Sunday, July 17, 2011

"The farmer is the harvester" ~ Sermon for 17 July 2011

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon – 17 July 2011
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA
“The farmer is the harvester”

“The farmer is the harvester”… the good farmer, planting the good seed, and then the weeds, or tares, or thistles come up…and the workers wonder what is going on…didn’t the farmer plant only good seed?  And then the farmer says to let the weeds, tares, or thistles come up alongside the wheat.  If not, the wheat may get pulled up alongside the weeds…the implication being that the worker would not have the ability, the gift of discernment, to see what was good and what wasn’t.

This passage has particular relevance for me, for I have a pretty good green thumb, but when it comes to trying to figure out what is a weed and what is a flower, or what is a thistle and what is not, I have no real clue.  Beyond that, I have a kind of a radical nature when I see some weeds, because some weeds look to this untrained eye, more beautiful and more interesting and of more “value” than the so-called flowers.  I have very little ablilty when it comes to this department.  However, one plant I have a keen keen eye when it comes to poison ivy.  I can spot poison ivy a mile away.  Even among the huge patches of pakisandra in our yard, I can spy out the invasive and evil poison ivy amidst the “good” plants.  I must say I’m a bit arrogant about my abilities when it comes to poison ivy, and am often amazed that people allow the poison ivy to grow so near their hammocks or pools or flower gardens.

I think many of us look out at folks and feel that we are quite skilled at discerning the “good” from the “not good” the one with “high ability” from the one who has “low ability.” As a long-time teacher and coach, I must say that I fell into this kind of thing all too often.  Especially as a coach, I would see young athletes at 8, 10 or 12 years old and I might make some predictions about their trajectory.  Of course, when a young athlete is amazingly quick or strong, it is only natural to imagine them playing sports at a big-time college, or beyond. 

Think about a young Michael Phelps in the pool, or a young Serena Williams on the tennis court.  Also, if someone is hampered by slowness or lack of strength, many coaches might assume that this person would not even make a varsity team in high school.  And, it goes beyond sports to ability in school, and work, and life.  However, the reality is, that I have been wrong far more often than I’ve been correct.  One of the joys of Facebook is that I have been able to reconnect with former students who could barely sit still in 7th grade who are now pediatric surgeons at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or and awkward and tentative young soccer player who now wins ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons.

You see, I am not the sower. I am not the farmer.  I am, on a good day, one of those workers.  I am one of those workers who asks the farmer – what shall we do with these wheat and weeds.  What shall we do with these “good ones” and the “not good ones.”  And the farmer answers, let them all grow together, and at harvest time, I will separate them – and take in the good wheat into the barn, and to the fire I will send the weeds.  The farmer takes the long view.  God is the farmer who plants the good seeds, and the farmer is the harvester.  We are the workers who have a limited view.  God is the farmer and the harvester. 

God plants only good seeds, but that there are thistles, weeds, and tares which do come in.  We can’t deny that there is brokenness, darkness, and evil.  We live and move and have our being alongside thorns and weeds and thistles, but also among good wheat.  The good and the not good are intermingled.  But God plants, and cares for, the good seeds.

Another implication is that we should pray for patience, for what we might perceive (in the short term) as something that is a weed, may, in God’s time be wheat that offers bread for the journey.  Like the child who might develop far beyond the predictions of her teacher, what we may perceive as thorny and weedy, may not be.  God is the farmer, and also the harvester.

The kingdom of God is like a farmer, who plants good seed, and though the weeds come in, God will not give up on any strand of wheat, and does not want to risk losing any wheat. God will bring in the harvest, God created us, loves us, cares for us, and though we often feel intertwined with weeds, God will sort it out and brings us home.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Jedi craves not these things

Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless. ~Yoda

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seek with all your heart ~ a lesson from Harry Potter

"As movie theatres reel the final film, and as we reflect on the years we shared with members of Dumbledore’s Army, perhaps this is the takeaway: Seek. Seek with all your heart and all your soul and with your closest friends by your side. If you do, you may find yourself on an unpredictable path to places you never knew existed."

From Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio in CNN's religion blog

God "works together" with us


God cooperates with those who love
by turning everything to their own good.
St. Paul says that God both initiates and cooperates in all human growth. God “works together with” us (Romans 8:28), which means both our workings are crucial. Every moment, God is trying to expand our freedom. Can you imagine that?
God is trying to make this choice more alive, more vital, more clear, more true. God even uses our mistakes and our sin in that regard. Nothing at all is wasted. If that is not the providence of God, what else would be “providential”?
The provident care of God is that God is working for our wholeness and for our full liberation—probably more than we are.
Richard Rohr in  Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 187, day 200

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Rowan in the News from "Lesley's Blog"

Rowan in the News

General Synod is meeting in York at the moment, debating how we can get growth in numbers and spiritual growth. You can hear Rowan’s presidential address here and read ithere.
The Twitter response was mostly positive, picking up on some of the sound bites:
Christianity is not advice but news – don’t reduce to exhalation or sound moral/spiritual teaching alone but reintroduce resurrection news of vindication, homecoming & transformation alarmingly beyond expectation. God has not abandoned us.
Knowing the God who has not abandoned us is inseparable from us not abandoning those whom God has called us to serve.
Mission is asking people to walk with us as we walk with Jesus.
Keeping faith is not the same as never changing.
However, there was disappointment that this seemed very focussed on the clergy once again with little acknowledgement of lay leadership.
Then there is a very interesting interview in the Guardian by the playwright David Hare. Some beautiful quotes:
I say that’s all very well, but how then can he be so critical of self-absorption when he himself is a poet? Surely self-study is necessary to create art? “Ah, yes, two very different things. Self-absorption means thinking the most interesting thing in the world is myself. Self-scrutiny, on the other hand, is very deeply part of the Christian experience.” So is hisreligion a relief, a way of escaping self? “Yes. We are able to lay down the heavy burden of self-justification. Put it this way, if I’m not absolutely paralysed by the question, ‘Am I right? Am I safe?’ then there are more things I can ask of myself. I can afford to be wrong. In my middle 20s, I was an angst-ridden young man, with a lot of worries about whether I was doing enough suffering and whether I was compassionate enough. But the late, great Mother Mary Clare said to me, ‘You don’t have to suffer for the sins of the world, darling. It’s been done.’”
The most intriguing bit in the interview is this:
If you could change one thing about the church? “Rethink the General Synod.”
Then Rowan at his best, again reported in the Guardian, during a visit to Grendon prison:
How do you get to be Archbishop of Canterbury? “By being very wicked in a previous life.”
Asked by a prisoner whether he regretted any of the things he had said in public, he replied immediately: “How long have you got?”
Andrew Brown made some very interesting observations:
Of all the various layers of his job, the only two he spoke of with real passion were his responsibilities in east Kent, and his visits to suffering and persecuted churches abroad. Perhaps a room full of repentant murderers has a more wholesome atmosphere than a committee of ecclesiastical politicians all convinced of their own righteousness. In any case, at Grendon he was witty, straightforward, and humble in a way I have never seen him in public before. Even if he has no more power in government than he has over his own church, his visit did what good he could. No wonder he believes in localism.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Dynamic ~ Ecclesiology ~ Communion

Dynamic =
Ecclesiology =
Communion =

These terms need some defining....what do they mean to you?  Put together, they may be a key to finding a way for our Church to live in Unity while also affirming that Uniformity is not possible.  They may be a key to Unity while also celebrating and listening to voices from the margins who may offer judgment and challenge to the institutional church.

Bonhoeffer and King

Richard Hall on Bonhoeffer and King...and their deaths.

Quote taken from Willis Jenkins, “Christian Social Ethics after Bonhoeffer and King”, in Willis Jenkins and Jennifer M. McBride (eds.), Bonhoeffer and King: Their Legacies and Import for Social Thought (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), p. 256.

If the contemporary church wants to claim the witness of their deaths, it must wrestle with the fact that both King and Bonhoeffer gave their definitive witness beyond the bounds of the churches of their time, apart from the great majority of Christians in their countries. If they found the body of Christ, it was through solidarity with a company of people representing many faiths and no faith. If they bear witness to God’s new reality breaking in from the cruciform margins, then their deaths also testify to a certain death of the official churches.

Stanley Hauerwas has written that “the church is a social ethic.” Receiving King and Bohoeffer makes that sort of statement difficult because their witness stands for the church’s social failure inasmuch as it represents the body of Christ in strange new forms. The lived social ethic of the official churches in their times was ambivalent at best and lifeless at worst, and the best possibilities for the gospel often seemed to form in alternative memberships. Aftter King and Bonhoeffer, then, what does church mean for Christian social ethics?

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From the "Connexions" Blog by Richard Hall

The blog of Richard Hall, a Methodist Minister in Wales.

