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On Friday, I will continue my Franciscan journey in New York.  I am excited to be there. I look forward to living with the brothers out there and engaging in new forms of ministry.

 But these last two weeks, I have been on vacation – a break from community life.  As I transition from one community to another, I thought I should honor that sense of shifting, of change, by stopping in the middle and allow myself to reflect on the last year and pray and open to future possibilities and pray.  I stayed at a friend’s house in San Francisco with a nice little backyard, a territorial hummingbird, and a shedding but friendly cat.  It was ideal this last week, especially, as San Francisco calmed down after Gay Pride. 

So I found a quiet spot – and without forcing anything, found quiet within myself.  I would visit with friends, saying goodbye to them and the city I love.  They would ask if I was nervous or worried about such a big change.  I said I really wasn’t and today I can say the same.  The present moment can be frustrating or there can be conflict but the future in essence is a fantasy.  It’s not here yet, so I’m not all that concerned.  By taking this break, I have allowed myself to acknowledge God’s presence in my life and with gratitude, simply sit with that great loving presence  and trust that Jesus is guiding me only into his goodness.

 I am at my father’s house in St. Louis, Missouri.  I haven’t seen him all year and it’s good to be back and to  see him and my step-mother and to hear and see the Missouri birds.  This morning I woke up and we still had a soft rain after last night’s thunderous storm.  I walked out into the back yard and saw the two of the most beautiful woodpecker’s I’d ever seen.  Most of the woodpeckers  around here are small brown things with white faces and small white specks on their backs, but this morning two large fierce and noble looking birds with their red mohawks swooped into my Dad’s yard.  I actually gasped.   Yesterday, I saw the brightest yellow finch I’d ever seen.  I couldn’t preach to the birds as Francis did, but I did just let myself feel astonished at the beauty of creation.

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Here are some video clips I found on a blog about religous life and bread recipes.

While I can’t truly recommend this clip from PBS’s Nature program, I did find it Astonishing! It gave me the willies.Watch it if you dare! It will only take a moment of your time.

The Shark and the Octopus!

On the same  Blog where I found that inspirational clip, I found something a little more useful:

how to fold a shirt!

Rod doesn’t preach very often at All Saints, but I always love it when he does. He’s a parishiner at All Saints Church in San Francisco and the also the Dean at the School of Deacons in Berkeley. He’s one of my favorite preachers in the Bay Area.

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Dr. Rod Dugliss
Corpus Christi Sermon

 

N THE NAME OF THE HOLY ONE, AMEN. A metaphor for the gathered faithful, here, in this moment and for all our sisters and brothers through two millennia. The Body of Christ–the declared reality of a tiny disc of unleavened wheat, a sip of modest fortified wine. This is the Body that we celebrate this day. It is the body that we are—or are called to be, meant to be. Declaring, “this is The Body of Christ” calls us to a kind of embodiment that is not intended to be a liturgical moment on a Sunday but the naming of our vocation for a radically renewing life in the world. Corpus Christi.

Some years ago, I heard a priest. at the moment of invitation for all to come forward and eat say, “Be what you see. Receive who you are.” It got my attention. It resonated. It was outrageously presumptive, and made a connection for me that I had never made in a lifetime of putting out my hands for the somehow transformed wafer. How is this who I am? Where does she get this stuff? And it also sounded a little bit , you know, new agey, or made up by someone who was bored with the Prayer Book. Maybe it was something I could just gloss over and forget, except I couldn’t. And then someone pointed out that these were the words of invitation used by St. Augustine. Now Augustine has been the source of a ton of grief in the Christian experience, particularly concerning the nature of sin and human sexuality, but in these words, he breaks through to a profound and challenging reality. Be what you see. Receive who you are. Eucharist that is life changing, world changing.

So what do we see? An unexceptional wee disc of approximate bread? The great sheet of Passover matzoth made convenient and crumb free for rapid consumption? Is this what we are? Is this whom we are to ingest and become? Corpus Christi.

We are to see, receive, and become the Body of Christ, not just to satisfy our own piety, or feel more connected to God, but to be renewed as agents of the Holy Reign of God that the Christ teaches, models, embodies, and then hands to us—literally in our hands—so that the world will hear, and know, and be changed.

The poet Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins (left) put it this way.

“I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.”

