Archive for June, 2015

The Inner Mark

So I am horrendous at updates that are not sermon-related. But there is big news: I am to be ordained to the transitional diaconate on June 28th.

The whole thing has been a bit frantic and last-minute for a number of reasons, so everyone’s a little on edge about it…and I have not at ALL fully processed this momentous news. I may not believe in full ontological change at ordination (I like the way my friend Fr. Michael put it: “An inner marking on the heart”) but it’s probably going to feel like it anyway.

I think the most appropriate way to share such news is to share the following post from Facebook. Enjoy (I did):


I have a very dear clergy friend who has been a great support to me on my journey, and who LOVES to yank my chain. Like my husband he helps me not to take myself too seriously.
Today I received the following email from him. My reply is below it.


Dear Clarity Harp,

Strange rumors have come to my ears (where else?) that the standards for ordination in this diocese have been completely abandoned and that some punk rocker is being ordained to the diaconate this month. But that is not the worst of it. I understand that everyone who has dealt with her has been warmly enthusiastic about her being ordained. Absolutely shocking!!!!!
I guess I shall have to show up, if only so that I can view the entire proceedings with alarm. In the meantime, I shall practice looking alarmed. One can’t do that sort of thing well on the spur of the moment.
I am sorry to bring all this to your attention, but I knew that you would be equally shocked.

Yours in mutual shockedness,

The Canon Precentor Emeritus of Trinity Cathedral, San Jose, California+


Dear friend,

It is with great fear and trembling that I regard your epistle. Perhaps the destruction of the Second Coming is finally upon Mother Church after all, having been waylaid at the precise turn of the century by some distraction (perhaps a tea party or an excellent wine and cheese soiree that could not be ignored? We must, after all, assume an Anglican worldview, as is our custom).

I make the following proposition to you, the brightest of the seven lamps: That we gather together on the Eve of the Eve of Petertide, and hold a vigil with fasting and lamentation before attending this obscene spectacle and making our objections known at the appropriate time. I fear it is entirely too late to convince the Diocese of the danger of its intention, but perhaps I might suggest (surely with your blessing) that a full exorcism rite be performed shortly after the ordination in order to take this creature by surprise and perhaps drive her out for good. Since holy water might not be in the required abundance for asperges, perhaps sparkling wine would be in order. It may yet be that the wine will lower defenses, and increase the likelihood of this punk rock demon revealing its true form and being summarily excommunicated.

I have arranged with the denizens of Faith House, the intentional community abiding in the rectory across the street from St. Mary’s, to provide a space for this last minute attempt at damage control. I pray your superior wit and esteemed presence will be enough to make this Diocese come to its senses and for the wilful would-be deacon to quit the place forthwith in order to move on to more suitable realms of employment and ministry, such as bartending or lecture tours.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

Your sister in Christ,

“Join the Dance” (Sermon, May 31st, 2015 – Trinity Sunday)

I used both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament readings in this sermon, which can be found here and here.

Today, the Anglican Church of Canada will hold events across the country to mark the closing ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work over the last several years. The theme: “This ending is only the beginning.” For the twenty-two days leading up to our annual National Aboriginal Day of Prayer, the Anglican Church of Canada is encouraging Anglicans to mark the time in some special way. All of it is being promoted and advertised on the website, with suggestions like learning to say “Thank you” in an indigenous language, adding indigenous leaders to the prayers of the people, visiting the site of a residential school, and various other awareness and justice initiatives.

As I considered how I might mark this time in my own way, I remembered a very powerful experience I had in December of 2013. There was a gathering being held at Georgia and Granville Street for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The road had been blocked off for a group of First Nations demonstrators calling for a public investigation into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women. For a while I simply stood and listened as stories were told and tears were shed. Then the drums began.

Have you ever been in a round dance? It’s a most amazing thing. There’s something about it that’s appallingly inclusive. You don’t have to be good at dancing. You’re just standing there minding your own business and all of a sudden the people around you become an entirely new thing – like watching a tree grow ring by ring, or ripples moving outward from an inner point of movement. And before you know it, you’re a part of it. Someone has taken your hand and you are moving with them, and then you take someone’s hand, and you’re growing out and out, spiralling around, letting the drum push and pull your feet to the side – clockwise, usually.

