?  I believe it is there for us, but we may need to turn a bit, we may need to take a bit of time, perhaps cut off the radio and the cell phone, perhaps find ways to really seek the sky, the nature, and even the cars all around us.  When Moses encountered the Burning Bush, he had to turn aside, and take the time to see and experience God's presence in that unlikely place - we also may need to turn aside, to cease our "ant-like" marching - so we may walk with joy and happiness.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

15 November 2009

Readings for this Sunday: Proper 29 Year B, RCL

Click HERE for .pdf of these readings and this www.wordle.net image

Last Sunday After Pentecost - Christ the King Sunday

Proper 29
Year B

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13, (14-19)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

image courtesy of www.wordle.net 

14 November 2009

Tallis Canon

All praise to you, my God this night,
for all the blessings of the light,
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
beneath your own Almighty wings.

Be with me, Lord, and keep me strong,
to stand with those who do me wrong.
Teach me to live, a child of love,
with grace and strength sent from above.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, you heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

13 November 2009

Hoo boy, it is raining....gets me thinking about "rain" songs...

It has been raining for several days here in central Virginia...gets me thinking about a songtrack for this weather!

Singin' in the Rain, Gene Kelly

"from where I'm standing, the sun is shining all over the place"

Rain Drops keep falling on my head

Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole 'IZ' 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' 

My thoughts are not your thoughts, Isaiah 55:6

The Second Song of Isaiah
Quaerite Dominum Isaiah 55:6-11

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,

Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

A trap that we can easily fall into is the trap of thinking, feeling, and even believing that God is really something like us, though with some attributes we don't have or that God has what we have in greater intensity.  If we consider ourselves quite helpful, we might think that God is also helpful - and most helpful.  If we consider ourselves thoughtful and wise, we might think that God is also thoughtful and wise - and most thoughtful and wise.  If we consider ourselves compassionate, we might think that God is also compassionate - and most compassionate.  Of course, this is probably true - God does have some attributes that we have, and it seems that God has them in spades.  However, God is not a "thing" in the world, God is not a created, dependent thing, person, or being in the world.  God as creator is that which all depend.  When we say that God is redeemer in the person of Jesus Christ, this is something beyond any category that we can be to one another.  When we say that God is sanctifier as the Holy Spirit, this is almost beyond our imagination.

In the words of God written in the book of Isaiah, "my thoughts are not your thoughts, *

nor your ways my ways, says the Lord."  This statement affirms the way that God is something else entirely, and even saying "something else" isn't quite right because God is not a "thing" in the way that my computer or coffee cup is a thing.  Our thoughts are not God's thoughts, and our ways are not God's ways.

However, the passage from Isaiah affirms the fact that God does not leave us alone, that God has somehow come to us, has brought us the gift of life, has sent us the gift of God's love, and has sent us God's word.  The universe is not Godless or loveless, rather, God is holding it in his "hands" and is caring for it with compassion and love.

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *

it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

God's word has been sent in the world and it will accomplish the good that God has laid out for us, and we are meant to prosper and live lives full, abundant and loving.

12 November 2009

I will dwell in the house of the Lord, Psalm 23

Psalm 23 Dominus regit me

The LORD is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

I am continually fascinated by the way that the Bible sets out the image of the "House of the Lord."  In psalm 23, most of us probably imagine the "house of the Lord" as the place of eternal rest, our heavenly home.  This seems quite likely, for God does reside "there" of course.  However, in addition, it seems that this term also points to "the house of the Lord" here in our present reality, the "house of the Lord" would not be something that exists solely in a time and place that begins for each of us at our death.  The residence of God, the house of the Lord would be understood by the Hebrews to be the Temple, the place where such care was given to construct a large complex of buildings and courtyards to give protection to the Holy of Holies, where God was known to be.  When the Temple was destroyed in 70 c.e., new understandings arose and new practices arose about God and God's presence. Of course, the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament also point to the reality that God is all around us, and is interacting with the history of the world in a real and tangible way.  God is by no means contained by any complex of buildings, be they in Jerusalem, Rome, or Canterbury.

We have this image of the house of the Lord, which gives us hope and strength when we pray Psalm 23, as a place of eternal rest.  We also realize that the house of the Lord must include the Temple where the Hebrews offered sacrifice and praise.  And we also know that God is not to be located in any one place, but is actively engaged with creation and history.  There are other ways of understanding the term house, such as the house and lineage of David - an understanding of house as family and lineage. And then, of course, there is the Incarnation of the Christ as human, God dwelling with us as fully human and fully divine.

These ideas are still swirling around quite a bit for me, but I believe that the House of the Lord has multiple meanings which exist at the same time.  From Psalm 23 we learn that:

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever

Which is more vividly translated, "your goodness and mercy will stick to me / tail me / stalk me all the days of my life....and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  We know that God has created a home for us in the hereafter, and we know that God is sticking with us and guiding us to that place where we will (even now?) dwell forever.

I pray that we all experience some sense of God's householding in our lives today and that we know he is tailing us and stalking us with his goodness and kindness.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey