Lessons from the Labyrinth (March 15, 2017)

I have noticed a couple ladybugs on the Glenwood labyrinth this last week, but they always seem to fly away or hide under a weed before I can take their picture. Instead, I have included a picture of a thirsty ladybug on the baptismal font at the Bishop’s Ranch. Like the ladybug, I have also been extra thirsty this week. Perhaps this is because the weather is getting warmer and drier or perhaps this is because I have been ruminating on John 4, in which Jesus himself experiences thirst and asks a Samaritan woman for some water. Last Sunday, we explored the gift of listening in the context of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus (in John 3). This Sunday, we will explore the gift of tasting, drinking and quenching one’s thirst in the context of Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman (in John 4). I invite you to consider times in your life when your physical thirst was most powerfully quenched; as well as times when your spiritual thirst felt most satiated. Also, what do you think it is that you most deeply thirst for?

Optional Reading for Lenten Series on John

For those interested in learning about a Feminist Reexamination of the Authorship of John’s Gospel, click on the link below to download a PDF of an article by Sandra Schneiders, which suggests that the Samaritan Woman of John 4 (our Gospel reading for this Sunday) is the textual alter-ego of the author.

Sandra Schneiders, Because of the Woman’s Testimony

Lessons from the Labyrinth (March 10)

This is a picture of the outdoor prayer labyrinth at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, where I stayed on my birthday for a personal retreat in preparation for Lent, particularly in preparation for our Lenten “dive” into the Gospel of John. I prayed, hiked, wrote, meditated, and read some commentaries on John as well as a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn titled Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. Throughout Lent, we will be focusing mindfully on each of our five senses: hearing, tasting, seeing, smelling and touching. This Sunday, we will focus on the gift of listening as we consider Jesus’s words to Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). As we discussed last Sunday, the most important prayer in all of Judaism is the Shema, which is Hebrew for “Listen!” As I listened to the wind blowing through the trees and the forceful streams gushing, I reflected on the Spirit’s presence in the sometimes gentle and sometimes wild wind and waters. I also remembered that in Hebrew, the word for “Heaven” is shemayim, which is a combination of the words shema (again, “listen”) and mayim, which means “waters.” So according to the Hebrew language, listening to water is heaven! I relished the brief moments at Bishop’s Ranch when I experienced a taste of heaven in the rolling streams and the pouring rains. I hope you also find time to taste heaven in the simple act of listening to the wind blowing and water flowing around you today and throughout this season of Lent.


Lessons from the Labyrinth (March 1)

I am now catching my breath after playing frisbee and hacky sack with the preschoolers on the prayer labyrinth. Before that, we talked about Lent, Easter and Shrove Tuesday. And then we enjoyed a pretty epic pancake toss (as pictured). Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious and also appropriate for this day before Ash Wednesday as we play, party and feast on fatty pancakes. Tomorrow, we enter a long period of prayerful preparation for another day of playing, partying and feasting, a day that happens to be the most important day of the entire liturgical year: the Feast Day of the Resurrection, a.k.a. Easter! Join us tomorrow night at 7 PM as we remember that we are “but dust and to dust we shall return,” and as we begin this holy season of Lent, our prayerful preparation for the Easter Feast. 

Lessons from the Labyrinth (Feb 25)

