Fuel for the Fire: Take Up and Read

Abbot Hugh Gilbert says this about reading in Benedictine practice:

Reading is the food of prayer. Or perhaps one can say that reading is fuel for the fire. Prayer is the flame, but you won’t have fire if you don’t have fuel. If the monk is not feeding himself with the word of God, if he is not putting the logs of the word of God into the hearth of his heart, there won’t be prayer. The fire will just die out in one way or another.

Just A Thought, Not A Sermon

“The traditional picture of people going to either heaven or hell as a one-stage, postmortem journey represents a serious distortion and diminution of the Christian hope.” N.T. Wright, Heaven is not our Home

A Better Story

Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, offers a fresh introduction to an age-old theological debate of how to reconcile Jesus’ description of God’s incredible even incomprehensible love with the notion of God’s judging and condemning souls to eternal torment.

Bell asserts that what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like. Telling a story about a God who inflicts unrelenting punishment on people because they didn’t do or say or believe the correct things in the brief window of time called life isn’t a very good story.

In contrast, all humanity, enjoying God’s good world together with no disgrace or shame, justice being served and all the wrongs being made right is a better story.  It is more loving, more expansive, and more extraordinary and inspiring than any other story about the ultimate course history takes.  The readings for the Second Sunday of Lent offer a glimpse of that better story in the calling of Abram and Sara, and the encounter with Nicodemus who comes at night searching for the deeper significance of the light he has seen in Jesus of Nazareth.

Like Abram and Sara, God calls us to partnership in God’s mission of healing and reconciliation in the world.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  And like Nicodemus, he invites us to be open to his life-giving presence, like the blowing of the wind, open to growth and change, even to our most deeply held convictions.  And above all God asks us to believe that his love is stronger and more powerful and unrelenting than the hardness of the human heart.  God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world.  Rob Bell may well have captured the heart of the Gospel in just two words:  Love Wins.

My sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent can be heard here.


Thought for the Second Sunday in Lent

“Faith is not synonymous with certainty…but is a decision to keep your eyes open.”

Doris Betts

A Litany for Japan

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,
Have mercy upon us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us and for the people of Japan.

Hear our prayers, O Christ our God
Arise, O Christ, and help us.

For all who have died in the earthquake and tsunami striking Japan that they may be given entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of all your saints
Arise, O Christ, and help us.

For all who grieve the death of family, friends, and fellow citizens that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come
Arise, O Christ, and help us.

For all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit that they may be comforted, healed, and given courage and hope
Arise, O Christ, and help us.

For all aid workers, that they may be filled with strength, generosity, and compassion
Arise, O Christ, and help us.

For the wisdom, resources, and technological skill that a nuclear disaster might be averted
Arise, O Christ, and help us.

For eyes to see that you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth and linked our lives one to another that we may never forget our common life depends on each other’s toil and that we will always work for the common good,
Arise, O Christ, and help us.

Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Michael Marsh at Interrupting the Silence.

Please add generosity to your prayers by giving to the ERD Japan Earthquake Response Fund or a relief organization of your choice.

First and Foremost – Rowan Williams

“God is first and foremost that depth around all things and beyond all things into which, when I pray, I try to sink. But God is also the activity that comes to me out of that depth, tells me I’m loved, that opens up a future for me, that offers transformations I cant imagine. Very much a mystery but also very much a presence. very much a person.” — Rowan Williams

Ash Wednesday

“Realizing that you will die greatly clarifies your vision of life, and stimulates opportunities for making the vision real. To take anything for granted is to de-energize it. If you can’t feel your own miraculousness, you are missing the quintessential experience of life.”

Ed Buryn, Vagabonding in the USA (1980)

Transfiguration Sunday -“The Bright Field”

I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it.

But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had the treasure in it.

I realize now that I must give up all that I have to possess it.

Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past.

It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas (1913 – 2000)

My sermon for Transfiguration Sunday can be found here.