More vacation notes: June 24 and associated memories

12:10 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in downtown Birmingham. I spent my entire young life in and around Birmingham, and I never walked inside this building until today. I don’t remember ever even seeing it till I was in my 30’s. I frequently ate at the Social Grill, just a block away, when I was in college at Birmingham-Southern. I discovered the Birmingham Art Museum when I was in my ’20s. But St. Paul’s Cathedral? Nada…till today. Continue Reading

The Rule on Closure

What do you think the Rule says about finding closure when a relationship (of any significant sort) changes or ends?  What do you think the rules of closure are in general–its dynamics?

I recall that the Rule speaks of the gradual steps to take towards excommunication–each time offering a chance to be restored to community.  But even an excommunication is not permanent the first or second time around (how many times?). Continue Reading

Praying against a Psalm

Yesterday I came home from a local peace and justice meeting in which we decided to issue a press release urging an immediate ceasefire in Gaza (following the UN’s own urging–with the US abstaining).  Present at our meeting for the first time were two Palestinians.  One spoke at length about his sense that the only true Jews in Israel were the ones present before all the immigrations of Jews from Europe and Russia and Africa and the Middle East; these folks were often simply secular, he said, and most were Zionists.  The Jews he defined as authentic were orthodox Jews who believed the Messiah must come before the state of Israel ought to be created–1200 such Jews in his West Bank community stood by the Palestinians and against Israel.  No one directly challenged his definition of a proper Jew, though it’s clear that most everyone else present at the meeting supports the existence of both the state of Israel and a Palestinian state. Continue Reading

Audacity and Advent

Walking home today, it struck me that Advent is the most audacious season of the church year.  Even Easter invites us to witness to a past event–one we strive to witness as present as well:  the resurrection of Christ, and all it signifies both backwards and forwards in time.  But in Advent, we remember the first coming of Christ in a manger in order to anticipate the second coming–one we envision as coming from the skies, or as breaking apart all injustice in our world.  While there is a penitential, minor key, reflective spirit during Advent, the most striking feature of Advent may be our boldness in petitioning Christ to come again. Continue Reading

An Open Letter–to everyone

Over the past few months and weeks I have been alternately thankful and dismayed to read, on the one hand, articles and letters calling for unity of spirit, even when we cannot agree on specific issues, and, on the other hand, writing which underscores, and at times even seems to increase, the deep divisions in our society and in the Church. Continue Reading

140 or so people

It was a sunny day today and not too cold.  There were new faces among the volunteers and there were many, many new faces in the line of those asking for a bag of food at the Clare House Food Pantry.  I especially see in my mind and heart two women in their early twenties who were at the front of the line.  Usually the first two in line have been old regulars who start lining up at 9 in the morning, maybe because they don’t have much else to do.  I took the time to talk a bit with these two women and so they’ve become part of my prayer today.  I’ve been handing out food at the Pantry for 18 years now and it still softens my heart  each time. Continue Reading

God's Open and Closed Hand

Ever since my days of reading the chilren’s nature magazine, Ranger Rick, I have responded to the sweeping love of creation found in Psalm 104:  the rain fleeing the thunder of God’s rebuke by pouring down to earth, the rock badgers hiding in crags, thirsty wild donkeys, the stork nesting in the highest branches of the cedars of Lebanon, the lions savagely “claiming their food from God” by night, then “going back to lie down in their lairs” as “people go out to work” by day.  The psalmist is clearly awestruck by both the grandeur of wind and mountains and sea, and in love with the particularities of innumerable creatures.  Today that psalmist would undoubtedly be an environmentalist. Continue Reading