Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Buffalopride0823.jpg, originally uploaded by w.wabbit.

Clara Gillies! She's our deacon, and she's retiring this Sunday. We love her and we'll miss her serving among us. (Of course, she'll still be hanging out, but after serving for decades as a deacon in the church and on the streets of Buffalo to all those with AIDS, she's due for a rest.)

And this past Buffalo Pride Day, she was one of the Grand Marshalls of the Parade down Elmwood. And apparently, that's a dangerous job, because it looks like she's bleeding in this picture.

Life in the Ministry - scarier than you thought.

Monday, April 7, 2008

"To Die While Yet Breathing"

Cam Miller preaches (briefly) on the story of the Road to Emmaus, and then more so on Trinity's recent trip to El Salvador, what they found, and Archbishop Oscar Romero. This is part one of two for the complete sermon, and the text of the sermon can be found on Cam's blog at www.trinitybuffalo.org/camsblog.html. This sermon was preached at Trinity Episcopal Church in Buffalo, NY on April 6, 2008.

Part ONE:

Part TWO:

And, ykno, if I have time, I'll actually do the early sermon that I preached. Novel idea, huh?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"The League of Thomas"

Whoo hoo! This is part one (of two) of Cam's Easter 2 sermon. I apologize for the poor sound quality - this will improve in future postings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of Cam's favorite days in the church is the day we read the story of Doubting Thomas. And so here we have a lovely sermon on why he likes Thomas oh-so much. Enjoy! (And don't forget to watch part two, also on Trinity's youtube channel!)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holy Thursday

This was preached on Maundy Thursday, 2008

Holy Thursday, Year A, 2008
Luke 22: 14-20

All during Lent, you know if you’ve been here that Cam, our Rector has been reinterpreting the gospels for the day. Today is my turn. What you’ve just heard is from the NRSV – the new, revised standard version, which is what most mainline protestant denominations use in Sunday worship, as well as many Roman Catholic churches. But here is the SRV: Sare Revised Version, of Luke 22: 14-20.

When it was time to sit down and have the traditional Passover meal, Jesus took his place at the table, and his disciples-cum-apostles took their places, too.

“You don’t know,” Jesus started, “how much it means for me to sit here with you all, share this Passover meal. It’s not just another holiday meal to me, friends. You all know that trouble is brewing and I’m the one stirring the pot. I’ll be in the thick of things, and I’ve got a hunch that this will be the last holiday meal I’ll eat in this world. But eating is a fine thing, and better than that,” he said. He took up a loaf of bread and said a quick word of gratitude for it. “It’s just bread, but it’s the stuff of our mortal lives. Take it. Eat it,” he said, passing it around. “And when you do, remember the New Covenant of God: Justice and Peace – it’s what makes our mortal lives worth living. And remember how it will have had to be forged: with my very body.” Then he took up the cup of wine and did the same thing. “A covenant requires blood to seal it, that’s tradition, so here’s a toast to tradition: Whenever you drink wine, remember that it will have been my blood that seals this covenant.”

There ends the reading.

Now, I’ll grant you that this is not a direct or literal translation – if it was, Jesus would sound less like a Floridian. But then, it isn’t meant to be any of those things – it was reinterpreted to increase understanding of some of the underlying themes. So let me expand on some of those.

What we’re watching here is an older ritual being turned into a new ritual. Or, if you like, a new, clearer meaning being laid on top of, and being incorporated into an existing ritual, like you might incorporate yeast into bread. Now, the existing ritual is the Passover meal, which still is the traditional Jewish celebration of the Exodus, and the redemption of the people of Israel, no longer slaves, but free people. Moses was the star of this show, and he was the beginning of the prophets of Israel – the first and the best. And what Moses was doing was returning this community of people to the path of the covenant – and now we go deeper into the history of Israel. The Covenant was made with Abraham. Follow me and do what I say, says God, and I will give you land (which means you can be self-sustaining), family (which means you will live forever, through your descendants), blessing (which means you will be successful and vibrant), and you will be a blessing to the nations (which means you will model for the world what it looks like when a community follows a single god of justice – which we theologians call ‘ethical monotheism’ 24 centuries later, ethical monotheism has become very popular, but it wasn’t then, not so much.). So, the covenant was made with Abraham. It was delivered by Joshua. It was restored by Moses. And if you will, refined, by Jesus. Justice and peace were not unheard of concepts – they were, in fact, supported by all the laws of the people, but they were not lived out.

Lest we start indulging in a little self-satisfied anti-Semitism, let’s have a humble look at our own history and laws, as a country – just a slight detour, I promise.

Over my desk I have a beautiful picture of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, with the Cherry Blossom trees all in bloom around it. And there is a quote of his that he wrote, on that picture. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is in the Declaration of Independence which Jefferson wrote, and yet how long did it take for all men to actually be seen as equal in the sight of the law, by the letter of the law? And how many years for all humans be seen as equal? And how often, even today, is there injustice that flies in the face of this particular declaration? All the time. In every city. In every state. Now we’ve got this justice thing down in theory, but we’ve yet to master the practice of it – not on a personal level, and not even on an institutional level, a systemic level.