This is the Body of Christ. This is the cup of salvation. Be what you see. Receive who you are. Bring your guilty brokenness and become immortal diamond—bright and hard, for that is what a sick and suffering world desperately needs. The Eucharistic liturgy is a lovely thing, and here at All Saints it is done so well without being precious or pretentious. But, as with so much in and of the church, the great temptation is for us to be awakened only here, enthralled only here, fed here, and then leave it all here.

In our own Baptism, and those wonderful moments at All Saints when we get to witness Baptism and shout our “we will’s” we affirm that Corpus Christi is all about what we have signed up for:

  • To proclaim by word and example, that is through visible action in the world, the Good News of God in Christ; God in the form of the anointed one come to reconcile us across all the divides of willfulness, forgetfulness, selfishness.
  • To seek and serve the Christ in ALL persons, loving neighbor as self-to strive for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being.
  • Be what we see?—the incarnate God ever present to feed, strengthen, and go with us into a waiting world acts of compassion and justice to bring God’s Holy Reign very near.
  • Receive who you are: I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am . . . all of what I am, then to be given to, poured out for others.

Easy to say in rich poetry on a Corpus Christi morning. Hard to do, hard to live, hard to make real in the world we inhabit. This past week I had another lesson in just how hard.

Last Sunday I was on my way to a national church meeting when I encountered the two words you never want to hear in the same sentence: weather and Chicago. I had made it from San Francisco to Ohare through gathering thunderstorms, but my flight to Bethlehem, PA was delayed and delayed, and then cancelled. A cheerful voice invited me to the Customer Service Counter to rebook. When I got there, the line was two football fields long—for four harried agents—and snaked down a long hall of a busy terminal. So, for two and a half hours I got to stand, shuffling my carry-on six more inches every five minutes or so, watching hundreds of people walk by. A steady stream of human traffic, every third one on a cell phone, and I said to myself, “look; see the face of Christ in each one these.” Oh yeah.

It took an immense act of will, and my mind and eye wandered constantly, but I kept trying. My first and abiding thought was “ my sheep are lost, and wandering, scattered and without a shepherd.” Where was the Christ, the One anointed to reconcile us all, to bring us all into renewed and vital relationship with the Holy One, in the blank stares, the rank boredom, the supreme inattentiveness of face, after face, after face? And this went on for hours.
I did not despair, but I felt, profoundly, how radical, how audacious, how overwhelmingly challenging is my, our, Baptismal covenant with the maker, redeemer, strengthener. How do I possibly seek and serve the Christ in this guise? How, awash in the world, do I become what I see here at All Saints? It is very hard.

And then, what must it be like to walk along a line of refugees in Darfur? Violated women, gaunt children, a few old or wounded men, each with a bowl for the small portion of gruel or handful of grain that some relief organization has managed to get past the agents of the government of Sudan to keep alive this remnant of a people slaughtered because they are who they are?

Perhaps it would be easier to see the Christ—the suffering servant—in the eyes of these, than in the blank stares of privileged air travelers. But no matter where I am, if I am to take Corpus Christi at all seriously I have to somehow both see Christ and be Christ in every encounter, every situation, with every person in all those places where I live, and work, and worship, and commute, and eat, and walk, and hang out.
Again, Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins

“Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
. . .
Crying What I do is me; for that I came . . .
. . . for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces
.”
Christ plays in ten thousand places. All we have to do is look and see. Hard work. Necessary work. Achievable work. “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you….Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.”

Be what you see. Receive who you are. To what end? So that the incarnate, embodied, reconciling Christ will continue to have eyes, ears, and hard working and generous hands in the broken world that God yearns to call back into relationship. This can happen in large ways and small. Many leaders of the developed world, our own glaringly absent, and many Christian churches including ours, have embraced the Millennium Development Goals as a concrete way in which the reconciling action of the God incarnate in the Christ can be realized. All Saints has showed itself as more than willing to participate in this expression of incarnation. The MDG project envisioned and launched by parishioners Davidson Bidwell-Waite, Kevin Charette, and Darien Delorenzo—to raise our .7% to build a well for a whole African village, was realized in half the allotted time. One small story of many that I just heard last evening: Fr. Tom Traylor, All Saints’ Pastoral Associate, took to his workplace some of the bowls that were the centerpiece of this initiative, with the simple sign: “Ask Me About These.” People asked. Incarnation occurred.