It’s amazing enough as it is…but try doing it in the middle of Georgia Street. People stopped to watch as this amazing new beast pulsed and scuttled, all of us amazed that so many disparate shards could be brought into this one unbelievable new symbol of wholeness that had no business existing in such a fragmented world.

Of course, it is prophetic. The round dance speaks truth in a world of lies by yearning toward something different. It’s a sign for the world of a cosmic biblical law – the movement from separation to union and the cycling back, forever and ever amen.

The most beautiful thing about our God is that this truth – the yearning turning wheel of desire and fulfillment, the tidal pull of giving and receiving – is written right into the ground of Being itself. That is what we proclaim when we proclaim the Trinity. The Greeks called it perichoresis – the dance of the three, spinning around in a circle forever with hands entwined.

Perhaps at the end of our lives we emerge newly born into the center of the circle, adding our voices to the millions who reside there – our brothers and sisters all singing together.

There’s a trick to the round dance, though. Eventually, someone’s going to stick out their hand. You’ve got to figure out if you’re going to take it.

Isaiah, rendered wide-eyed by burning seraphim and the hugeness of his own fragility, voices his brokenness and is answered. He receives scorched lips fit to proclaim the truth. And even after being made fit to proclaim, he’s still given the chance to accept or deny the mission. I love in this passage how God asks – as though there’s someone else hanging around waiting for a chance – “Whom shall I send?” And Isaiah replies, “Here am I! Send me!”

He takes the offered hand.

Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night. Remember, for the writer of John that means Nicodemus comes in ignorance, moving toward the light shining in the darkness. Why does he come? It doesn’t say. We know he doesn’t understand who Jesus truly is, because he mentions Jesus’s signs. In the Gospel of John we’re not supposed to come to Jesus because of the signs. We’re supposed to be like the Samaritan woman in the next chapter, knowing Jesus immediately by his presence and his words. It’s not certain if Nicodemus ever figures it out completely. We don’t hear from him again after he says, “How can these things be? I don’t know this song, I can’t dance to it! I’m lost!” And the next (and last) time we see him, the poor guy is bringing a hundred pounds of burial herbs to the new tomb. There’s a lot of talk about the love and care he was showing, but we’re supposed to laugh. He still doesn’t get it! Jesus is coming back from the dead – and here’s Nicodemus not just with a packet of herbs but enough for a king’s burial! Huh – ironic. The king is dead, long live the king.

So maybe Nicodemus never joins in the dance – at least, within the boundaries of the Gospel. But because he comes in the night, I’ve got to believe that he was at least watching. Maybe he felt a little self-conscious. That’s okay. “Mere” witnessing was not scorned at the TRC.

So how will you take the hand?

We’re Anglicans, so we have a couple of advantages. We’re highly Trinitarian, so we are inclined toward the dance. And we are sacramental. The offered hand is present in every sacrament, calling us out of disharmony into harmony. For example, in baptism one reaches out – whether they know it or not – and is welcomed not only into the Body of Christ, the holy flesh, but into the family of the Church, the thousands who came before and the thousands who will come after. In the Eucharist the people reach out to the crucified beloved, and are united not only to him but to each other and, again, the yesterday-today-tomorrow family of the Church. Finally, we are incarnational: we believe that the divine, separated from us in the Fall, was united to us again in the Son of Mary – and this means that we are living in a God-haunted world, carrying the gift of the Holy Spirit. To live in a God-haunted world is to see the Beloved’s face in the faces of all others, and to be drawn into service as a testament to that reality.

This is only one reason why I would commend to you a practice of marking our 22 days. The other reason is that I believe the dancing Trinity is reaching out to us right now, through the work that we are doing with our First Nations brothers and sisters. And that’s only the place where I see the hand reaching out. There are millions more.

On this Trinity Sunday, I commend you to the dance.

You don’t have to be self-conscious. You don’t have to be worried. Once you’re in, it feels like you’ve been there forever.

So don’t hesitate.

Just watch for the hand.