Archive for September, 2015

“Refugees for Christ,” (Sermon, September 23rd)

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 5Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ 6They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Luke 9:1-6

Janelle and I wash our tools

Janelle and I wash our tools


In the summer of 2014, I journeyed to El Salvador with ten or eleven other young people on what was called “an exposure trip.” They called it that so we would not think we were going to “save” people. We went to be immersed in a culture and shaped by a people.

How did this look? It looked like taking a drive to a somewhat remote community called San Antonio with a truckload of fruit trees, and wandering along their unpaved gravel roads with other community members – a lot of them children – to poke our heads into yards and ask anyone present if their garden would like a fruit tree. If they said yes, they could pick one of several different kinds and tell us where to plant. We did this not only to help out hungry families, but to contribute to much-needed reforestation in the area.

I had to confirm that that was what we were doing with someone who spoke better Spanish, because it delighted and astounded me. “Can you imagine doing this back home?” I said to her. “People would call the police!”

I should mention that we did this under armed police guard, because gang activity was very bad in that region. Abductions and violence were rampant. That – along with my regular use of a machete during that trip – was something I decided to keep from my mother until I was home and she could see for herself that I was still in one piece.

It was hard then to imagine living under the threat of such violence. Today, it is hard for me to comprehend the kind of danger that forces a family to leave everything behind and become refugees.

For Jesus and his disciples, this would have been familiar. Jesus himself had been a refugee as an infant; his family was forced to flee to Egypt to avoid a murderous Herod.

Jesus wouldn’t have needed an exposure trip…and yet I think he sent his disciples on one anyway.

Jesus has been telling parables, healing people, and performing wonders like stilling the storm. Finally, he bestows those gifts on his disciples. They are empowered, literally. But in the next breath, Jesus strips them of their ability to care for themselves. They are totally dependent on each other and on the very people they are going out to serve.

So no staff? You better help each other up that hill. No bag? Bring only what can fit in your pocket. No bread? Find someone to feed you. No money? You can’t buy your way out of trouble. No extra tunic? You’ll have to huddle together for warmth, and run the risk of being filthy and unpresentable.

They don’t even get to pick the house they want to stay in. They have to spend the whole time in the first house they see – whether they like it or not.

They are being called to be voluntary refugees.

Jesus warns them that not everyone will welcome them. When he instructs the disciples to shake the dust off their feet “as a testimony against” those who refuse to welcome them, it sounds like condemnation, but it’s actually more complicated than that.

See, Jesus says to do this “as you are leaving” the town that will not welcome, but are they supposed to leave as soon as they are rejected…or only once they have determined that no-one wants them there? And furthermore, are they to leave only after they have provided the services Jesus has called them to provide?

The text doesn’t say.

So what could this be about?

Maybe it’s about taking nothing in return when we leave. That way, we bring only gifts to a community, and if we are not accepted, we must not take anything, even the land itself, from them.

That’s pretty radical, when you think about it. That’s like pacifism cranked up to 11.

Now, this is not something that an involuntary refugee can do. Driven by need, they can’t afford to choose another community, and they often can’t afford to take nothing from that community.

But we refugees for Christ, empowered to go out into the world, can afford to share all of the gifts we have been given and take nothing in return.

So how do we become refugees for Christ? What is it that we are to leave behind as we begin our quest to proclaim the good news and heal? There may be physical things, but I don’t want to only focus on those, because they’re usually the easiest to get rid of.

Perhaps there are attitudes and fears that are best left behind. Imagine them as a thousand little lead weights hooked inside our tunic, weighing us down. Take them out. Look at them. What’s written on them?

Mine say, “Envy.” “Fear.” “Hidden prejudice.” “Self-disgust.” “Pride.” “Judgement.” “Greed.”

Take them out. Look at them. Don’t judge them – that just adds more!

Leave them at home: leave them with Jesus.

If we truly become refugees for Christ, those who welcome us will probably be very like us – and those who do not will be fearful or even angry at our presence, for a variety of reasons.

So let’s proclaim and heal among those who welcome, and for those who don’t, let us pass through their midst, take nothing from them, and leave a little space at the end of the line. Let’s shake the dust off our feet. Not even the crumbs of exclusion should touch our feet – our unshod, bleeding feet.

It’s certainly not allowed to be so for those who do not choose poverty and exile.

Just as God chose, so let us choose.


Mark 15:1-11 (Poem)

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ 3Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ 5But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ 10For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.


barabbas, barabbas


release for us the son of the father


(not the son of the father of all)


mark says this was not the crowd

this was jealousy


oh, jealousy

much maligned green one


an excuse for anger and resentment


a refuge for those who refuse to abandon objectification


a manor house for hearts too weak or too young

to accept other-ness


the chain willfully put on and dragged about

(like marley’s,

but he carried his too long to escape)


why in life would you pick it up

and why carry it as though you have no choice?


barabbas was no beauty

he inspired no similar envy

all generosity is handed over to the one worthy of scorn

all handsome charity offered to the one who prefers to take than to give life

all accolades served up to the one who spurns solidarity for blood


there will be a reckoning

and it will not be against any monster


she is only a tool



like her object



Mark 14:66-72 (Poem)

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ 68But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ 70But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ 71But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ 72At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.


who is she, with sneering voice

“aren’t you a galilean?”


never spoken of, no story of her own


why point him out? why rout him

like a rat or a bug?

who was he to you?


ah, but without her

your will could not be done


it is not an admirable job

a spy, an owl on a housetop

a garbage collector

an exterminator


so loathed she has no story

but jael had one, and jezebel

and tamar and dinah


one woman

for the sins of the world


Mark 14:53-65 (Poem)

53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’ 59But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ 61But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ 62Jesus said, ‘I am; and
“you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”,
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’
63Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? 64You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. 65Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.


outside in


the danger of a coal fire

everything comes out


like sparks

catch your cloak ablaze

burnt naked and bare

fearful and open


to the spit, the grit

the thorns, the scorn

the bloody forehead


stomp that out


i am the dark

i am no-one


wide eyes



why did i say that?


and how did he know?