“Hees jevv-ah hen-ne Sun-nau-neet Hen ne-se-eet va-den-au.” These are the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer in Arapaho, as translated by Episcopal priest and missionary John Roberts, whose feast day is today (Feb 25). As I have walked the prayer labyrinth this week, I have continued to reflect on my time at Standing Rock while praying for the people, land and water of the reservation. I realize how much the language, ceremonies, prayers, and chants of the Lakota Sioux have helped me to appreciate those essential things that I so often take for granted, especially the life-giving elixir that is water. I imagine the Rev. John Roberts also came to a deeper appreciation of creation and the Creator through his extended encounter with the Arapaho and Shoshone in Wyoming. Engagement with other perspectives, languages and voices can help us grow in understanding and help us open our eyes to see that which we might be overlooking. This Sunday is the last Sunday of Epiphany, which is a season all about opening our eyes and “looking around” as we have been singing. The Gospel for this Sunday is about Peter, James and John opening their eyes to see Jesus beaming with radiant glory in what is called the Transfiguration. In order to help us open our eyes to the radiance of this Gospel passage, we will be welcoming an outside voice: the Rev. Vanessa Glass of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Novato. We will be swapping pulpits this Sunday, a practice that Bishop Marc described as “healthy and fun.” Although I absolutely love opening up the Word with you all on Sunday mornings, I also recognize the importance of offering other voices and perspectives, which can help us open our eyes to see the overlooked radiant glory that is often beaming all around us. After Eucharist, the Rev. Vanessa Glass will lead us in a conversation about Redeemer’s Core Values and Future Dreams. After I preach and preside in Novato, I plan to join you for this important conversation, in which I hope you can all participate. May our eyes be opened to see the ways that Redeemer has spread and can continue to spread God’s dazzling radiance on earth. Amen. Or in Arapaho, “Hoi-ee!”

Lessons from the Labyrinth (Feb 18)

The next full moon Labyrinth walk will be on the second Sunday of Lent March 12th at around 7 PM. I encourage you to attend this beautiful walk under what the Native Americans call the “Full Worm Moon.” As I walked the labyrinth this week, I began to understand why the moon was given this curious name. I was not alone on the labyrinth, but was accompanied by a slithering earthworm, who didn’t seem to mind sharing the sacred space with me. Apparently, during the time of this spring moon, the ground softens and the earthworms reappear inviting the return of robins. As a student of theology, the worm reminded me of something else: believe it or not, it reminded me of the great Protestant theologian Martin Luther. Back in seminary, my classmates and I used to joke that most of Luther’s stomach problems were the result of his “Worm Diet.” This joke only makes sense if one knows that Luther was called by the Roman Catholic Church to recant his heretical teachings at the Diet (assembly) of Worms (a city in Germany pronounced Vorms). However, I also thought of Martin Luther because today (Feb 18) is his feast day and because this year we commemorate the 500th anniversary of his posting of the 95 theses on the Wittenberg door, a courageous act that ignited the Protestant Reformation and changed the world forever. Luther embodied his teachings, especially on faith, which he said is “a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a person could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Jesus calls us to embody this same “daring confidence in God’s grace” in his Sermon on the Mount, which we will continue reading this Sunday. And I pray that we grow in this “daring confidence” throughout this upcoming season of Lent as we remind ourselves that we are but dust and to dust we shall return, which is an appropriate image to contemplate during the season of the Worm Moon.

Stop Hunger Now this Sunday


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Stop Hunger Now will take place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church located at 1123 Court Street in downtown San Rafael. Set up starts at 12 noon and meal packing begins at 1:00 pm. Please arrive no later than 12:45 in order to set up, get your assignment and meet your teammates. We plan to be done by 3:00 pm.

Stop Hunger Now is an organization that gets food to the world’s most vulnerable people and works to end global hunger in our lifetime. Established in 1998, they have provided over 225 million meals in 74 countries.

Meal packing events are the heart of their work and we will be participating in one on January 22, 2017.

Every week, volunteers package millions of meals through Stop Hunger Now’s meal packaging program. This week alone, more than 2 million meals will be packaged around the globe. Plus, just one Stop Hunger Now package can feed six people – a short time commitment from volunteers makes a big impact.

Before our event, we will set up supplies, recycling areas, packaging materials and weigh stations. Once an assembly line is established and specific volunteer jobs are assigned, the packaging fun begins!

Working together in teams in a fun atmosphere we will package 10,000 meals in only two hours.
The parishioners of St Paul’s – San Rafael, Nativity – Marinwood, St Francis – Novato and Redeemer – San Rafael are invited to participate.