"My burden is light," sermon for 3 July 2011

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
3 July 2011

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy burdened, and I shall give you rest.  Take up my yoke, and learn from me.  For I am meek and humble of heart.  And you’ll find rest, for your souls.  Yes my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

For many years, from 4th grade until I was in my 20s, I spent some amazingly rich and soul-filled (and fun and crazy and wildly wonderful) times at Rock Point Summer Conferences in Burlington, Vermont ~ The diocesan retreat center and summer camp.  Alongside the many activities, swimming, sports, crafts, art, cookouts and the rest was an element that was essential for the “holy rhythm” of Rock Point.  At the heart of Rock Point was the holy rhythm of prayer, rest, breaking bread, learning, work, play, and transformation.  To make this all happen was the daily practice of going to chapel four times a day.  Before each meal, and after evening snack, we would follow the daily “offices” of morning prayer, daily Eucharist, evening prayer, and Compline.  The balance of play with work with prayer with rest, and with both together times and times in solitude made Rock Point an extremely special time.  The prayers we would offer can be found in our prayer books ~ we generally used the “Daily Devotions for individuals and Families” alongside an adapted Eucharist and then Compline, which can be found on page 127.

During Compline, we nearly always sang a song that is based on today’s Gospel reading, and over the years, from being a 4th grader – feeling both ecstatic to be away from home, and homesick all at the same time – to being in my mid-20s when I was struggling to figure out what next step to take in my life – these words spoke truth to me.  These words washed over me, and gave me hope, and comfort, and rest – even in the midst of heavy burdens and uncertainty.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I shall give you rest, take up my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you’ll find rest, for your souls, yes my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And, isn’t this us, too.  Whether we are in fourth grade, or in our mid-twenties, or at some other step along the journey.  Feeling heavily burdened. Carrying more than we think we are able to carry, being somewhat uncertain about the future.  Isn’t this us, too? 

In these words, Jesus tells us that his “yoke is easy,” which I always found quite strange.  The image of a yoke, of oxen being clamped to one another as they embarked on hard labor in the fields was anything but “easy.” And Jesus’ hearers, too, must have heard some irony or inconsistency in these words.  In addition, we in the church have certainly done a terrible job of expressing the love, grace and compassion of God, as we have expressed how to be a disciple of Christ.   All too often we emphasize the yoke in heavy and restrictive terms, forgetting that Jesus, himself, claimed that the yoke is “easy and the burden is light.”

The burden is light.  We just returned from a quick trip to New England on which we loaded up 5 people, one dog, three doggy crates, 4 bikes, one scooter, 6 or more lacrosse sticks, dozens of books, juice boxes and all the rest.  I loaded up the car and then I drove down to fill up the gas tank before we left and I could hardly drive the hills of Ivy.  Holy moly, the mini-van was packed!  A few hundred miles, and a few hundred dollars in gasoline and we were at our destination.  Upon arrival in Cape Cod, we unpacked our modern wagon, emptying our stuff into our rooms.  The next morning, I got in the car to drive to our favorite donut shop and our car nearly jumped for joy!  The burden was light!  Yee haw!

The burden is light.  But in our lives, it is a bit more difficult than unpacking our suitcases and doggy crates.  The burden is light, Jesus says.  How could this be?  It seems that God has given us much to carry, and though the cliché says that we are not given more than we can handle, it certainly seems that we are.  All you have to do is start asking people questions about their lives to find out that many many of us are carrying quite heavy burdens.  However, it is my own forgetfulness that makes me think that I am carrying it all on my own.  For, after all, God is carrying me in his very arms.  He is holding me in his hands, me, and all my burdens, all my worries, all my cares, dreams, hurts, and wounds.  All of it.  All of it.  God is holding it all for me, and my burden certainly is transformed in the arms of God.

When we yoke ourselves to God. God.  Above all else, above all other allegiances, all other loves, all other minor and human-made entities.  When we yoke ourselves to God, our burden becomes light. 

To what are we yoked?  Have we yoked ourselves to God, or to mammon?  Have we yoked ourselves to God, or to the ways of this world?  To what are you yoked?  Take on the yoke that lead us to a light burden, to a place of rest, beyond our greatest imagination.  Take on the yoke that leads us to a rest for our souls, more restful than we have experienced in our most relaxed moment in our lives.

“For you’ll find rest, for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Friday, July 01, 2011

Sarah Coakley on silence

“Silence is more important than anything else. If you put this first, oddly, you will then know which emails not to answer, which doorbells not to answer, and the bits of your life will fall into the right order and the bits that don't matter will fall out.”

~The Rev. Dr. Sarah Coakley

Setting our aim too low

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."