John 8:47-59 (Poem)

47Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

48 The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ 49Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me. 50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. 51Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 52The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.” 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ 54Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, 55though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ 57Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ 58Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ 59So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.


in the kettle of the cosmos, bubbles battle


back and forth, back and forth

smashing stars

crushing carbon

like blood from a rock, life is squeezed from light


i watch and prepare

watch and wait


“now, child, now

stir the soup;

take the seeds,

sow some weeds”


from the handfuls of mind came one, then two

more for you and me to lose

and love


painful as acid in the throat

never to be swallowed, never to be excised

only there burning quietly

in the dark


of course i saw him

the one who knew

the one who grew

into a father

a tender

a root within damp earth

a seed for the people


unremarkable on its own


the truth hurts, don’t it?

Mark 14:43-52 (Poem)

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 46Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ 50All of them deserted him and fled.

51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.


not i, not i

all deserted and fled


not i, not i

embedded in the heart


the sword of terror

the hands reach out

to grasp, to know

like an angel in sodom

i go


the force, the fear

hits a load-bearing wall

breaking all hope of honour

all followed and promised but none remain

the same who proclaimed passion

crumbled before a lashing expected


we slithered

our legs hidden in knotholes, under trees

as punishment


i am not immune

i too

shattered before the coming of the storm

no honour worth nails and thorns

take it and leave me

i’ll give you everything

even though i promised it

to the prisoner

Mark 14:27-42 (Poem)

27And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ 29Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ 30Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ 31But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ 37He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’


See, oh see

how the pot is shattered

on packed earth, hard as stone

unknown before this


cracks appear, betray weak root systems

my seeds were sown in weak earth

among thorns my vines grew up

choked, poked, striped red and purple

whiplike words resurface within a wasted brain


“You will deny, you will fly, the crying

will never cease.”


Oh please,


Don’t leave me burning.

Retreat (Poem)

crack me open

blood flows green

like a butterfly’s

like a cactus


holding all the secret wet within

the sweat like sap


carves channels into weary flesh

salty falls burning off city fumes

and lights drowning

in jade depths unseen


skin cracked like bark, gleefully shed

skin purple with the weight of “good morning”

“i’d like tea”

“i have a meeting”

“that sounds frustrating”


popped like a bubble

floating over a lake

one soapy droplet tumbling through emerald air


glad to add itself

to a mass of nothing in particular

(only the source of life itself)

glad to lose itself

and return to a forgotten first


before silence was understood

as a deficit


before basking in being was understood

as burden


before “bigger is better”


when everything was new

and unclaimed




and enough


Deacon Retreat Week: Preamble

In late August/early September of this year I went on retreat again to Rivendell. It was so nice to be back in my retreat space after a 2014 without any silent retreats taken! This retreat was focused on finally taking the time to meditate on my recent ordination to the transitional diaconate. To help me meditate, I brought the beautiful red stole that my friend the Rev. Christine lent to me.

My days were spent in silence save for a few instances of prayerful singing and recitation. I took a book my mentor the Ven. John Stephens lent to me: Strong, Loving, and Wise: Presiding in Liturgy, by Robert W. Hovda, which I found delightfully acerbic as well as deeply prayerful. Although I hadn’t planned on any particular work of hands, I ended up spending a lot of time drawing. Every night, I wrote a poem inspired by the Gospel reading assigned for Evening Prayer. I also journalled. The following few entries include those poems.

For World Suicide Prevention Day

Several years ago, I joined the TWLOHA street team and did some of the tasks they assigned. The most powerful one they asked us to do was to write a letter to someone who was contemplating or had contemplated suicide. Here’s what I wrote. ‪#‎worldsuicidepreventionday‬



I don’t know who, where, what, or when you are. I don’t really care about any of those things. But I love you.

You are infinitesimally precious. You are incomprehensibly beloved. A spark from the holiness of all things rests in you. No one can replicate the way that holiness shines forth from your eyes.

Your innate nature as beloved does not depend on anything you have done, said, or experienced. It is not something that can be replicated, earned, or stolen. Your innate nature as beloved begins the moment you do.

WIN_20150910_195219As someone who loves you, I’ll be honest and say that I proclaim this because I am a Christian. But I tell you this not because I hope you will become a Christian. Your perception of the universe and how it came to be does not concern me. That is your journey, and I cannot presume to tell you the answer to yourself. However, I can impose upon you the great burden of being loved for no reason other than your own perfect particularity.

If you are a person of faith, know truly that holiness loves you and has a place for you.

If you are not, know truly that I love you, and I want you to be filled with light.

If you are a person of faith, know this: You were created by love, for love.

If you are not, know this: You are here by love, for love.

Harbour no fear of your brokenness. The Sufi mystic Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” The wound may be on your skin, or it may be in a place where no-one can see it. The wound does not make you ugly or unlovable. The wound makes you human – and beautiful.

The Light will not force its way into you. You must first open the door and invite it in. Know that when you do that, it will settle in as though it knew you were home all along.

Know this: A voice of awe speaks in you. Perhaps it is the inner Christ. Perhaps it is merely the bits of carbon that once rested inside a star that now rest in you. It says, “Child: be still and know.”

Do this: When you are in that place where you are sure the Light has left you, please read this again.