Jesus noticed just this sort of thing in his own time – it wasn’t an issue of racism or gender bias that he was inflamed about, however, and there was no separation of church and state – or, if you will, temple and state. Unless, you consider the Roman Empire. There was a great division between the will of the Emperor and the will of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (which in later centuries, got all turned around and mixed up – but that’s another story for another time). And his noticing, and his preaching, and his riot in the temple, it got him executed.

But before that happened, he had one last holiday meal with his friends - his followers, the ones who would carry on once he was dead. And so woven into the older ritual that celebrated being liberated from oppressors and returning to the promise of God, is the newer ritual that celebrates a future of justice and peace, and the promise of God. Passover gives birth to Communion.

Bread to feed the body,
that’s the reality of it, that’s what we can hold in our hands. And the symbolism is

the bread that IS the body.
But that’s just the beginning of the symbolism. Because

the bread that IS the body
is the symbol of the new promise, the new covenant of Justice and Peace (which isn’t a new concept, but at least a renewed promise). And

the bread that IS the body
is the symbol of what it took to create it, someone died to make this real, one man seen as a sacrifice, because sacrifice was the way to see things like this, back then, though the thought, the literal thought of human sacrifice horrifies us now, as it should. And it harkens back, for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, it harkens back to the symbols of the long-time existing covenant with that justice-loving God (so different from all the other gods lounging around, rewarding pride and arrogance, ignoring suffering and injustice, rewarding warriors, ignoring casualties – those gods, we’ll have nothing to do with those gods, thank you very much)

the bread that IS the body
harkens back to the old covenant with our justice-loving God who will not ignore it when your behavior – personal behavior, or corporate behavior - has hurt someone else, and requires you to sacrifice something of your own, money, or crops, or livestock, because that practice harkens back to even older beliefs that a wrongdoing, a sin, is something you carry with you until you give it to something else – put it on an animal, like a goat, pack all the sins on goat and shove it out into the desert, and that is where the idea of a scapegoat came from – it’s a substitution that expiates your sins, because atonement is required.

The bread that IS the body
says don’t get so involved with atonement that you cede your responsibility for
being part of the solution.

The bread that IS the body
says you can’t have peace through victory, even though Rome says you can. True peace comes only through justice. When people are treated justly throughout the world, then we will have peace, true peace.

The bread that IS the body
says you can apologize for injustice until you’re blue in the face, but you’re still a part of the problem until you start doing justice. And

the bread that IS the body
says you don’t need to be perfect at these things, but you do need to be trying, because the Kingdom of God is here, the New Covenant is made with my body and my blood (for those of you that still insist on the old way of sacrifice) and for it to work, you must participate.

The bread that IS the body
is our daily reminder, every time we eat, that we must participate in the Kingdom of God, the dream of Justice and Peace, to make it work.

SERMONS@TRINITY- Trinity Church Buffalo New York: Good Friday 2008

Major whoh.

So, okay. There are moments like these that I think,

a) this is why I'm still a christian.
b) this is why I'm still a priest.
c) this is why I haven't given up on the church, in general.
d) this is why I like working for this man.

SERMONS@TRINITY- Trinity Church Buffalo New York: Good Friday 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Spiritual Storminess"

This reflection was given at Trinity @ 7, March 16, 2008

Tonight’s theme is ‘spiritual storminess’
Now, there are a bunch of different
Ways you can think about this phenomenon,
This sturm und drang
That arrives on the scene of our lives
Without so much as a by-your-leave
Because the storm can be loud and showy\
Like a thunderstorm at night
Or quiet like snow falling, relentlessly
Or sometimes, you only realize it
When it has cleared
And you take a deep breath
And realize that you haven’t taken
A deep breath in quite a while

It’s characterized – no matter how loud –
By it’s ability to turn everything in your life
Upside down
All of the common wisdom
No longer seems to apply
And you realize how much you’ve
Been relying on Automatic Pilot
But the thing about auto pilot
Is that it only works if you give it
The right heading
And if down is up and north is south
Auto pilot is offline

And at that point we are all left
To re-examine everything
-everything- we’d taken for granted
We’ve got to pull out every single book,
Each CD from the shelf of our souls
And take a good, hard look
Listen to the CD a few times, with new ears
Reread the first four chapters, with new eyes
And decide for ourselves
All over again
And maybe for the first time
(and maybe for the fourth)
Is this what we want?
Is this who we are?
Because the assumptions we were
Going on before
No longer apply
And now is the time
In the midst of the sturm und drang
To light a candle
And take stock
Of who we are
So, I invite you to do just that.

"In the Meantime"

This was preached at the Palm Sunday service, March 16, 2008

The reading of the Passion was long today, as it always is, so I’ll keep my reflections short.

There is a space between suffering and hope. It is like the momentary pause between the exhalation and inhalation of our cycle of breath – that moment where all is quiet, and if we wish it, we can touch death as well as life. Mostly, we don’t wish it, and that is okay.

There is a space between suffering and hope. It is like the space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the emptiness of that Saturday, when Jesus the insurrectionist Rabbi has been executed, but the eternal Christ has not yet risen in any hart, or any mind. Rather, those hearts are left bleeding, and those minds are numbed into silence.