We can be what see; we can receive who we are and act on it, being Christ for the world. On this feast of Corpus Christi we celebrate this, and then ask afresh, as we must at each Eucharistic celebration—how, this day, shall I be what I see? How will this seeing change me? Who is it that I receive? How will this receiving change something now broken in the world I inhabit? When I receive who I am, what does God expect of me? How shall I reach out in community to others who see and receive so that together, we become more that who we are individually? How shall we be – – Corpus Christi.
AMEN

 

from allsaintssanfran.org

silence

I was gifted with a couple of books this weekend. (people know me sooo well.) On the bus today, I opened Joan Chittister’s Illuminated Life from Orbis books:

Silence frightens us because it is silence that brings us face to face with ourselves. Silence is a very perilous part of life. It tells us what we’re obsessing about. It reminds us of what we have not resolved within ourselves, from which there is no escape, which no amount of cosmetics can hide, that no amount of money or titles or power can possibly cure. Silence leaves us with only ourselves for company.
Silence is, in other words, life’s greatest teacher. It shows us what we have yet to become, and how much we lack to become it. “Wherever I am,” the poet Mark Strand writes, “I am what’s missing.”
Silence, the contemplative knows, is that place just before the voice of God. It is the void in which God and I meet in the center of my soul. It is the cave through which the soul must travel, clearing out the dissonance of life as we go, so that the God who is waiting there for us to notice can fill us.
To be a contemplative we must . . . go inside ourselves to wait for the God who is a whisperer, not a storm.

.

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Joan Chittister’s From Where I Stand columns

photo: brother jacob

the quiet

While it may not be the truest joy in the Franciscan sense, a quiet house after a Sunday out is very close – and rare. Most weekends at this time, after our various church visits and outings, the house is bustling. 60 Minutes would attract its followers into the common room. The doorbell rings. Friars in the kitchen would be assembling something quick for dinner, fridge: opens and closes, maybe pans clang, but the microwave certainly whirs. In the dining room, people might share their crib notes from sermons preached and activities after church. Ten men living together, religious or not, make noise at home, joyful or otherwise.

haight street fair

The neigborhood where my church is has a wildly popular street fair every year and it was in full swing today. Every block had a different stage with punk and rock bands. People walking on the street were drunk – even at noon, screaming and hollering in excitement. Parking was a contest of agression and car honking. I had to take the bus a couple of times and each were so packed with fair goers that I got off the bus and walked – people were turned away at stops. It took hours to get home with only two errands.

But I am alone in a mostly quiet house. The wind is howling. It tunnels through the house. We live across from a park and the summer’s afternoon wind blows through open space, until it reaches our block’s row of houses. And it still demands to blow through. The sound is eerie and persistent. It is almost a low note of train whistle. The sound outside reminds me of the howl sound wind makes through wild fires in drought season on the tv news. Or of desert.

It is a bittersweet quiet (wind quiet), peopleless quiet. Donald left this morning. Christopher as well. I’m next and last on Sunday. This house of ten is becoming a house of seven. Maybe this deep unfailing wind is the sound of change, but really I’m not as sentimental as all that. But change, yes, and goodbyes, yes, are present.

One of the most difficult goodbyes was today – saying goodbye to my church on Corpus Christi – the feast day of my baptism – my big hello to the Christian life. It’s one of the best days of the year in church as it makes for wonderful preaching and the music is great as is the Mass, which is as rich and deep and soul nourishing and Christ filled as any other day of the year – Easter included, maybe even Ascension day. And of course, its my (re)birth day. They even had cake at coffee hour.

My goodbye was public and emotional, the rector’s eyes tear filled as he testified on my behalf and as he blessed me saying the words of Francis. So the other silence of today, is of quiet contemplation. But walking down the hill home today, I thought what joy it is to love a place and community so much and to be at home there and be loved in return. I’m a lucky brother.

True joy – Franciscan joy — walking in the snow miles wet, freezing, exhausted, maybe even after having gotten lost, going to a monastery and asking for a night’s rest only to be loudly denied, sent back out in the cold, told to go to some other monastery. I’m not there yet- seeing that as true joy. Few are. But the idea was that by living in God, Francis hoped his patience would be great and that he wouldn’t get upset or frustrated — that is  even misfortune has no affect on the real happiness of following Christ. Francis’ footsteps like Jesus’ are large – almost incomprehensibly so.

photo: francis experiencing true joy in blizzard

photo of haight street fair: greg z on flickr


A pious Jew is not one who worries

about his fellow man’s soul and his

own stomach; a pious Jew worries

about his own soul and his fellow

man’s stomach.

– Rabbi Salanter

Everyday Holiness: the Jewish Spiritual Path of the Mussar by Alan Morinis (2007)