Children 10 years and older can help too. But that’s not all! Family, friends, and neighbors are also invited.

All participants will be asked to sign up in advance. If you have questions, please call Carol Ann at Redeemer (415)459-8717.

Christmas Eve Service at 5 PM and Christmas Day Service at 10 AM

Join us for Christmas Eve at the Church for our Family Christmas Eve Service and Pageant at 5:00pm. The short Family Service and Pageant are geared to lively wiggly little ones and their families. Show up at 4:00pm for costume assignment and quick instructions, but know that tiny angels, complete with wings and halos and little lively animals are welcome at the last minute and will be included on the spot.  We are also looking for older children for some of the taller roles and narrators, so please spread the word!

There will also be a traditional service on Christmas Day at 10:00 AM

Reflection for the Marin Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve Service 2016

“May our prayers of thanksgiving come before you, O God, like the smoke of incense” (Psalm 141:2)

I have always appreciated the circle of welcoming at the Tuesday night Wellness Gatherings when we relax into the present moment, take a breath and become mindful of our bodies. Paul usually offers an invitation to be present to the here and now by simply saying something like, “Here we are.” And then we pass around a bundle of burning sage, smudging ourselves with the smoke and then handing it to the person beside us with a kind word of welcome. In this simple ritual, we hold each other in the circle without judgment and commit to holding all that may arise that evening without judgment, thus providing a foundation of gratitude and hospitality for the evening’s gathering. The sage reminds me that I have a body (something that I somehow often forget) and that this body is connected intimately to the earth, the plants and other bodies in the circle, made up of the same organic stuff, breathing in the same air.

A few weeks ago, I went to Standing Rock North Dakota, along with about 500 other clergy, to stand in solidarity with the water protectors. I camped there for several nights and participated in their sacred rituals around fire, water and smoke. Among the many layers of concerns, I was a little worried that I might find myself in a position in which a tobacco pipe was offered to me. I have had an addictive relationship with tobacco for decades and have just recently celebrated my one year of abstinence from cigarettes and nicotine, with the help of nicotine addicts anonymous. I didn’t want to offend any of the elders or water protectors of the Lakota Sioux by turning down a pipe but I also knew that a puff of tobacco could easily awaken my dormant addiction. However, when I was there, I learned that, for the Lakota Sioux, tobacco is indeed a holy herb but it is not meant to be smoked. They actually say that smoking cigarettes is abusing holy tobacco. Instead, they use tobacco the way we use sage on Tuesday nights: to welcome the present moment, to appreciate the gifts of the earth, and primarily to pray and give thanks to Creator. They pray by throwing pinches of tobacco (and other herbs) in the sacred fire (which has been tended since April) and every morning they perform a beautiful water ritual, led by the women, which involves prayerfully pouring pinches of tobacco and water into the river. These rituals of gratitude and hospitality provide a strong spiritual foundation for them as they risk their own health and safety in protecting the land and water, empowering them to nonviolently resist the violent police enforcers of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

These simple rituals of being present to ourselves and appreciating the fruits of the earth help us to be in right relationship with each other and the planet. Not only do they help us practice gratitude and hospitality, they also extend and amplify the spirit of love and non-violence that is inspiring and empowering the water protectors of Standing Rock. Paul sometimes has us stand in another circle at the end of our shared meal in order to recognize the truth that by simply eating together as a community we are contributing to the spiritual health of the entire world. We are, in a spiritual way, standing with Standing Rock. So I invite us tonight and tomorrow to enjoy the fruits of God’s green earth, not to use them in an abusive way to hurt our bodies or other bodies (as we sometimes do with tobacco or as the DAPL police are doing to the water protectors), but to use the fruits of the earth to help us pray, to welcome the present moment, and to give thanks to Creator.

“May our prayers of thanksgiving come before you, O God, like the smoke of burnt sage and holy tobacco. And during this season of thanks, may we amplify your holy spirt of love, hospitality, non-violence and gratitude. Amen.”