There is a space between suffering and hope in all of our lives, because everywhere there is suffering – from time to time in our own personal lives, and surely quite often in our larger communities. There is suffering, and there is hope – whether it is an eternal hope for a dying loved one, or a very present here-and-now hope for the correction of systemic injustice. But there is a space between the suffering of yesterday and right now, and the hope of something different for the long string of tomorrows yet to come. That space, I like to think of it as… “In The Meantime.”

So yesterday was suffering and tomorrow there will be hope, but meanwhile there is still the pain of knowing the situation hasn’t changed one iota. And what we do with that pain – well, that depends on the day. On the bad days, we pretend it doesn’t exist. We distract ourselves with the 1,001 other things we could be doing, and we pretend it doesn’t exist – it has come at an inconvenient time, anyway. And on the good days, the best we can do is simply acknowledge it, live with it, and know that we’re in the same boat with so many others.

It’s true, the good days feel more painful than the bad days in this scenario, and that seems backwards at first glance, but in these inherently painful moments, in these difficult situations if we’re not feeling pain, we’re doing something wrong.

And that’s not a message we’ll hear from ad agencies, or from Hollywood, or even Washington. It is a message we’ll hear from the Gospel, if we dare to listen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Some 21st Century Existentals"

This sermon will have been preached on Sunday evening, at the Trinity @ 7 gathering.

“Life is short
And we do not have too much time
To gladden the hearts
Of those who travel the way
With us.
So make haste to love
And be swift to be kind.”*

This was the favorite blessing
Of someone I once knew.
A friend of a friend – you know the sort.
Someone who just seemed to embody
The very best the world had to offer
Not someone who was perfect –
We all have our feet of clay
But someone who was nevertheless
In constant renewal
And who was a source
Of constant renewal in others.

You know, when I think of renewal,
It really goes hand in hand with hope
I can see them from here, walking on the beach
Hope and Renewal
Renewal and Hope
Hope spawns Renewal
Renewal breeds Hope
And after them comes Healing
Walking so close behind
The surf hasn’t completely erased
The double print of footsteps

But they’re not just walking down a beach
I mean, that’s not all they do
All day long.
Mostly they dance
Sometimes around a bonfire
But mostly with their counterparts
Truth and Reality
And Brokenness

And you’d think that maybe
Truth and Reality are wearing
Shabbier clothes
And that Brokenness probably has
A matted beard and a twisted spine
But that’s not true
Because how would they dance?
And they dance.

No, what I see on the beach
Are 21st century throwbacks
To the great existentials of Greek philosophy
You can see them in togas,
Justice, blindfolded with her scales
Truth, with her sword, sometimes with her flaming sword
Liberty, with her light
Death, with his scythe
There are others – just tour around
Our nation’s capital
And give a close look
To the stoic statuary and you’ll
Meet the face of Youth,
Hope, and Sacrifice, among
Their other friends, loitering outside
The Temple to Lincoln by the Potomac

And so leaving Washington,
what we have on that beach is
Reality, with a pair of glasses on
So he can better see what the rest of us try to ignore.

We have Truth, but she’s put away her sword
Truth is embracing nonviolent conflict resolution these days
And so she carries with her a microphone instead
So you can hear her at the back of the crowd
Even with out your hearing aid

And then we have Brokenness
Who is intentionally beautiful
Devastatingly beautiful
Because when you get down to it,
We all are, each one of us, no matter what we look like
Or how we walk, or don’t walk,
How we talk, which language we use, or if we sign
We are all devastatingly beautiful
But she holds her heart in her hands,
Bound in razor wire.

And then there is Renewal, with his potted plant
A gardener at heart, perhaps, but always ready to
Encourage something to healthy new growth
Be it plant, or animal, human or idea

And then there is Hope.
She’s abandoned her anchor, so few of us sail these days
The metaphor doesn’t work anymore
But she’s taken up a blog.
And so she carries her MacBook with her
And asks the barista if they have wifi
Because she is behind a movement
A groundswell of one person
Joining many people
To see reality, voice the truth
Acknowledge the brokenness
Seek the renewal, and step forward in hope.

Which brings us to Healing.
Healing just has his hand out,
Palm out
Empty hand
Reaching to someone else

And so they dance,
And Healing
They dance together
Around a bonfire, on a beach
To a song on the radio in your neighbor’s backyard
In non-profits
In synagogues
In mosques
In churches
In universities
In neighborhoods
In cafes
In homeless shelters
In my life
In your life
Occasionally in Congress
They dance.

Reality, Truth, and Brokenness
Are dancing with Renewal, Hope, and Healing
And God is looking
And God is smiling.


*The above blessing was a favorite of the late Rt. Rev. Jim Kelsey, deceased bishop of the diocese of Northern Michigan in The Episcopal Church. He was a good guy.

"Lent: The counter cultural revolution"

This was preached at the early service at Trinity on this day of February 10, 2008.

I would like to talk about how very counter-cultural Lent is.

The season of Lent is not quite like any other in the year. Christmas is joyful – advent tentatively so. Pentecost is joyful, as is epiphany. Easter is unmitigatedly joyful, and the season after Pentecost is not without its joy – it’s certainly not anti-joy. And then there’s Lent, and Holy Week. These times in our year are not meant for joy, but rather, something else.

Now, these days, setting aside a time not to be comfortable, but to be uncomfortable is not strictly normal. Today’s society was built for comfort, if you have enough money. Our recliners are comfortable, our TV comfortably predictable – neither overly challenging, nor overly stimulating, but extremely anesthetizing. Our routines are comfortable. We have comfort food and comfortable clothes, comfortable friends and so many have a comfortable religion, and comfort is not a bad thing. I’ll go further and say this: comfort is a beautiful.

Comfort is a beautiful thing, though, because suffering exists – it is real. Physical suffering is real. People hurt, people dying, people starving, people living in poverty – extreme poverty, relative poverty, at or just above an arbitrary poverty line that has no real basis in reality.

Emotional suffering is real. People consumed by anger, by self-hatred, by anxiety, by fear. People in the midst of a difficult situation, knowing they must go forward and pick between several paths in front of them, but not quite knowing which is the best, and if they are willing to sacrifice even more comfort – people like Jesus.

After his baptism by John, after the clouds parted and Jesus was given a sign, a signal about which path he needed to take in his life, after these things happen, Jesus went to the desert wilderness outside of town and stayed there for a good long while. And he didn’t go there because it was comfortable. He went there because he was suffering. And in the desert, he engaged in the traditional actions of fasting and praying that were meant to clarify the mind and purify the soul, and thus – this is the most important part – and thus to be able to be closer to God, to be able to understand what God wished, and how it might be possible, and what to do next.

And so he fasted. And so he prayed. And Jesus found out then, there, something that so many of us have figured out as well. Sometimes we are better defined by what we are not willing to do, than by what we are willing to do. And I’ll go even further – when we’re still at that stage of our lives where we’re trying to figure out who we really are, and who it is we need to be, we have all had that moment of finally understanding who we are in a certain situation by what we aren’t willing to do. Jesus finds this out.

In the middle of fasting, he is offered food, but refuses, because eating isn’t the only thing that matters. Oh, he likes food just fine, and later on he’ll eat feasts with the right people and the wrong people, on the right days and on the wrong days, he’ll eat when others are doing ritual fasting and annoy them deeply. But right now, he’s fasting because he knows he needs to, so he is not distracted from it.

Then, in the middle of trying to get close to God through this fasting and prayer, trying to get close to God in order to understand God’s will, God’s action – which can be subtle or decidedly obvious, depending on the day, and considering the fact that he was still fasting and praying, we might infer that he hadn’t yet come to a satisfying conclusion about these things, in the middle of this, shall we say, relationship building exercise between Jesus and God, it’s pointed out to him that there’s a faster way than all this tedious prayer and fasting stuff. He could put God to the test, give God an ultimatum – answer me or I’ll throw myself off the cliff, then you’ll have to answer me, rescue me, or I’ll die. So there. But of course, this completely defeats the purpose of why Jesus was doing what he was doing. Ultimatums don’t build relationships, or at least, not healthy ones. Testing people’s loyalty doesn’t increase their loyalty – trusting people increases their loyalty. And so, Jesus refused.

And finally, after the temptation of food after a long fast, of quick answers during long days of searching prayer, Jesus encounters the last thing that would have been truly tempting. Power. In the days that followed, Jesus showed that he had tremendous power behind him, and we can argue until the cows come home about whether or not he was a deity, or a human, or both, or more than us, or just like us, or nothing like us, let us for the moment agree that he had an incredible power behind him, and if he had so decided he might have used that power for his own personal gain, rather than to preach and heal and teach a new way of being that has resonated down through the 21 centuries since. But before all of that, when he was still just a carpenter, when he was just 29 or 30 years old – when he was my age – when he was still just a follower of the old-style prophet, John the Baptizer, when he burned with an inner flame, but was still figuring out what he ought to do about that inner flame, when he took the time away from all the joy of life, all of the comforts, all of the friends and companionship to fast and pray and check in with God to see what he ought to do, an answer was presented to him: he could rule the world. And you know, given what we know about Jesus, if he had set his mind to do this thing, he just might have been able to do it – or die trying. We all know he was capable of that. But one thought of Caesar, the Roman overlord of the day – not like a president or prime minister, or King these days, where religion has some separation from state, not even like an Ayatollah who might have religious or political power, seen as an authority on both fronts – Caesar wasn’t seen as a religious authority, a pastor, or priest, or oracle. Caesar was seen as God Incarnate. Caesar was God. That may be hard to wrap our minds around today, but that was situation normal for them, and Jesus knew it. He might have the power, the personality, to be a strong ruler, but interestingly enough, Jesus in this moment refused to be seen as God, to be said to be on par with God, or to even style himself as God.

In the midst of a long time of prayer and fasting, Jesus refused to be comforted, Jesus refused the easy way out, and he refused the power to be on par with God, and in so doing, he began to define who he was, and his prayers were finally answered.

And that is Lent. We are encouraged to follow his example: set aside time to engage God, without becoming side tracked, to check in with God and see if we are on the path that is best for us. To engage in some sort of discipline that gets us out of our habit and mode of comfort, that jars our body, and thus our mind and spirit and soul out of our comfortable, habitual don’t-even-have-to-think-about-them-anymore patterns, and so be open to what God has to say. And sometimes, like Jesus, we will have the opportunity to define ourselves by what we’ll refuse to do.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday discipline

Well, so far so good. It's always nice not to utterly renig on your Lenten promises on the first day of Lent.

Day one - BAC at something like 6am. Meditation, check! The other bits of my Lenten journey are much easier to do, and don't require near the amount of discipline as these two, and they're on track as well.


Ash Wednesday sermon

This is the sermon that is/was given on February 6, Ash Wednesday at noon and 6pm.

Ash Wednesday, 2008

Since coming to Trinity I have encountered a compelling definition of hypocrisy, which is the opposite of integrity. So, if as Cam has said to us from time to time, if integrity is the space between what you SAY you believe and what you actually DO decreasing, ever decreasing, then hypocrisy is that same space widening. It was a new definition for me, I’d never thought of it quite like that, but I like it.

Now – what we have from the Gospel Community of Matthew is a bit different. Hypocrisy here has little to do with matching up your STATED values with your ACTIONS. Here, hypocrisy isn’t the opposite of integrity, it’s the opposite of humility. Here we’re not comparing two people who proclaim, for instance, that their health is important to them, but only one of whom has made any sort of commitment to maintaining their health. No, what we have here in Matthew is the equivalent of two people who say their health is important, and who both fulfill their own commitments to maintain their health. They aren’t just talking the talk, they’re walking the walk. They’re putting their money where their mouths are! In our society, they’d BOTH be commended.

And yet, in Matthew we see two versions of how to be: one example is given of what people are actually doing, sounding trumpets in the temple before they give alms, disfiguring their faces if they’re fasting, praying loudly on the street corners, being seen to be doing what is right, and then the other example, which the Gospel Community of Matthew is encouraged to take up instead: give alms in secret, fast and look happy, pray on your own, and don’t make a spectacle of the fact that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. The first example of what not to do, that Matthew labels ‘hypocrisy’ doesn’t necessarily coincide with what we’ve heard of as hypocrisy.

But you know, I think to understand this, we need to take a wider view, because even with this different definition of hypocrisy, there is wisdom to be mined.

I propose that something bigger is going on in this little set of Gospel admonishons. I propose that they are set in the larger context of living in Community with one another. Now, I don’t mean to say that ancient Israel, or Roman Occupied Israel-Palestine, had cornered the market on being Community – we know that’s not so. But we do know that historically the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has been concerned with Community – and especially people on the margins of Community, making sure they don’t get forgotten. I think especially here of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger – these were the main categories of people who were on the margins in Jewish society, and they were the very people who were provided for in the laws and in the religion. And so, the importance of preserving Community – the dignity of every member of the Community – was built into the very system of laws.

But then comes Jesus. Jesus, who never seemed to be content with those who follow the letter of the law, but who manage to violate the spirit of the law, who manage in this case to alienate others rather than be hospitable. Jesus, who had no patience for law abiding members of the Community who still managed to be consumed by their own arrogance at how well they fulfilled the letter of the law.

It’s a fine point of being in Community, literally of community life that Jesus and his followers under Matthew are criticizing here. It’s a finer point, perhaps, than we need to concern ourselves with, we who still struggle and need to justify the very taking care of those at the margins that Jesus took for granted. He took for granted that taking care of the marginalized was part of the law, was something that God demanded, so you did it, period the end. This, he took for granted, and this we cannot take for granted in our society, so perhaps the criticism that is leveled in these passages of Matthew were a finer point of community life than what we’re dealing with, so we can ignore them.

Or, perhaps not.

Because no matter what our laws say, or refuse to say about taking care of the marginalized, no matter how others who also worship God may approach the sacred texts we share in common, the sacred texts that we read one way to tell us this is important, the sacred texts that they read another way to say that other things are more important, no matter that our society, our community is not yet at that ideal place of institutionalized justice for all that we value so much in theory, no matter… if what Jesus was trying to say was be hospitable, rather than alienating when it comes not just to people you know and love, but everyone else around you, be hospitable rather than alienating… if what Jesus was trying to say was be humble, rather than arrogant, when it comes to the things God is not requesting, but requiring of you, be humble rather than arrogant… then perhaps this reading is incredibly relevant for us, today, here, right now.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Noah's Pudding

All yall who watched the Super Bowl instead of coming 'round to Trinity @ 7 yesterday missed something really rather cool. We were joined by our friends from the Buffalo Turkish Community Foundation who brought us, their neighbors, Ashura or Noah's Pudding which was not only an incredibly tasty sugar-fix, but a cross-cultural interfaith experience. ...Allow me to explain.

"Sharing Ashura is a symbolic representation of the unity and essential reltionship of humans to one another and to their Creator. Ashura prepared at home is shared with neighbors and friends. As tradition goes, the residents of the forty houses around one's house are considered neighbors. One has the responsibility of maintaining good relations with their neighbors regardless of what their religion or beliefs may be." - this, from the Buffalo Turkish Community Foundation.

Now, a little more of this history, recopied from the information given to me, with a recipe at the end!

Ashura is also known as "Noah's Pudding" Noah's Pudding celebrates Abrahamic heritage.

"It was thousands of years ago, a community was again on the threshold of catastrophe. The community had abandoned worshiping One God and was corrupted. Adultery was spreading and those with power were oppressing those without. There was no justice and the level of humanity was getting low.

"The Great Creator, because of His All-Compassion toward them and all humanity, sent Noa to guide them. Noah called them to beleive in One God, made sure that justice was established and maintained, and eliminated all evils in the society, as did Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, Muhammad adn the ones whose names we do not know, but believe in. "The Prophet Noah called his people to the religion of God for nine hundred and fifte years. When his people insisted on unbelief and persisted in their wrongdoings, God ordered him to build an ark. After completing the construction of thie ship, Noah embarked in it, upon god's command, of each kind two, male and female, his family - except those against whom the Word (of punishment) had already gone forth, - and the believers." (Qur'an 11:40) When the waters of the great Flood began to recede, the Prophet Noa and his family gathered up all the remaining dry beans and wheat on the Ark and made a delicious pudding.

"Ever since that day, Muslims prepare Noah's Pudding every year according to the Islamic calendar. The pudding is made by mixing dry beans and wheat together, and is then shared with neighbors and friends."


There are various recipes, but the essential ingredients are: haricot beans, chickpeas, barley, rice, dried apricots, walnuts, dried figs, currants, lemon, cinnamon, caster sugar, corn flour, milk, and water. All the ingredients are boiled together until their reach a thick porridge-like consistency. This dessert is served cold.

    Ingredients (30 servings):
  • 1 cup wheat
  • 1 cup white beans
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3/4 cup peanuts
  • 12 dried apricots
  • 5 1/2 cups sugar
  • water - enough to cover
  • topping: walnuts, cinnimon

  • Soak wheat, white beans, garbanzo beans, and almonds in water overnight.
  • Boil the above ingredients, remove the outer shell or skin.
  • Soak the raisins in boiling water until they soften.
  • Put all the ingredients above in a large pot and boil. Add peanuts and almonds (peeled and cut in half) at this point.
  • Chop the apricot into small pieces, add to mixture along with sugar.
  • Boil for 10-15 minutes.
  • Enjoy your pudding!
  • "Freedom"

    This was given at the Trinity @ 7 service on February 3, 2008

    Trinity @ 7
    February 3, 2008

    Can we be free if someone else isn’t?
    No, let’s back up –
    Where are you?
    Are you hurt?
    Are you hurting?
    Have we learned the lesson
    That distinguishes the two?

    Hurt, meaning you have a wound
    A pain that radiates through your self
    An emotional tear
    A physical scar
    An injury to your psyche, to your soul
    That’s been slashed open
    Again & again
    Your sense of self, of your own humanity
    Called into question by an act
    Or a system, a way of being –
    This is a hurt, a wound.
    Wounds can be healed,
    By self, by others, with time
    Wounders can change, cease their
    Abrasive actions
    This is a hurt.
    Are you hurt?

    Or, are you hurting?
    Do you respond to the things around you
    In the world
    People’s words, their actions, pleasant or ugly
    Do you, with reasoned thought
    Knowledge of context and choice of compassion

    Or do you react?
    Blind & deaf, not bothering to clarify
    Or even ask,
    React, out of your own assumptions,
    Your own pain or anger or fear
    React out of your own hurting
    Deaf to what was meant
    Uncaring for one more piece of discord
    Added to the world-wide strain.

    Do you respond, or do you react?
    Are you hurt, or are you hurting?

    And do you use this information
    Against yourself?
    There’s one word for that:
    And four more:
    “It’s not worth it.”

    “Do not pander,”
    Says Evelyn,
    “To a morbid interest in your own misdeeds.”
    A wise one, that Evelyn.
    “Pick yourself up,
    Shake yourself,
    And move on.”
    She says.

    And so grounded in the beginning
    Of a grown understanding
    Of who we might be,
    And perhaps what that says
    About who we could be, from now on
    If we so chose,
    Let’s take a look beyond ourselves
    Out, into the collective consciousness
    Out into the rest of the world.

    You know, I was raised in a pretty literate household – I read a lot, even as a child, and I was always drawn to dramas, mysteries, and romances set in upper middle class, or even upper upper class societies around the world. There came a point when I realized, however, that the lovely literate world that seemed so vivid in my head, and that to a certain extent I saw supported in the conservative middle class suburbia in which I grew up, there came the point that I realized that most of the world didn’t live like I did. Most of the world didn’t partake in the lovely literate world constructed as in my head. In fact, a huge chunk of the world couldn’t even read, much less complete whatever schooling was available to them.

    Now, this isn’t a rant.
    This is perspective, where I’m coming from.
    And so I ask you, even as I ask myself:
    Can we be truly free
    No matter how successfully we travel
    Down this spiritual path
    Can we be truly free, if others are not free?
    And if we answer “no”
    Then what is it we intend to do?

    Please understand, I’m not telling you
    To go save the world, single-handedly
    But I am encouraging you to consider
    That there’s only so much work you can do
    On your own
    For yourself
    Before you-we-all-of-us have to
    Step outside
    And make a different for someone else

    Friday, February 1, 2008

    Lent, Yay! (Lent, Yay?)

    To whomever is in the neighborhood,

    You are all cordially invited to Ash Wednesday services at Trinity Church on Delaware Ave. This year, Ash Wednesday is February 6th. Services are being held at noon, and 6pm. (Yours truly will be preaching and presiding at 6pm.)

    To whomever is listening, neighborhood or no,


    I think I might have started my lenten stuff early this year. I find this sort of exciting and wonderful, not that I don't like Epiphany, of course. I've got nothing against Epiphany. But a sanctified opportunity for reflection and redirection/repentance? Oh, sign me up. Sign me up twice.

    So, according to the BCP (yes, we at Trinity are aware of its existence, contrary to popular opinion), we have four tasks before us in Lent. No, giving up Chocolate is strangely not among them. Here we go:

  • engage in self-examination & an internal process of repentance
  • engage in special & focused prayers and meditation
  • practice fasting & other acts of discipline
  • read and intwardly recieve God's Word in Scripture

    Now, the BCP isn't the bible, but it's pretty specific in that it lists all four things, not a multiple choice, that we're invited to do. And as I say, in for a penny, in for a pound. Or, a dollar. Or with inflation these days, 20 bucks.

    So, as I was going over Trinity's worship guide (based on the BCP, yes), and reviewing it, I came across these words. And so I made myself a list, because if I'm going to ask anyone else to do something, I had better be doing it myself. (It might not shock you to know that I think this way.) And I thought, okay...

    Number one - check! I started that back up a few weeks ago, and it'll still be going strong through the season of Lent.

    Number two - check! Although, if I'm honest, a little more discipline in the meditate-every-day plan could be instituted. I'll work on that through Lent.

    Number four - check! How else, I ask you, could I preach with any integrity. Still going strong on this.

    Number three - erm... Won't it be lovely that I can start this in Lent? ::sigh:: And I know just what sort of fasting I'll be doing. Because of my slightly wonky cardiovascular system, horribly bad things happen if I fast entirely, but I can fast somewhat - bread, pasta, rice... ::sigh:: How I love thee. Inordinately so, as Augustine might think of it, if Augustine could ever get his mind out of the gutter. You know, if he were alive. So, I shall fast from carbs. And other acts of discipline? I think 6am at the BAC has my name on it. ...I wonder if healthclub attendance spikes at the beginning of Lent, as it does right after new years day...

    So, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. The first three are positive changes I've worked into the fabric of my life. The carbs and the BAC one would think I could also easily work into the fabric of my life, but if that sort of thing were easy, America would not have the obesity issue that it currently does...

    Not that all of America would fit into the Buffalo Athletic Club, but you get my point.

    So, what are you going to do?
  • Monday, January 28, 2008

    "The Call of Jesus"

    This sermon was given at 8:30 am on January 27, 2008

    Answer readily the call of Jesus Christ – this is how our collect starts us out this morning. A request, a plea, even, to give us the grace to answer the call of Jesus, the Christ.

    “The call of Jesus Christ” – an eloquent way of distilling down three years of prophetic teaching capped off by a state execution.

    Now, I wonder – did the person who wrote that collect mean to refer to the Great Commission from Matthew? “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations?”

    Or perhaps he – for the writer was almost assuredly a man – perhaps he meant to reference the specific passage from Matthew we heard today from chapter 4 of that gospel, where we see Jesus gathering his first students after hearing about the arrest of his own teacher, John. Literally we hear Jesus call a group of men one by one, two by two, we hear Jesus call them away from their current occupations, and into a radically different existence: followers of a traveling rabbi, eventually to become rabbis and healers themselves, and keepers of a new story much larger than themselves.

    Perhaps the writer of the collect meant to specifically reference that story. But I can’t help but think that it gets even bigger than that – mostly I think this way because I know the Book of Common Prayer, and I know that its prayers are some of the finest, most eloquent, most profound to be found in the English language today. (And some of them are even in modern English.) And what I know – and to some extent trust – about the BCP is that whenever possible, a prayer like this goes beyond a single person or a single event in our sacred story – it speaks to the larger issues of our lives, our societies.

    And so, when I hear, “give us grace, O God, to answer readily the call of Jesus Christ, and share the Good News with all people,” I hear a prayer that takes the gospel reading, and reaches a hand through it to grab us.

    Let me give you an example.

    There are as many ways to answer the call of Jesus as there are people in the world. We each have the ability to answer – in the thoughts we think, in the words we say, in the actiosn we do, and in the way we are deep down inside of us, beneath thought, word and action.

    But still, this is not very specific. Let me get specific.

    The call of Jesus; I understand the call of Jesus at its most basic, and most profound, to be the very principle by which he lived his own life: Rule #1: Love God. Rule #2: Love your neighbor as yourself.

    It’s simple, I know, and most of us have had that repeated at us for our entire lives, but I urge you to set aside the familiarity of it, because they really are amazing and radical principles to try to live by.

    Love God.
    Love your neighbor
    as yourself.

    Jesus patterned his life by this, this mission statement if you will, and he took it seriously. If an action or a person, no matter how normal, no matter how well-groomed, didn’t live up to this standard, Jesus refused the action, refused to respect the person.

    And conversely, if someone scruffy and smelly lived up to this ideal, if a taboo act really did embody this radical love, Jesus stood behind this person, this act.

    So, let’s fast forward to the present.

    Love god, love your neighbor as yourself.

    There are a whole bunch of things in our world that fly in the face of this standard. We prove our lack of love for God when we trash our environment, or sit by without complaint or even anger as technology does it for us.

    We prove our lack of love for God when we wage war in the name of God, wantonly killing our neighbors. The god who wants us to love our neighbor is not the one who sanctifies war against them.

    We prove our lack of love for our neighbors when we do violence to them – judging them, hating them, discriminating against them, mocking them, denying their basic dignity as human beings, killing them.

    We prove our lack of love for ourselves when we do violence to ourselves through substance abuse, self-hatred, and other destructive behaviors.

    But I suspect there is a difference between simply trying to avoid violence, avoid destruction, avoidance of negative behavior, and actually enacting peace, enacting love, enacting change, enacting positive behavior.

    There is a difference between avoiding negative behavior and enacting positive behavior – but I think to answer the call of Jesus Christ is to do both. Because we are told that the most important thing we can do is to love god. And loving God has some real world implications.

    Loving god means treating all of creation with respect, walking softly on the land, increasing your own knowledge of what may be done to reverse humankind’s damage to the earth that god has created.

    Loving god means working hard to find political solutions to international disagreements – and not political in that ugly, modern, negative sense of the word, political as in, the opposite to war, political, as in, non-violent conflict resolution.

    Loving your neighbor means learning about the ‘other’ who is perceived as different, but who for all the tangible differences of gender or race, differences of religion or ethnicity, differences of politics or theology, differences of income or etiquette, and who for all these differences are not so very different from ourselves in the end. And when we allow ourselves to share experiences with our neighbors, to live in a community with them, at that point loving them, and acting in a loving way toward them will start to seem so much more natural than the way we tend to treat each other now.

    Loving yourself means knowing yourself. Because when we really know ourselves, warts and all, we will be able to experience love, compassion, and respect for ourselves, something that will radiate out of us – because it is the love of God.

    And accepting the love of God – the love that transforms everything it touches – is another way of saying, ‘answering the call of Jesus’ – to love and be loved.


    "Know Thyself"

    This little something-something was given on January 20, 2008 at the Trinity @ 7 service.

    It strikes me that we live in a state of fear
    …or something
    Maybe it’s a state of anger for you
    Or worry, for her
    Perhaps there is variation
    And it takes slightly different forms
    For each of us

    There is an alternative, of course
    And it doesn’t require a pilgrimage
    To a distant land
    (Though sometimes that helps)
    It doesn’t require attaching yourself
    To a guru
    (Though that can help, too)
    And of course, there are many ways
    To get there,
    But here is the alternative for today;
    Introspection, coupled with honesty, fearlessness,
    And compassion

    Socrates said, “The unexamined life
    Is not worth living.”
    Written at the oracle of Delphi, simply,
    “Know thyself.”
    An AA step, “Fearless self inventory.”
    And from the Buddhist Lojong teachings,
    We have, “Liberate yourself
    By examining and analyzing.”

    “Know your mind
    With honesty and fearlessness.”
    [And compassion, I would add.]
    “See what leads to more freedom
    And what leads to more suffering.”

    Now, this is simply said.
    To put it into action requires
    Something more, one would think.
    More effort, more strength of will,
    More power, more, more, more…
    Of something we don’t have.
    Or is that true?

    Perhaps it really requires less.
    Less effort, less strength – or at least,
    Less strong-arming. Less struggling
    Against who we really are,
    Who we really need to be.
    And when we come to know ourselves
    And cease to struggle against who we are
    We begin to choose freedom
    Over suffering, in our own lives.

    But this is not the end,
    First the introspection,
    Then then choosing.
    Besides the fact that we must do it
    Again, and again. And again.
    And again.
    This is not the end.
    Because then,
    Then there is maintaining your choice
    Of freedom over suffering
    At home, at work
    With family, with friends
    Places where change of behavior
    Isn’t always welcome

    Because after all these things,
    What is the point of introspection
    If it doesn’t impact our daily lives
    In some discernable way?
    What is the point of making lists,
    Coming to realizations,
    What is the point of the hard work
    Of being honest with yourself
    About yourself, without beating
    Yourself up about not being perfect,
    Or even nice?

    What is the point,
    Unless by simply realizing
    Something is awakened inside of us
    Something that was simply waiting
    For us to come look for it,
    To give it time to grow and blossom
    Something that makes choosing
    Freedom over suffering
    A thing that is not just simple,
    But increasingly easy
    Something that is, perhaps, ourselves
    And having spent many blissful years
    In the dark womb of our subconscious
    Now has the light of our own vision
    Cast upon it

    And so we, ourselves,
    Become enlightened.

    But this is not the end
    Because then, we share it with others,
    And that is just the beginning.